Over the weekend, a group of Navajo Nation citizens protested a new oil leasing ban by forming a road blockade that shut down a Biden administration event.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on June 2 placed a ban on oil, gas, and mineral-leasing within 10 miles of Chaco Canyon, located in Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.
The ban is set to remain in effect for 20 years, despite pushback from the Navajo community, which argued that the prohibition would negatively impact low-income residents who depend financially on land leases.
Within the 10-mile buffer zone, 53 allotments generate $6.2 million a year in royalties for more than 5,000 Navajo citizens. Another 418 allotments within the buffer zone are not leased.
The Navajo members are estimated to lose $194 million as a result of the ban, according to the Western Energy Alliance.
Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren stated that many individuals in the area lease their land to fossil fuel companies. The government awarded land allotments to the Navajo citizens in the 1900s as a consolation for the downsizing of the tribe's territory.
Nygren told Fox News Digital, "To totally disregard those local communities – it's unfair."
"There's no need to celebrate putting people into poverty, to celebrate undermining the Navajo Nation's sovereignty, undermining everything that comes into working with tribes, in this case, Navajo Nation," Nygren added.
"You can't pound your chest on going after people in poverty," he continued. "I don't know who would want to celebrate that. Personally, I think that's, I don't know, you got to not have a heart if you're going to put people that are already impoverished in Third-World-country conditions and barely have enough to pay for gas, food, laundry, the daily necessities – to put them into an even tougher situation."
Haaland was accused of failing to properly consult with the Navajo Nation before implementing the ban. The tribe previously supported a five-mile buffer zone around the canyon but claimed that Haaland did not consider it.
According to the Department of Interior, the ban will not impact existing leases. However, critics of the action claimed that the buffer zone indirectly makes the Navajo Nation's allotments worthless since drilling would require crossings through federal land impacted by the ban.
On Sunday, Navajo citizens protested the DOI's ban by creating a road blockade that prevented Haaland and Bryan Newland, the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, from attending a scheduled event celebrating the action at the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Haaland called the protest "not ideal."
"To see any road — yes, less than ideal. That's the nicest thing I can say — to see any road into any of our national parks or our public lands blocked was heartbreaking because our public lands belong to all Americans," Haaland added.
Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!