Commentary: Today, Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small (NM-2) successfully passed an amendment to the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to improve the safety of New Mexicans living near unexploded ordnances, or commonly referred to as unused explosives, by requiring the Secretary of Defense to provide a report on the state of unexploded ordnance on Indian Reservations.
Many tribal lands in the United States were formerly used as test sites for explosive weapons, greatly affecting the safety and well-being tribes now living on these lands. The report will provide greater detail about which Indian Reservations contain unexploded ordnance, current efforts to remove the explosives from these lands, estimated costs for finishing their removal and the feasibility of the Department of Defense of partnering with entities eligible for the Indian Incentive Program to remove unused explosives from native lands.
“The hazardous materials left behind by unused explosives present both a safety risk to those living in Indian country and an environmental risk to the land itself,” Torres Small said. “It’s time to fairly compensate Native American sovereign governments that take on the work to protect their members and the surrounding communities.”