For Immediate Release
Santa Fe, NM – A coalition of environmental justice advocates, Indigenous grassroots organizations, and tribal community leaders rallied and delivered nearly 80,000 comments to the Bureau of Land Management demanding greater protections for the Greater Chaco Landscape and surrounding communities from expanded oil and gas activities.
The rally coincided with the deadline to submit comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to stop new oil and gas leasing for a 20-year period on roughly 350,000 acres of land within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. While Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last year announced the “Honoring Chaco” initiative, a two-part process involving the withdrawal of federal minerals within 10 miles of Chaco Park and a new collaborative process to address the need for landscape-level management reforms, the program has yet to clearly define its goals and scope.
“There is a shrinking window of time for the President to cut off our dependence on fossil fuels and end oil and gas extraction,” said Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director, Food & Water Watch. “We can’t wait any longer for President Biden’s delays. We’re asking him to start keeping his promises to ban fracking and drilling on federal lands. We’re asking him to start by protecting Chaco Canyon.”
Today’s action underscores long-standing calls for landscape-level management outside of the 10-mile buffer that includes the cultural, social, economic and environmental concerns that have been raised and for the meaningful involvement of impacted communities and Tribal Nations to truly ‘Honor Chaco.’ If no further action is taken to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape from fossil fuel extraction and related development, the region will remain an “energy sacrifice zone.”
“The oil and gas industry has made a significant impact on our landscape, causing a lot of damage,” Samuel Sage, Community Services Coordinator for Counselor Chapter and Vice President of the Board of Diné C.A.R.E. “Just last week, I noticed a new pipeline project going in. It was kicking dust up everywhere and destroying the land. The companies and the Bureau of Land Management never come to our Chapter to notify or ask our community about these projects. We find out after the ground is already being broken. Over 91% of available federal lands in the Farmington Field Office alone have already been leased for extraction. When are they going to stop?”
“As a Dine woman, I personally harvest local plants to this day. How much longer will this sustenance last if the land continues to be mistreated and poisoned?” Asked Kendra Pinto, Four Corners Indigenous Community Field Advocate, Earthworks. “Throughout my childhood I have roamed these lands without fear for my future. Now, I must consider the risk of water contamination and air pollution poisoning my homelands. The decisions we make now will echo throughout the rest of my People’s time.”
The oil and gas industry’s stranglehold is strong in New Mexico, with the state receiving $1.1 billion last year from mineral leasing on federal lands — more than any other US state, directly undermining efforts needed to halve greenhouse gas emissions this decade. New Mexico is the fastest-warming and most water-stressed state in the continental US, where wildfires have recently devoured over 120,000 acres.
“Here we are, yet again, delivering thousands of comments to the Bureau of Land Management calling for greater protections for the entire Greater Chaco Landscape,” Miya King-Flaherty, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. “Those protections should include air and water quality, health and safety of surrounding communities, and analyzing, addressing and mitigating the cumulative impacts of oil and gas drilling. A mineral withdrawal is a step in the right direction, but more must be done to address the legacy impacts of more than 40,000 wells throughout the region that continue to harm communities, the environment and cultural integrity of the Greater Chaco Landscape.”
Media Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]