Oil, gas sales scheduled to occur Near Utah, New Mexico park sites.
SALT LAKE CITY – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced yesterday its plan to move ahead with a pair of oil and gas lease sales that could adversely impact Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico and Hovenweep National Monument in southeastern Utah.
In two Environmental Assessments (EA) released yesterday by BLM, the agency covers lands previously designated for collaborative, public stakeholder leasing policies like Master Leasing Plans (MLPs). These processes were designed to find solutions for leasing near parks and other sensitive lands without negatively impacting them or their surrounding local economies. Unfortunately, recommendations in these EAs bypass those processes.
In New Mexico, the leases near Chaco Culture National Historical Park are within an existing planning effort between BLM and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to consider the leases with the needs of local communities, their religious practices, and protection of their sacred sites and heritage.
“The proposed parcels near Chaco are nibbling away around the edges of the national park and are disturbingly close to significant cultural features and ancestral sites,” said Ernie Atencio, New Mexico Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “Both the Navajo Nation and the All Pueblo Council of Governors have made clear their opposition to oil and gas development in this area. The lease sales in New Mexico should be on hold until the public has an opportunity to help guide how to protect public lands near Chaco from incompatible development.”
The San Juan County, Utah leases are within the planning area of the San Juan MLP. The National Park Service, NPCA, and others have spoken out about the harmful effects on night skies, the natural soundscape, clean air and cultural resources that oil and gas exploration and production could have on national park sites like Hovenweep, Canyonlands, Arches and Natural Bridges going back to a 2015 BLM lease sale.
Numerous parcels in the 2015 sale were ultimately deferred because of the concerns about cultural resources in the area. But the Canyon Country district office’s EA recommendations for its March 2018 lease sale does not alleviate any of that unease.
“Many of the parcels proposed today by the BLM are in the same area as those deferred in 2015. NPCA remains concerned that the EA doesn’t protect for night skies, natural sound, clean air and cultural resources in and around our national parks. It is irresponsible to go forward with leasing these parcels when, to date, little has been done to address these real problems that were raised originally and that could spoil our southeastern Utah national parks and the larger cultural landscape,” said Erika Pollard, NPCA’s Utah Senior Program Manager.
Conflicts commonly arise where energy exploration and production occurs on public lands sharing a landscape with national parks, outdoor recreation economies, and other uses. Public stakeholder processes, which seek to find solutions before leasing occurs, are a proven solution to avoid conflicts.
At least nine national parks, including Zion National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, and others, have already seen the threat of nearby oil and gas drilling since January 2017.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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