Over 30,000 Protests Delivered Opposing Oil and Gas Lease Sale

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Facebook live: https://www.facebook.com/FrackOffChaco/videos/1516074628522446/

Celebrating Public Lands, Federal, State, Tribal Leaders and Allies Call for Protection From Fracking

Over 30,000 Protests Delivered Opposing Oil and Gas Lease Sale


Daniel Tso, Navajo Nation Council Delegate, (928) 318-0039, danieltso@navajo-nsn.gov

Jesse Deubel, Executive Director, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, (505) 440-2621, jesse@nmwildlife.org

Rebecca Sobel, Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner, WildEarth Guardians,(267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org

Miya King-Flaherty, Our Wild New Mexico Organizer, Sierra Club-Rio Grande Chapter, (505) 301-0863, miya.king-flaherty@sierraclub.org

Santa Fe, N.M. — Crowds gathered today at the New Mexico Legislature to celebrate the state’s public lands and call for their protection as a diverse coalition of tribal leaders, legislators, land users, and allied organizations showcased the delivery of 30,000 public protests to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in opposition to its March 2019 oil and gas lease sale.

An outside rally celebrating the value of New Mexico’s public lands moved inside the Roundhouse as federal, state, and tribal leaders called for the protection of these lands from unfettered and industrialized oil and gas development.

A record-breaking 33,000 protests – three times the amount of protests submitted for the December 2018 NM lease sale – were hand delivered to BLM state headquarters opposing the March 28th online auction of 11,000 acres of public and ancestral lands that includes over 10,000 acres in northwest New Mexico’s Greater Chaco region and 1,000 acres in southeast New Mexico’s Greater Carlsbad Caverns region. The formal 10-day protest period – reduced from 30 days – which started February 11, ended today.

The BLM deferred 9 parcels – approximately 1,500 acres – earlier this month that were within 10-miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the third time in two years the agency has nominated, only to defer leasing parcels within close proximity to the Park. Previous deferrals cited the need for more cultural analysis of over 5,000 cultural sites, yet no cultural review or consultation has taken place to date, as the BLM Farmington, Rio Puerco, and Carlsbad Field Offices tier to decades-old Resource Management Plans that fail to analyze the impacts of multi-stage fracturing and horizontal drilling (2003, 1992, and 1988 respectively).

The March 2019 lease sale has drawn condemnation from Senators Udall and Heinrich, Representative Haaland, and Arizona Representative Grijalva. The Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors, National Congress of American Indians, 15 Navajo Chapter Houses, the New Mexico Legislature, more than 100 organizations, and over 500,000 public citizens in total have requested a moratorium on drilling until the BLM updates its Resource Management Plans.

More than 93% of available lands in the Greater Chaco region and 97% in the Greater Carlsbad region have been sold to the oil and gas industry already and more than 64,000 wells are operating on New Mexico’s public and tribal lands without care to community health or environmental justice. More than 500 new industrial wells have recently been drilled and fracked near Chaco Canyon, the heart of the Greater Chaco region.

Speakers included: Navajo Nation Council Delegate Daniel Tso, State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, New Mexico Senator Antionette Sedillo Lopez, Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen with statements from U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Congresswoman Deb Halland.

The event was hosted by 350NM, Food and Water Watch, Frack Free Four Corners, Frack Off Greater Chaco, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, Trout Unlimited, and WildEarth Guardians.

WildEarth Guardians’ map of the proposed sale is available here.

Congressional Statements:

“We must continue to safeguard the greater Chaco Canyon area.  Our coalition of tribes, pueblos, local residents, and organizations here today have succeeded in forcing the Bureau of Land Management to defer oil and gas lease sales – three times — within the 10 mile buffer area.  Please know that I will continue to push my legislation to protect this sacred area from development of federally-owned minerals . . . and for a regional planning process with meaningful tribal and public input that will ensure better protections — unlike the current administration’s indiscriminate leasing process.”

  • From U.S. Senator Tom Udall’s statement today,  Vice Chair of the Committee on Indian Affairs Members, Member of the Appropriations, Commerce, Science and Transportation, Foreign Relations, and Rules and Administration Committees, and the Joint Committee on Printing Members

“As New Mexicans, we love our public lands, we love our open spaces, and we care about the future we’re going to leave for our children, but we’re in an era when a presidential administration puts profits over people. Our communities are standing up for our land, air and water, because the alternative energy sources make so much more sense for New Mexico. If we move toward a Green New Deal, we can create jobs and support our economy while ensuring our state’s beauty is around for generations to come.”

  • Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Vice Chair of the full House Committee on Natural Resources and chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Legislative Statements:

“Our land, our people, and our rich cultural history are sacred. They deserve our protection. That is why, I am excited to announce the Land Office will be issuing an executive order in the next coming weeks that will create a moratorium on any oil and gas leases on state trust land in the Chaco area. We will also create a working group that will focus on community outreach and education, as well as engaging with all stakeholders. For too long, we have held on to practices that ignored local communities, cultural resources, and the environment. This ends here.”

