[BREAKING: Speak out today to defend Greater Chaco from fracking! Tell the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs NO MORE BROKEN PROMISES!]
[And PLEASE, support COVID-19 relief efforts in the Far Eastern Chapters of the Navajo Nation, click here to donate >>]
The Trump Administration’s push to open up public lands for fracking has hit a callous new low in the Greater Chaco region as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management barrels ahead to approve more than 3,000 new oil and gas wells even as impacted Indigenous communities bear the brunt of a major COVID-19 outbreak.
The Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico is the sacred heart of the American Southwest. It’s home to Chaco Canyon and Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Over a thousand years ago, it was the realm of the Chacoan people, the ancestral Puebloans who constructed kivas and dwellings across the landscape.
Today, Pueblo people still maintain a living and spiritual connection to the landscape and it sustains Navajo and New Mexico communities.
While Chaco Canyon is at the core of the Greater Chaco landscape, the “Chaco World” extended far beyond, even into northeast Arizona, southwest Colorado, and southeast Utah.
Sacred Lands Under Siege by Fracking
For years now, Greater Chaco has been under attack by the oil and gas industry.
With the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, companies have tapped previously unreachable geologic formations using destructive industrial development. Much of this development has occurred under the watch of the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees more than two million acres of public lands and minerals in the region.
Since 2013, the Bureau of Land Management has permitted more than five hundred fracking wells in Greater Chaco. With more than 90% of all lands in the region leased to the oil and gas industry for drilling, the threat looms large.
This drilling has utterly transformed and degraded the landscape, fueling more air pollution, more safety concerns, more truck traffic, and more industrial development where there previously was none.
It’s also put the health and welfare of adjacent Navajo communities more at risk than ever.
Frack Off Chaco
Fortunately, the Bureau of Land Management’s relentless push to drill and frack in Greater Chaco has galvanized a movement.
To begin with, the Frack Off Greater Chaco Coalition emerged, uniting Indigenous community leaders, Native groups, nonprofits, and public lands and water protectors around the call to stop fracking in the region.
As part of this coalition, we joined with Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, San Juan Citizens Alliance, NRDC, and the Western Environmental Law Center to win an unprecedented legal challenge to fracking in Greater Chaco.
Most recently, the Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors, National Congress of American Indians, 15 Navajo Chapter Houses, the New Mexico Legislature, the New Mexico State Land Office, and over 500,000 people have called on the agency to stop fracking Greater Chaco.
Federal legislation was also introduced by New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation to increase protections. Called the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, the bill would take the first steps toward protecting this landscape by making the 10 mile area around Chaco Canyon off limits to drilling.
“It’s important that we protect Chaco Canyon, both because it is a sacred place that should be valued the same way we value other sacred places, but also because public lands must be protected.”
– New Mexico U.S. Representative, Deb Haaland
At one point, even the Bureau of Land Management seemed to be coming around.
In 2013, the agency announced it needed to update a 2003 management plan for the Farmington Field Office, which encompasses most of the Greater Chaco region. Promising to be accountable to Tribes and the public, the Bureau of Land Management, together with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, committed to strengthening safeguards to protect cultural values and health.
From October 2016 to February 2017, the agencies held 10 public meetings and received thousands of comments to guide the development of the new plan.
In response, the agencies released a “scoping report,” promising the new plan would address climate change, water and soil resources, environmental justice, the “Chaco Cultural Landscape,” public health and safety, Tribal interests, truck traffic and road conditions, wildlife, and other issues impacted by fracking.
Sadly, the agencies have now reneged on their promises.
In March, the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs released their draft management plan. Sadly, the plan opens the door for more fracking and stands to leave the cultural integrity and health of the Greater Chaco region more vulnerable than ever.
Under the various alternatives, the agencies project between 2,345 and 3,101 new oil and gas wells in the Farmington Field Office.
The plan would also make nearly a million acres available for sale to the oil and gas industry for more extraction. Many of these lands are in or near Navajo communities.
More Fracking in the Midst of a Health Crisis
The Bureau of Land Management’s proposed plan would sacrifice the Greater Chaco region’s cultural integrity, endanger communities, and jeopardize clean air, water, and the climate.
What’s worse is that the agency is plowing ahead to approve more fracking even as Indigenous communities are struggling with an outbreak of COVID-19.
Citing the burden of managing the COVID-19 health crisis within Tribal communities, there has been a near-unanimous call for the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs to extend the public comment period for its proposed plan. Tribal officials, Congressional leaders, state and local officials, and the general public have all spoken out.
