Press Release May 21, 2020

Administration announces public comment extension for oil and gas drilling plan near Chaco Culture National Historical Park

After extensive outcry, Bureau of Land Management acknowledges that plans to open up public land near Chaco for oil and gas drilling cannot continue as normal during a pandemic

NEW MEXICO – The Bureau of Land Management today announced a 120-day extension of the public comment period for plans to open up public land near Chaco Culture National Historical Park to oil and gas drilling.

The decision comes after weeks of outcry about the administration continuing its relentless rush to open up public land for industrial development, despite many affected communities simultaneously handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Much of the land at risk of oil and gas drilling holds great significance to nearby tribal communities, who have been hugely affected by the pandemic.

Last week, the Bureau of Land Management held public meetings on the project to Zoom, despite the fact that approximately half of tribal households lack the high-speed internet connection need to access the meeting.

The oil and gas drilling plan would also infringe upon the 10-mile protection zone around Chaco Culture National Historical Park to protect the landscape from development.

Statement by Ernie Atencio, Regional Director at the National Parks Conservation Association

“After months of requests from tribes, the public, conservation organizations, and New Mexico’s congressional delegation, we’re relieved the Bureau of Land Management has acknowledged that its relentless development of public land for oil and gas can’t continue as normal during a pandemic. 

“Oil and gas development has for years been prioritized at the expense of northwestern New Mexico’s public health, cultural landscapes, parks, natural resources, and native communities.

“The public must have a say in what happens to public land but that’s not possible at the moment, and the needs of tribal communities in particular deserve special consideration. A 120-day extension is a welcome first step, but the coronavirus pandemic is not an issue local only to the Chaco, so we hope similar extensions will soon be granted to all comparable planning processes and lease sales across the country.”