Two hundred New Mexico activists demand an end to oil and gas drilling on federal land
By Eleanor Bravo
“Keep it in the ground!” was the cry when Food & Water Watch and 200 of our closest friends gathered recently on a sunny morning in Santa Fe, New Mexico to protest an auction to lease public lands for energy exploration and fracking. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has scheduled a series of oil and gas lease auctions in New Mexico and other western states, selling the right to drill on public lands to the highest bidder. More than two dozen environmental groups from across the West joined with indigenous people calling on the Obama administration to end to oil and gas exploration on federal lands.
2,300 acres were on the auction block that day. Members of the non-bidding public were not allowed to enter the auction room, but instead had to watch from a live stream in a separate location. Some of the parcels went for as little as $2 per acre for a lease of as much as10 years. Millions of acres have already been leased and millions more will be placed on the auction block. America’s public lands should not be sacrificed to promote the extraction of fossil fuels.
Food & Water Watch members protest in Santa Fe
New Mexico’s treasure, the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, is in terrible jeopardy from potential fracking. Fragile in nature and sacred to the indigenous people of the area, the park preserves the epicenter of civilization for the Hopi, Navajo and Pueblo peoples throughout the American Southwest. Drilling in this area could be the demise of the ruins. The park is a special place for my family and me. We have been visiting there for more than 30 years. It is a mysterious and sacred place, which promises anyone a unique experience.
Drilling and fracking on these federal lands will release billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. Here, in the arid Southwest, it threatens the air we breathe, our health, and what little groundwater we have. That is why we are so opposed to the Bureau of Land Management allowing fracking on our public lands. No regulation can protect our treasured federal lands from the consequences of fracking.
BLM’s mandate is “to strike a balance between competing uses of our public lands to meet current needs and needs of future generations.” Fracking on public lands does nothing to safeguard the needs of future generations. It promotes the destruction of our natural treasures, jeopardizes our drinking water and pollutes the air we breathe. Continued exploration for fossil fuels only postpones our transition to renewables. These lands should not be exploited for the benefit of corporate profits. While the industry claims huge job opportunities, our experience tells us otherwise. Oil and gas drilling follows a boom and bust cycle. Communities are rapidly built up and are just as quickly devastated when the price of oil drops and the drillers leave town.
In July, there will be another auction in Santa Fe and Food & Water Watch will again join with local residents and environmental groups to turn out in force to protest. We are committed to keeping fracking away from not only our public lands, but our neighborhoods and communities as well. If we are serious about defending our communities, our wilderness and historic sites, it’s time to keep it in the ground and transition to renewable energy.