In response, the agencies rejected the requests and instead scheduled a series of “virtual” public meetings, a move that has been widely condemned.
Pointing to a lack of adequate internet access within Tribal communities and the ongoing strain of the coronavirus pandemic, leaders, like U.S. Representatives Deb Haaland and Raul Grijalva, have ripped the agencies over their lack of compassion and sensitivity.
Not surprisingly, as the virtual meetings have unfolded, the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs have faced heated criticism. Tribal leaders, local officials, and members of the public have overwhelmingly delivered the message that the agency’s so-called public engagement is shameful, insulting, and racist.
#NewMexico Pueblo leaders resoundingly speaking out against @BLMNewMexico plans to expand fracking in #GreaterChaco region of NW New Mexico. Santa Clara Pueblo rep reams out agency! pic.twitter.com/hO00l5Ct0v
— WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program (@ClimateWest) May 15, 2020
A Call to Action
In the meantime, we’re stepping up the resistance more than ever.
And in the past few weeks, WildEarth Guardians, the Sierra Club, NRDC, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and many other organizations have reached out to millions of people calling on them to speak out and weigh in.
The big news is that on May 27, 2020, the Frack Off Greater Chaco Coalition will hold a People’s Hearing to Defend Greater Chaco, where it’s intended to provide a forum for all people to weigh in and interact.
While the hearing will be virtual and held over Zoom, the Coalition intends to read any and all comments submitted by people, to play videos or audio submitted, and to overall give people a forum to actually speak out.
Unlike the Bureau of Land Management’s virtual public meetings, there will be no time limits for public comment, nobody’s video turned off, and certainly no dead silence or elevator music.
Watch the video below to learn more about the People’s Hearing to Defend Greater Chaco!
We’re not going to back down until we’ve secured the protections the Greater Chaco region needs and deserves.
That means that we won’t relent in defending Greater Chaco until the Bureau of Land Management has agreed to stop selling public lands for fracking, has agreed to landscape-level cultural protections, and has agreed to wind down and ultimately phase out fracking entirely in the region.
The Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico is under siege by fracking. Despite calls from Tribal leaders, communities, and elected officials, the Trump administration is barreling ahead with plans to allow up to 3,000 new fracking wells in the region, which will bring more air pollution and more water contamination to this culturally integral landscape. Even worse, these plans come amid the coronavirus pandemic, which is hitting northwest New Mexico and the Navajo Nation particularly hard. This is a critical time for this critical issue, so please join us in pushing back, and stepping it up, to defend Greater Chaco.
Help us take over Twitter to #ProtectChaco! We’ve assembled six ready-to-go tweets, complete with images and a link to the action alert. All you have to do is “grab-n-go” to help raise awareness and make a big difference in the defense of the Greater Chaco region. Thank you!
The Bureau of Land Management’s new plan for up to 3,000 additional #fracking wells in the Greater Chaco region fails to provide any assessment of the current impacts of fracking to human health and communities in the region. Act now to #ProtectChaco: https://guardiansaction.org/GreaterChaco
Ignoring previous promises to protect communities and the culture of the Greater Chaco region from #fracking, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management wants to open the door for more than 3,000 new oil and gas wells in the region. Act now to #ProtectChaco: https://guardiansaction.org/GreaterChaco
It takes over three million gallons of water to frack a single oil and gas well in the Greater Chaco region. For every barrel of oil, 4-12 times as much toxic, radioactive waste is generated. Submit your comments to #ProtectChaco from more #fracking: https://guardiansaction.org/GreaterChaco
A Trump administration plan for managing #publiclands and minerals in northwestern New Mexico’s Greater Chaco region would sacrifice cultural integrity, endanger communities, and jeopardize #cleanair, water, and the #climate. Act now to #ProtectChaco: https://guardiansaction.org/GreaterChaco
The Greater Chaco region is home to Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and ancestral pueblo kivas and dwellings. Sadly, the region has been under siege by #fracking. We have to fight back to #ProtectChaco: https://guardiansaction.org/GreaterChaco
Despite calls from Tribal leaders, communities, and elected officials, the Trump administration is barreling ahead with plans to allow even more #fracking, more air pollution and more water contamination in Greater Chaco region. Speak up to #ProtectChaco: https://guardiansaction.org/GreaterChaco
On April 30, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Farmington Field Office and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) denied requests to suspend the public comment period on the controversial oil and gas drilling plan for the Greater Chaco region. Instead the agencies are planning to hold four ‘virtual public meetings’ starting mid-May on a proposed plan to drill between 2,345 and 3,101 new oil and gas wells in the Greater Chaco Landscape.
