Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site and International Dark Sky Park in northwestern New Mexico. The Greater Chaco landscape also encompasses an intricate network of ancient roads extending hundreds of miles across federal, state, tribal trust, private, and Navajo allotment lands. The Greater Chaco region houses the densest and most exceptional concentration of ancient pueblos in the American Southwest. More than 200 known Chacoan “great houses” are spread across New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah and are culturally bound to Chaco Canyon.
Today, the Greater Chaco region is home to contemporary Native American tribes, including the Diné (Navajo).
While ancient sites, kivas, and great houses inside the park’s boundaries are protected, over 91% of lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Greater Chaco region are leased for oil and gas development that desecrates the sacred landscape, impacts air and water quality, and affects public health. The remaining unleased lands are within close proximity to Chaco Park.
Industrialized fracking development, which combines horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, is having a profound impact on Navajo residents living in the area. Communities experience unsafe driving conditions from increased truck traffic and road degradation, increased noise and light pollution, elevated levels of exposure to toxic emissions, health symptoms such as nose bleeds, sore throat, shortness of breath, asthma, and more.
Indigenous leaders, environmental justice advocates, environmental groups, and others have been fighting for years to elevate the issues affecting this region, from engaging with the BLM’ s process to update it’s 2003 resource management plan that lacks adequate tribal consultation and fails to analyze the cumulative impacts of fracking in the region, to engaging in lease sales, litigation, meeting with state agencies that oversee oil and gas operations and land management, hosting prayer runs and rallies, engaging with state and congressional elected officials, and much more.
The fight to protect this region has reached the attention of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland who announced the Honoring Chaco Initiave, which is a two-part process that involves the withdrawal of federal minerals within 10 miles of Chaco Park from new oil and gas leasing for a 20-year period and a new collaborative process to address the need for landscape-level management reforms. This is a step in the right direction, but the agency must cease from approving any more drilling permits, remediate the land, engage in meaningful tribal collaboration with impacted communities, and assure environmental justice that centers public health and safety. You can take action by calling on the agencies to truly Honor Chaco.
Our Wild New Mexico Organizing Representative, Rio Grande Chapter