Public Condemns Sale of Ancestral Tribal and Public Lands For Fracking

For Immediate Release

December 18, 2019
Photos: https://www.facebook.com/pg/FrackOffChaco/photos
Facebook live: https://www.facebook.com/FrackOffChaco/videos

Rebecca Sobel, Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner, WildEarth Guardians, (267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org
Miya King-Flaherty, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, Our Wild New Mexico Organizer,  (505) 301-0863, miya.king-flaherty@sierraclub.org

Public Condemns Sale of Ancestral Tribal and Public Lands For Fracking

15,000 Acres of New Mexico’s Greater Chaco and Greater Carlsbad landscapes on the Auction Block in February

Santa Fe, NM — Tribal governments, as well as thousands of people and more than a dozen groups representing over five million members called on the Trump administration to cancel its plan to lease nearly 15,000 acres of ancestral tribal and federal public lands in New Mexico for fracking.

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) February oil and gas lease sale is the latest effort in the Trump’s Administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, sacrificing public lands for fracking in quarterly lease sales across the West.  In June, the agency auctioned off nearly 40,000 acres of public and tribal land throughout New Mexico despite receiving thousands of protests from Tribal governments, advocacy organizations, and citizens who ran 60 miles to deliver protests.  As more land within the San Juan and Permian Basins of the Greater Chaco and Greater Carlsbad landscapes are offered for sale, local advocates continue to draw attention to the clear link between the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas leasing program and the worsening climate crisis.

More than 94% of available land in the Greater Chaco region and 97% in the Greater Carlsbad region have already been sold to the oil and gas industry using outdated resource management plans that fail to analyze the impacts of industrialized fracking on the culture, communities, and climate of New Mexico. Already, more than 65,000 wells currently operate on the state’s public and tribal lands without care to community health or environmental justice.

In spite of the serious negative impacts that expanded fracking is already having on local communities, the Bureau of Land Management has chronically failed to take a hard look at the cumulative effects of oil and gas leasing and has even rolled back opportunities for the public to weigh in on this process, shortening “protest” or appeal periods from 30 days to just 10 days, forbidding the public to comment via email or fax, and refusing to hold any public hearings, even near impacted communities.

A recent federal court ruling exposed the Bureau of Land Management’s myopic approach to assessing the impacts of oil and gas drilling, with the court overturning the agency’s narrow focus on individual wells and mandating proper consideration of the cumulative impacts from the thousands of new wells planned across the region.  In response to the ruling, a coalition of Tribal leaders, environmental, and community groups called on the agency to halt new oil and gas activities, recognizing that hundreds of drilling permits issued in recent years similarly lacked adequate environmental analysis. Instead of pausing to fully consider the impacts of continued oil and gas production, the Bureau of Land Management continues to offer even more land for sale, trying to paper over the inadequacies of its environmental reviews after-the-fact using questionable water and climate “supplemental white papers” instead of required environmental impact statements.

More than a dozen groups submitted extensive comments on the Administration’s proposal to auction off 17,000 acres of public lands in February across New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Of the lands slated for sale, nearly 1,500 acres are located within 20 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park and adjacent the Santa Fe National Forest, and more than 13,000 acres are within close proximity to Carlsbad Caverns National Park with sensitive cave and karst geology. In the comments, the groups noted that the Bureau of Land Management conducted little to no analysis on the potential harm to the public health or to New Mexico’s clean air, rivers and streams, night skies, wildlife habitat, cultural resources, or the national parks and nearby nuclear storage facilities.

Advocates have thanked the entire New Mexican Congressional Delegation for their efforts to further protection of New Mexico’s public health and cultural heritage within the Greater Chaco Landscape, especially applauding Senator Tom Udall and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan’s recent efforts to further Chaco protection in the bi-partisan FY2020 Appropriations bill, which restricts funding for new oil and gas leasing within the proposed 10-mile buffer of protection and allocates $1M for a tribal-lead cultural resources study of the area.

Though Greater Chaco protections have made minor steps forward, oil and gas leasing on federal public lands still significantly compounds the climate crisis.  Reports indicate that close to one-quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to fossil fuel extraction from federal public lands, with carbon emissions from the Permian Basin alone threatening to consume more than 10 percent of the global carbon budget by 2050.

See here for WildEarth Guardians’ map of the proposed sale.


“How many more of these lease sales will we have to protest and comment on? The BLM hasn’t completed the required cultural resource studies, and hasn’t consulted the Diné community members in the areas that industry has selected for their resource development. We are the first holders of the land, yet we are the last to be given notice. Pure water is more valuable than the oil and gas that is locked and tightly held by our Earth Mother. She’s saving the precious gift of life – water –  for the generations of our people. The mega corporations cannot be allowed to sustain themselves at the cost of our future generations. There has to be a balance point: people over money.”