With the third highest infection rate in the United States, the Navajo Nation is currently experiencing disproportionate impacts related to coronavirus, and communities are predisposed to exacerbated health risks due to existing fracking in the region. The agencies are exploiting shelter-in-place orders and discriminatory internet access on Tribal lands to steamroll industry’s plan to frack every available inch of the Greater Chaco Landscape. Since 2016, thousands of members of the Greater Chaco Coalition—which is comprised of more than 200 tribal, environmental, and community groups fighting for Greater Chaco protections—have rallied in front of BLM offices in New Mexico at each quarterly oil and gas lease sale, calling on the agency to rein in unchecked fracking.
“The administration’s offer to hold ‘virtual’ meetings is a callous attempt to propel polluter profit by exploiting a public health crisis. These efforts are criminal. Capitalizing off a pandemic to steamroll revenue-negative fracking is truly a new low,” said Rebecca Sobel, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner, WildEarth Guardians.
Read the press release.
WildEarth Guardians has strongly condemned the New Mexico Environment Department’s decision to scale back enforcement of clean air violations and inspections of oil and gas extraction facilities in the state.
In an announcement on April 30, the New Mexico Environment Department’s Air Quality Bureau disclosed a series of actions the agency is taking to make it easier for the oil and gas industry to avoid accountability to clean air and public health. The announcement comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact New Mexico and the rest of the world and even as the state remains under a stay-at-home order to protect health.
“In this unprecedented health crisis, the New Mexico Environment Department is turning its back on clean air and communities,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “This sick indifference to human health is nothing but an attempt to appease the bankrupt oil and gas industry.”
Read the press release.
Fifty years ago, a group of visionaries created an event to honor, celebrate and protect the earth. The original founders of Earth Day were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too.
If Earth and its natural systems are to thrive in the next 50 years, we need a deep recommitment to the bold vision that inspired the first Earth Day. Simply put, it’s time for action and we need Guardians like you to step up and help be a catalyst for the type of bold changes needed to address systemic problems, like the nature crisis and climate crises.
First, if you haven’t already, sign our Earth Day Pledge and make sure to share it with your friends and family.
Next, help us take over social media for Earth Week! To do that, we’ve assembled ready-to-go images for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you’re short on time, we’ve even put together some sample Facebook posts and Instagram hashtags for you. We’ve created something extra special for people on Twitter: A compelling series of 15 tweets. We’d be especially grateful if you could send them all out!
Finally, you can find WildEarth Guardians on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @WildEarthGuardians, so make sure to tag us!
All Earth Day images can be downloaded from this folder. They’re already sized for Facebook/Instagram or Twitter. You can also click on each image below and get a full-size image for use on social media.
Start your very own Twitter Storm by sending out the following 15 tweets. We’ve made it simple: Just grab and post! Please note: If an image isn’t associated with the suggested tweet (Example: Suggested Tweet #1) an image will automatically propagate when you post the entire tweet.
Suggested Tweet #1
The original founders of #EarthDay were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #2
Sign the Earth Day Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge @wildearthguard
Suggested Tweet #3
Thanks to the catalyzing effect of the original #EarthDay vision—as well as a deep and wide progressive social and political movement—a whole suite of environmental safety nets now exist to protect nature, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/americas-bedrock-environmental-laws-a-conversation-with-john-horning/
Suggested Tweet #4
This #EarthDay is a time to reject dualities that seek to deny our interdependence and embrace our shared destiny—planet and people have one health. From this stems our belief that the rights of nature and the rights of people are inextricably intertwined. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #5
Help spread the word about #EarthDay2020! Check out our Earth Day social media tool kit for a series of ready-to-go tweets, posts, and images. Let’s be loud and be proud this #EarthDay! @wildearthguard https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayToolkit
Suggested Tweet #6
There has never been a better time to chart a new course towards a restorative and regenerative future. Take the #EarthDay Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge @wildearthguard
Suggested Tweet #7
Extractive industries that mine, drill, log, and graze on #publiclands are fueling the climate crisis and the nature crisis. We must equitably retire extractive industries on public lands. Take action: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #8
Living rivers are vital to the diversity of life on earth. To ensure the future health of rivers and the species that depend on them, we must revive the pulse of great waterways and expose the historic injustice to rivers. Take the pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #9
