By the Numbers

2,500

Square miles of a methane hot spot above the region

1,000

New wells in a 2015 BLM plan for public lands near Mesa Verde

13th

Century when Spruce Tree House was built. It is now closed for the first time as temperature fluctuations from climate change have caused sections of rock to cleave from the rock face.

Without comprehensive, landscape-level planning that takes into account the needs of the park and its resources, Mesa Verde could be surrounded by a thousand new oil and gas wells.

Background

Some of the most well-known and well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in existence are protected within Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. The park contains over 5,000 sites, including over 600 cliff dwellings. Mesa Verde is home to the largest cliff dwelling in North America — the Cliff Palace, which dates to the 12th century. Mesa Verde was the first national park to focus on protecting both cultural and natural resources.

Spoiling Park Resources

The area surrounding Mesa Verde has long been targeted by the oil and gas industry. A 2015 plan for the area included 1,000 new oil and gas wells surrounding the park, sparking concern among community groups. Such an extensive and wide-ranging development plan put numerous park resources at risk.

An alternative plan, which would have included a comprehensive stakeholder process to manage the landscape for multiple uses, was slated to begin under the previous administration’s Bureau of Land Management. This would have resulted in a Master Leasing Plan accounting for the needs of the community, the park and its landscape — not just the needs of extractive industries. That process was halted by the Trump administration. The plan for 1,000 new wells is still in place.

Without the Master Leasing Plan, the landscape is at risk of becoming completely overwhelmed by oil and gas development — something that has already occurred at nearby Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, where 80% of the surrounding BLM lands have been leased and the landscape has been scarred by roads, well pads, storage tanks and pipelines. In 2018, a gas well at Canyons of the Ancients spilled over 3,000 gallons of wastewater, contaminating nearby lands and water resources. We can’t let Mesa Verde have a similar future.

Along with Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Hovenweep National Monument, Mesa Verde is part of a cultural landscape that tells the story of an ancient interconnected civilization that is still part of a thriving culture today.

Resources Threatened

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    Cultural landscape
  • 70434671 01b5 45c9 b8b7 ff14685edf98 original
    Outdoor recreation economy
  • 9ae2c28f bea6 4155 b4b0 8b486447e4c5 original
    Visitor experience
  • 0f1ba227 f13f 4fc0 997e 649a70090e23 original
    Air quality
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