By Miya King-Flaherty, Our Wild New Mexico organizer
As the country weathers the current crisis, and as state and national guidelines are ever evolving to curb the spread of coronavirus, the Bureau of Land Management has charged ahead with a minimal 10-day protest period for its planned May lease sale of thousands of acres of public land in southeast New Mexico.
The protest period started on March 23 and ended April 1. The BLM has already minimized public participation by reducing protest periods from 30 to 10 days, but the 10-day period is especially egregious when our daily lives and routine have been disrupted.
While several parcels in the Greater Chaco region were spared from the May lease sale, more than 45,000 acres of public lands in southeastern New Mexico’s Permian Basin are still up for sale for more fracking.
The BLM only allows for protests to be hand-delivered or mailed; however, they made an exception and allowed for comments to be emailed.
Many people, including those most directly impacted by fracking, do not have Internet access to email comments, and most people are restricted from physically leaving their homes.
Even so, several groups, including the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, managed to collect thousands of protests opposing the May lease sale. The Rio Grande Chapter has also signed on to WildEarth Guardians’ technical comment.
The agency’s proposal to sell public lands for fracking comes as the oil and gas industry is tanking and oil prices have drastically declined in New Mexico and in other states.
Photo from Bureau of Land Management.