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More Needed to Protect Communities and Safeguard Sacred Landscape
Santa Fe, NM— On Tuesday Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico introduced the “Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act,” which would create a Chaco Protection Zone around Chaco Canyon. According to the Senators, the legislation would withdraw the oil, gas, goal and other minerals from 316,076 acres of federal public land within the more than 900,000 acres of land within the Protection Zone. The legislation would not affect existing federal leases within the Protection Zone or any future leases issued by the Trump Administration within the Protection Zone that occur prior to the passage of the bill. In response, WildEarth Guardians’ Executive Director John Horningissued the following statement:
“We are thankful for the leadership of Senators Udall and Heinrich in recognizing the threat of fossil fuel extraction to Chaco Canyon. We believe this legislation is a first step in confronting that threat, but more steps must be taken to safeguard Greater Chaco and secure justice for the landscape and its people.
“Just last week WildEarth Guardians learned of the industry’s efforts to lease even more acreage within the 10-mile Protection Zone. If the Trump Administration leases those areas, as we suspect it will, and as industry intensifies its focus on lands within the Protection Zone, the threats to the Greater Chaco landscape will only mount. This very real threat underscores the need to expand the scope of the legislation to address existing leases that also threaten Chaco Canyon and the Greater Chaco landscape.
“One of the main reasons that fossil fuel extraction in Greater Chaco has been elevated to the level of Congressional action is because of the courageous actions and leadership of eastern Navajo communities and Chapter Houses. Those communities and the threat of fracking to their public health, safety and well-being are sadly overlooked by this legislation. We believe that is a problem that must be remedied as this legislation winds its way through the legislative process.
“We live in increasingly complex and challenging times and we believe our solutions must reflect that complexity. We have a critical opportunity to address the issue of methane capture, community resilience and energy and economic transition in the Greater Chaco region. This bill’s simplistic approach is a missed opportunity to advance broader solutions to the health and well-being of this region and its peoples.