By FELICIA FONSECA
and SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
Lawmakers from the country’s largest American Indian reservation may have thrown a wrinkle into efforts aimed at establishing a permanent buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as New Mexico’s congressional delegation, environmentalists and other tribes try to keep oil and gas development from getting closer to the World Heritage site.
Navajo Nation delegates voted Thursday to support a buffer only half the size of the one outlined in federal legislation pending in Congress. They cited concerns from Navajo landowners who fear their mineral rights would be landlocked and the money they earn through lease payments and royalties compromised if future development is prohibited across a wider swath of land surrounding the national park.
The Navajo vote comes despite support from the pueblos, Navajo President Jonathan Nez and some individual Navajo communities for the more expansive protective zone. It highlights the polarity that has long existed within the Navajo Nation’s branches of government and with other tribes.