Celebrating Lease-sale deferral, pressing for permanent protections and planning
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Santa Fe — Dozens of Greater Chaco advocates rallied in front of the Bureau of Land Management state office in Santa Fe Wednesday to claim victory over last week’s announcement that land slated for auction near Chaco Culture National Historical Park would be deferred until further action. Impacted community members delivered resolutions from Navajo Nation Chapters and Pueblos and more than 200,000 public comments pressing for a moratorium on fracking in the region, for environmental and public-health protections, and for meaningful consultation and consent from tribes.
“We are thankful that Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Michelle Lujan-Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan stood up for the impacted and marginalized communities and voiced the need for further tribal consultation amid the completion of the Resource Management Plan Amendment,” said Daniel Tso, member of the Counselor Citizens HIA-Hózhóógó na’adá Committee which studies health impacts of fracking in local Navajo communities. “The mass momentum of the peoples of the Greater Chaco Landscape including the All Pueblo Council of Governors, the TriChapter Alliance and Pueblo Action Alliance, the Dine-Pueblo Solidarity and the 100+ ally groups proved to be a most powerful voice.”
Yesterday, Greater Chaco advocates rallied in front of the state offices of New Mexican Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham to thank them for their representation and to remind them “It’s not over.”
“This victory is yours,” Sen. Udall State Director Greg Bloom read from a statement. “I will continue to fight hard in the Senate to protect our citizens and our national heritage in and around Chaco.”
Despite receiving a record-breaking 459 protest comments, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had planned to move forward with the controversial leases based on an outdated Resource Management Plan that was written before new fracking methods were feasible in the region, and without meaningful Tribal consultation or consent from Navajo Nation and Pueblos who consider Chaco sacred.
Greater Chaco advocates moved forward with their planned rally at BLM state headquarters today reminding agency officials of their promise to Tribes and the American public to develop a new plan to protect Greater Chaco. Advocates hand delivered over 200,000 public comments from CREDO Action, WildEarth Guardians, Sierra Club, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and Food & Water Watch calling for a moratorium on drilling in Greater Chaco and for meaningful public health, cultural, and environmental protections.
“Deferring this lease sale is the first step in acknowledging that tribal and public voices must be a part of resource management decisions,” said Rebecca Sobel, Senior Climate & Energy Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “But BLM continues to approve wells in the region using a woefully inadequate plan that explicitly doesn’t analyze industrial fracking impacts, and we’re redelivering the mountain of tribal and public protests to remind them what consultation and consent looks like.”
BLM Acting Chief of Communicators Derrick Henry received the protest comments, but disrespected tribal officials when he walked out on requests to stay and listen to community members’ concerns.
“If BLM really did consult with the tribes, the tribes would actually see some of their recommendations and concerns addressed, and changes being made,” said Samuel Sage, Community Services Coordinator for Counselor Chapter House on Navajo Nation. “We have sent Resolutions from Chapters to BLM wanting some questions answered. Questions like, how will BLM accurately assess current air quality conditions and determine appropriate mitigation measures to minimize potential air quality impacts from proposed fluid mineral development?”
In northwest New Mexico, more than 91% of BLM’s public lands have already been leased to oil and gas development with more than 500 new industrial fracking wells approved without analysis. Much of the remaining 9% is in Greater Chaco, an area lacking proper air, land, water, cultural resource, and public health protections under the existing BLM Farmington Field Office’s 2003 Resource Management Plan (RMP).
A lawsuit currently stands asserting that drilling without a plan is illegal. The Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors, National Congress of American Indians, 15 Navajo Chapter Houses, the New Mexico House Legislature, and over 400,000 public citizens in total have requested a moratorium on drilling until the RMP amendment is complete.
Chaco Canyon is considered the sacred heart of the American Southwest and is the core of the Greater Chaco region. A thousand years ago, long before any European colonization, the Ancestral Pueblos called the Greater Chaco region home. Today, the region supports Navajo, Hopi, Apache, Zuni, Ute, and Pueblo communities.
“This deferral is a major victory for the Navajo Nation, Pueblo tribes, and the thousands of people who have rallied to protect the ancestral landscape, and the living cultures of Greater Chaco, said Miya King-Flaherty, Our Wild New Mexico Organizer for the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. “We will continue to fight to ensure that this special place and the people who live there are protected from expanded fracking.”