Native #wildlife, especially carnivores, are suffering under the multiple and intensifying threats of habitat destruction, climate disruption and questionable hunting and trapping practices. We must nurture an ethic of compassionate co-existence: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #10
Public lands in the American West are home to some of the last remnants of wild, yet still unprotected, landscapes in our nation. There are potentially up to 40 million acres of #publiclands that would be eligible for permanent protection. ACT: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #11
Times like these show the importance of safety nets. We must secure and strengthen environmental safety nets like the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act to meet the challenges ahead. Sign the pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #12
WildEarth Guardians’ #EarthDay vision calls for leadership at all levels of society. We need leaders from all political spectrums to shoulder the responsibility of creating and embrace the vision of a new, more nurturant social contract with citizens. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #13
Living rivers and #cleanwater are vital to all life. Flowing, healthy rivers nourish communities, connect ecosystems, and provide corridors and habitat for fish and wildlife. Sign the pledge to protect and defend #livingrivers: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay
Suggested Tweet #14
We must deepen our commitment to greater equity and inclusion in our human communities to ensure that people are treated with compassion and afforded the dignity that all people deserve. #EarthDay https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/
Suggested Tweet #15
The beauty, resiliency, and dynamism of Earth can still inspire a sense of awe and wonder in each of us. If we re-commit, with a greater sense of urgency, to the founding vision of #EarthDay, we can ensure future generations will experience the beauty too. https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge
Suggested Facebook Posts
Suggested Facebook Post #1
The original founders of Earth Day were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too.
As we commemorate this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we do so with a somber reckoning that we have not heeded planetary health warnings early or well enough. Therefore, these times require ever more bold actions to realign our commitment to Earth and its natural systems and our mutual well-being.
Here’s what guardians like you can do today to help us collectively achieve this vision.
Suggested Facebook Post #2
If Earth and its natural systems are to thrive in the next 50 years, we need a deep recommitment to the bold vision that inspired the first Earth Day. It is a time for action. It is time to reweave the threads of the environmental, public health, and economic safety nets, which ensure that the public welfare and the common good are each protected.
Take the Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge
Suggested Facebook Post #3
Happy Earth Day…Now get to work for the Earth!
Our Earth Day social media tool kit is a one-stop-shop of ready-to-go tweets, posts, and images.
Instagram Hashtags and Link for Bio
Put this link to the Earth Day Pledge in your bio: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge
Hashtags: Use one, or use them all!
#EarthDay #EarthDay2020 #EarthDayEveryDay #ClimateAction #StopExtinction #PublicLands #Wildlife #EndTheWarOnWildlife #LivingRivers #KeepItInTheGround #ProtectWhatYouLove #SaveTheEarth #SaveThePlanet #ProtectOurPlanet #ActOnClimate #EarthWeek #WaterIsLife #CleanWater #CleanAir #Biodiversity #Coexistence #ProtectNature #SaveNature #ProtectWildlife #OneEarth #Together #EndangeredSpecies
Over two dozen Indigenous, environmental, and community groups have called on the New Mexico State Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to adequately respond to the COVID-19 crisis, which has prevented the public and tribal governments from meaningful engagement in the agency’s management of public lands and resources, and immediately suspend all open public comment periods, planning processes, and major policy development.
Incredibly, in spite of the COVID-19 crisis and Governor Lujan Grisham’s stay-at-home order, the New Mexico BLM continues to move forward with plans to sell public lands for fracking, rollback environmental safeguards, adopt new plans for the management of public lands and resources, and authorize private development. The BLM has already taken extraordinary steps in New Mexico to minimize public participation in oil and gas decisions by reducing protest periods from 30 to 10 days, and the agency is currently accepting public comment on its controversial Farmington Resource Management Plan amendment, despite requests from the NM Congressional Delegation and the All Pueblo Council of Governors for suspension.
“It is unconscionable for BLM to be propping up polluters during a public health pandemic. Rolling back pollution controls will only exacerbate health issues; urgently, the agency must put public health first and halt the rubber stamping of more fracking approvals.” said Rebecca Sobel, Senior Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians.
Read the press release.
Our nation’s bedrock environmental law–the National Environmental Policy Act–is under attack by corporate polluters and their cronies in the Trump Administration, threatening our right to a healthy environment in the United States.
Fortunately, we have a chance to fight back against this brazen assault and defend our health and communities.
Most people have no clue what the National Environmental Policy Act is, but virtually everyone knows what it does.
