By Miya King-Flahery, Chapter Public Lands Fellow
The lands surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park encompass an intricate network of ancient roads, great houses, and kivas that spread across the Greater Chaco landscape. These lands have profound meaning to modern-day tribes and are home to Navajo communities that are increasingly inundated with fracking wells.
Nearly 92% of public lands in Greater Chaco are already leased to oil and gas. Now the government wants to destroy 4,500 more acres.
In August, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Farmington Field Office notified Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye that it intends to auction off 25 more parcels in Greater Chaco for fracking. These parcels are unnervingly close to the 10-mile buffer that protects Chaco Culture National Historical Park. In September, 10 acres — now removed — breached the buffer, making it patently clear that this administration is intent on ignoring tribal sovereignty and public input, and views nothing as sacred.
The Navajo Nation, All Pueblo Council of Governors, New Mexico Congressional delegation, New Mexico Legislature, and many more have called for a moratorium on all new leasing until the BLM and Bureau of Indian Affairs finish amending the outdated Resource Management Plan for the area.
More fracking means more community health impacts, venting and flaring of methane, and air and water damages. Communities living in Greater Chaco already expressed their concerns about fracking impacts at public meetings and through a series of meetings intended to update the 2003 Resource Management Plan, which didn’t address fracking because the technology wasn’t feasible in the region when it was written.
But the BLM seems to prioritize oil and gas development over all other uses.
The BLM will accept comments through Oct. 21 regarding the March 2018 lease sale. Please speak out against the BLM’s brazen move to lease more lands that will harm more communities and destroy more sacred landscapes. For more information and actions, please visit our Chaco collection.
Health Impact Assessment
The chapter is part of the Counselor Health Impact Assessment Committee, which is now applying for permission from the Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board to administer a self-evaluation health survey to community residents in Greater Chaco.
We have partnered with the Environmental Health Project to develop the survey. Data from the survey will be incorporated into an interactive web-based map that enables the public, researchers and health professionals to look at compelling evidence related to air quality and health.
Other coalition efforts are focussing on solarizing the Chapter Houses of the Tri-Chapter Alliance–Counselor, Torreon/Starlake, and Ojo Encino Chapter. This clean-energy initiative comes at a time when last month, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye issued an executive order that promotes energy security while safeguarding the health of the Navajo people.