  • New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard

“We must protect our land, our water, and our health. Because without that, what do we really have? That’s why I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 459 and Senate Bill 592 to allow New Mexicans to finally learn the truth about fracking and ensure the public safety of our water going forward.”

  • New Mexico Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, District 16, Vice Chair of Senate Conservation Committee and Member of Senate Public Affairs Committee

Additional Comments:

“Our relatives and our sacred lands need protection.  BLM continues to lease for oil and gas, without any consultation with residents in the area of Chaco. We have always known that BLM is in the pocket of industry and that they will rush to fulfill any industry requests. We recently learned BLM is looking the other way and failing to recognize or acknowledge endangered plants and sacred sites. When will enough be enough, as it looks like ‘enough’ is not anytime soon.”

“We protest BLM’s approval of the March 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.”

“For thousands of years, our ancestral DNA has resonated with the sub, surface, and air scapes of this sacred space, and to this very day it still does because this land and air space is still utilized as a multi-tribal sanctuary.  This vital connection is absolutely necessary to practice our religion. No one in the United States of America should be denied this right in the name of leased/sold development.”

“We [Pueblo Action Alliance] are in opposition of any land auction that threatens and/or desecrates sacred land and the cultural integrity of the Indigenous people of the Southwest. The BLM has had numerous opportunities to collaborate with tribal governments and communities to ensure that the health and safety of the living culture and ancestral culture within the Greater Chaco Landscape are secured. But, the actions of the BLM display that their interests are for oil and gas royalties. When will the federal government start respecting their indigenous neighbors and honor the treaties. Public land is stolen land and stolen land is ancestral land.”

“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 March 28, 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.  90% of voting Americans here, don’t want it. Protect the Sacred Land, Sacred Air and Sacred Water for, the People.”

“The federal fossil fuel leasing program is responsible for one quarter of our nation’s climate change pollution, yet the Bureau of Land Management is chronic in its failure to account for climate impacts or threats to community health. This February and March, the Bureau of Land Management is proposing to sacrifice more than 2 million acres of western public lands for industrialized fracking. New Mexicans are, once again, submitting a record-breaking number of protests opposing more oil and gas leasing, yet the Bureau of Land Management and New Mexico’s legislators continue to ignore reasonable requests for restraint.”

“It’s critical that we remember that federally managed public lands belong equally to every citizen. As the collective owners of these priceless places we must remain diligent in our efforts to ensure that public lands forever remain in public hands. These wild habitats provide hunting and angling opportunities for all Americans.”

  • Jesse Duebel, Executive Director, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, (505) 440-2621, jesse@nmwildlife.org

“By pushing forward with the March 2019 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 relentless push for extreme energy extraction is a policy of destruction that must come to an end.  Squandering our public lands for the financial gain of the few is unconscionable and unsustainable. BLM practices show no regard for the will of the people and particularly our indigenous neighbors who hold these lands sacred. Permitting fracking and drilling on public lands or any lands will lock us into fossil fuel dependence for decades to come and must be stopped.  We call for an immediate and just transition to 100% renewables.”

“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.”

“The continuing Department of the Interior leasing for oil and gas on Northwest New Mexico public resources without a plan is immoral, particularly given flawed consultation processes required for a region with national heritage considerations. We’ve been waiting since 2014 for updates to the existing 1986 and 2003 plans for the region which didn’t identify development of oil and gas in the areas now being leased.”

“The BLM’s ongoing sale of mineral leases in the northwestern New Mexico is a demonstration of the corrupt federal management of public resources for private gain over all other considerations. The huge cultural and environmental impacts of existing leases can only be addressed by a moratorium on all new leases in the Four Corners area. The egregious impacts of the oil and gas industry are out of control.”

“We call on the BLM to end the disingenuous, manipulative cycle of offering lands for lease and then withdrawing selected parcels to maintain the appearance of being responsive to citizen concerns. Now is the time for the agency to actually HEAR the voices of the people! This is OUR public land and, given the reality of climate disruption, increasing drought, and looming water scarcity, using these lands for rampant, reckless oil and gas extraction is no longer in the best interest of the public or the planet.”

“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.”

“We are at a tipping point where humanity needs to invest in sustainable energy sources and move away from fossil fuels. The BLM’s relentless and blatantly non-scientific assault on precious Public Lands in New Mexico and elsewhere needs to stop. The government should be protecting Public Land, not selling it off to a few oil and gas enterprises to benefit a very few for a very short time. Water is life and oil and gas companies must not be enabled in sacrificing both for profit.”

  • Rebekah Henty, Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens, (310)490 8990, info@rioarribaconcernedcitizens.com
  • Protest Cover Letter


Over 30,000 Protests Delivered Opposing Oil and Gas Lease Sale
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