BLM to conduct additional review of energy development’s potential impacts on cultural site
*ALBUQUERQUE, NM *– Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is deferring an oil and gas lease sale planned for March 8 over concerns about the impact of energy development on nearby Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico.
“The secretary’s decision is the right one for Chaco Culture National Historical Park and the important cultural resources it protects,” said Ernie Atencio, New Mexico Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “National Parks Conservation Association, area tribes and other conservation groups have long advocated for the BLM to take a focused look at potential impacts to Chaco from new oil and gas development and plan for the protection of the important cultural and natural resources in the area. As evidence by the BLM’s postponement, such a collaborative plan is still badly needed.”
Secretary Zinke told the Albuquerque Journal that the BLM was deferring the lease sale so the agency could conduct additional review over the potential impacts of oil and gas leasing on the Chaco Culture and its surrounding landscapes. Filled with archaeological resources, sacred ancestral sites and a cultural history, Chaco is the sacred ancestral home of Pueblo peoples and a place of current religious activities for Pueblo tribes and the Navajo Nation. Tribal leaders have urged the BLM to “immediately institute a moratorium on all oil and gas related permitting and leasing” in the Greater Chaco Landscape.
“Chaco Culture is a unique landscape that tells the story of one of North America’s oldest cultures, and we will not allow and our cultural legacy to become an island in a sea of development,” said Atencio.
NPCA and partners have long advocated for smart-from-the-start leasing in the Greater Chaco region in order to give local stakeholders and park advocates an opportunity to have a say in how development occurs in the region. The BLM and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) had agreed to a stakeholder-driven planning process, but it was scrapped by the Trump Administration in favor of leasing.
In January, NPCA along with Archaeology Southwest, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, and The Wilderness Society challenged the sale. The groups called for a moratorium until further consultation with the tribes and research regarding traditional cultural sites, as well as the Mancos-Gallup Resource Management Plan for these lands, can all be completed.
The New Mexico lease sale is one of three March 2018 lease sales that NPCA has protested. Other sales set for this month include parcels near Hovenweep National Monument in southeastern Utah and Fort Laramie National Historical Site in Wyoming. There has been a substantial increase in leases offered for sale near national parks since 2017, including parcels near Dinosaur National Monument, Zion National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Basin National Park, and others.
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