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Call on Congress for Greater Chaco Leadership
Miya King-Flaherty, Sierra Club - Rio Grande Chapter, Our Wild New Mexico Organizer, (505) 301-0863, email@example.com
Albuquerque -- Today nearly 100 advocates rallied in front of New Mexico Senators Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham’s offices and delivered calls for greater protections for Greater Chaco after BLM’s announcement Thursday that parcels slated for auction near Chaco Culture National Historical Park would be deferred until further action.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had planned to move forward with the controversial leases based on an outdated Resource Management Plan that was written before new fracking methods were feasible in the region, and without meaningful Tribal consultation or consent from Navajo Nation and Pueblos who consider Chaco sacred. Community members praised the lease sale cancellation as victory, but called for further action.
“In deferring this lease sale, Zinke finally recognized the Department of Interior’s necessary and legal obligations to Indigenous Nations and public citizens.now we’re calling on congressional leaders to cement meaningful protections. ” said Rebecca Sobel, Senior Climate & Energy Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “While Zinke’s Bureau of Land Management admits new analysis is required to understand the landscape level impacts from fracking in the Greater Chaco region, the agency, abetted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, still shamelessly continues to authorize more industrialized fracking absent that understanding. People are rallying to say, ‘enough!’”
In northwest New Mexico, over 91% of BLM’s public lands have already been leased to oil and gas development. Much of the remaining 9% is in Greater Chaco, an area lacking proper air, land, water, cultural resource, and public health protections under the existing BLM Farmington Field Office’s 2003 Resource Management Plan (RMP).
While the BLM and BIA intend to develop a new plan to protect Greater Chaco, it’s increasingly clear the agencies may have no intention of following through with their promises to the Navajo Nation and the American public, as over 500 new wells have been approved absent required analysis or tribal consultation.
A lawsuit currently stands asserting that drilling without a plan is illegal. The Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors, National Congress of American Indians, 15 Navajo Chapter Houses, the New Mexico House Legislature, and over 400,000 public citizens have requested a moratorium on drilling until the RMP amendment is complete.
Chaco Canyon is considered the sacred heart of the American Southwest and is the core of the Greater Chaco region. A thousand years ago, long before any European colonization, the Ancestral Pueblos called the Greater Chaco region home. Today, the region supports Navajo, Hopi, Apache, Zuni, Ute, and modern-day Pueblo communities.
“Today is yet another example of the public outcry and demand for greater protections for Greater Chaco,” said Miya King-Flaherty, Our Wild New Mexico Organizer with the Sierra Club. “It’s about time decision makers put the Greater Chaco region ahead of the demands of the fracking industry, and we’re calling on New Mexico delegates to take the next step to assure protection of our citizens and the sacred landscapes they inhabit.”
Delivered to Senators Udall, Heinrich, and Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham:
Response statement from Senator Udall here.