  • Daniel Tso, Chair of Health, Education and Human Services Committee, 24th Navajo Nation Council, Representing: Baca-Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Counselor, Littlewater, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreón-Starlake and Whitehorse Lake Chapters, (928) 318-0039, danieltso@navajo-nsn.gov

“BLM keeps telling us that 94% of the parcels has been leased, then they stated 96%. This is when I asked them what happens when you all hit 100%? Do you all stop selling the leases? They just looked at each and gave no answers. The percentage amount keeps changing. So far, BLM’s only contact with us has been to send Denial Letters of our protests and nothing else. I don’t think they will stop. We will continue to protest.”

“We protest BLM’s approval of the February Lease Sale, as cultural resources have yet to be surveyed, consultation with Diné communities and other tribal nations has not occurred, and impacts to human and environmental health have not been resolved in communities living with oil and gas. It is beyond irresponsible for BLM to approve more leases for oil and gas under these circumstances, further sacrificing our communities and others. This lease offering has not been prepared with due diligence and would add to a long history of environmental injustice with regard to Native people and their lands.”

“We are generational representatives of our ancestral lineage, we are the present day caregivers of our ancestral lands. We never gave up this connection or consented to the forced mis-management of these places by the BLM.  As matriarchs and survivors, we do not give our consent to have our Earth Mother’s body be violated by drilling, hydro-fracking or sold into slavery in any form for the oil and gas industry. We know that this continued violence leads to targeted harm on Native Peoples, their lands, waters, and delicate ecologies.”

“What will the oil and gas companies do to clean up their mess?  Nothing, they will claim bankruptcy once the owners and shareholders take all the money and leave the environmental catastrophe to be cleaned up by the Tribes, local residents and the State of New Mexico.  The BLM must cancel the February 6, 2019 oil and gas lease sale that threatens the Health and well-being of Humans and fellow Americans living near and around our Sacred Chaco Canyon. There is no need for further Oil and Gas exploration in this region. Protect the Sacred Land, Sacred Air and Sacred Water for, the People.”

“BLM continues to offer more land for fracking while chronically failing to analyze the costs of its drilling program to climate change, culture, or community health.  Now a net oil exporter, the Administration’s blatant disregard and denial of the climate crisis stands as an affront not only to frontline communities, but to all Americans who are shouldering its costs.”

“By pushing forward with the February 2020 lease sale, the BLM is ignoring public input and failing in its obligation to the American people. BLM has a responsibility to manage public lands for the benefit of the public by allowing for economic, recreational, cultural preservation, and scientific uses. By focusing only on selling off these lands to the fossil fuel industry, BLM is threatening to do permanent damage to irreplaceable cultural resources and the health and safety of surrounding communities.”

“The Bureau of Land Management continues to sacrifice our climate, public health, and sacred places for oil and gas industry profits. WELC will always defend our communities and the environment against exploitation by fossil fuel interests.”

“It’s time for the BLM to bring meaningful consultation to the communities most affected by their leasing and to understand that their actions on these lands have permanent impacts in the industrialization required for oil and gas development.  The health of local residents is at stake, as is the preservation of sacred spaces whose existence long predate the federal profit structure. Going ahead with the February 2020 lease sale represents another missed opportunity for the BLM to acknowledge their responsibility to oversight of values other than oil and gas projects.”

“It is long past time that we make our federal government leaders and agencies like the BLM, hear us clearly, ‘Enough! It’s time to get control of the things we hold dear, before all is lost, like our sacred spaces of land, air, water and protection of all life. It doesn’t matter whether these spaces are down south in the gaze of the majestic Organ Mountains or in the vast and mysterious Greater Chaco Canyon, we must stop these parcels of land from being sold. We all know the huge responsibilities and obligations we have to our children now and the generations to come.”

“BLM should cancel this lease sale–it’s a regional travesty of broken national policy.  Far more fossil fuels are planned for development in the world than climate limits can handle—and each new lease makes that bad problem worse, threatening life here and everywhere.”

“Hundreds of Food and Water Action supporters signed petitions protesting the February 6, 2020 BLM lease sale near Chaco Canyon.”

“The rampant leasing of public lands to private industry, combined with the administration’s systematic gutting of environmental protections and public participation, is causing irreparable damage to the cultural, geological and ecological values of New Mexico’s national parks.”


Public Condemns Sale of Ancestral Tribal and Public Lands For Fracking
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