Passed 50 years ago, the law ensures federal agencies analyze and fully disclose the environmental impacts of their activities. More importantly, it gives the public the right to be involved and to influence federal actions that may affect their environment.
Described as “our basic national charter for protection of the environment,” the National Environmental Policy Act has been a critical check on the activities of our federal government.
Often called NEPA (that’s pronounced “nee-puh”), the law enshrined the goal of environmental protection in the United States and enforced the need to involve the public in federal decisions. And since its passage, NEPA has worked tremendously.
It’s given communities a voice and sway when new highways are proposed through neighborhoods. It’s empowered local and state governments to stand up to federal agencies. It’s provided Tribes the tools needed to defend sacred lands. And it’s enabled watchdogs across the country to make a difference for people and the planet.
The law has truly been a ray of sunshine and for Americans.
For WildEarth Guardians, NEPA is absolutely key to protecting and restoring wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health in the American West.
For over 30 years, we’ve relied on the law to confront proposals by federal agencies to log old growth forests, dam rivers, decimate wildlife, destroy the climate, and desecrate sacred lands. We’ve relied on the law to mobilize support for safeguarding endangered species, protecting wilderness, and saving lands and waters throughout the American West.
Just last month, we filed suit in federal court to block the sale of nearly two million acres of public lands for fracking in five western states over the federal government’s failure to comply with NEPA. The case confronts the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s refusal to account for the climate impacts of authorizing more fossil fuel production and more greenhouse gas emissions.
For WildEarth Guardians, as well as countless other environmental, health, community, justice, Indigenous, and other advocates, NEPA is the backbone of our accountability efforts. It’s given us all the tools needed to stand up to private, often well-financed efforts to exploit our environment at the expense of our health and well-being.
Sadly, because groups like WildEarth Guardians have successfully used NEPA to defend our environment, it’s come under fire by polluters who view the law as an impediment to their ability to exploit communities and public resources.
Claiming the law is inefficient, cumbersome, and ineffective, corporate interests have for many years called for its gutting. Now, with Trump and his pro-polluter cadre in the White House, these interests are launching an unprecedented strike on our nation’s basic charter for environmental protection.
In a draft released on January 10, the White House Council on Environmental Quality published a proposed set of regulations that, if adopted, would effectively roll back and destroy NEPA as we know it (watch our recent Facebook Live check-in to learn more about these rollbacks).
The rules would completely rewrite regulations originally promulgated in 1982 and in doing so, completely upend our ability to hold our federal government accountable to protecting our environment. It’s not surprising that lobbyists for the nation’s polluters have described the rules as “exactly” what they recommended to the Trump administration.
Among the sweeping changes, the Trump administration’s proposal would:
- Strike language describing NEPA as “our nation’s basic charter for environmental protection” and instead describe the law as procedural and only requiring federal agencies to minimally disclose the environmental impacts of their actions;
- Severely restrict opportunities for public involvement in federal agency actions affecting the environment;
- In many situations, exempt federal agencies from having to complete environmental reviews;
- Let agencies shortcut environmental reviews and to reject science and public comments;
- Undermine transparency by allowing agencies to withhold environmental information from the public;
- Make it more difficult for watchdogs to enforce NEPA before administrative appeals boards or federal courts; and
- Prohibit federal agencies from analyzing and disclosing cumulative environmental impacts, or the impacts of their actions when added to the impacts of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable activities.
That last proposed change is particularly distressing. The duty for the federal government to address the cumulative impacts of its actions is a critical and powerful means of ensuring agencies don’t worsen environmental problems, like climate change.
By eliminating the duty to account for cumulative impacts, the proposed changes would completely erase the federal government’s responsibility to protect our environment.
In keeping with the anti-public spirit of the proposal, the Council on Environmental Quality has also provided only 60 days for people to provide comments on the draft regulations and scheduled only two public hearings–one in Denver and one in Washington, D.C.–where only a little more than 100 people will be allowed to comment.
There’s no doubt that if approved, the proposed rules would effectively shut the American public out of the operations of the federal government, leaving our environment, our communities, our health, and our families more vulnerable than ever.
In response to Trump’s attack on NEPA, a massive coalition of advocates across the country are gearing up to fight back.
The resistance is kicking off in Denver, Colorado this Tuesday, February 11. That day, the Trump administration is holding its first of two public hearings on the proposed rollbacks.
While many will be speaking at the formal hearing, the Council on Environmental Quality provided only 112 speaking slots that were filled in less than five minutes due to extremely high demand. That’s why most people will be speaking and rallying across the street as part of the “Peoples Hearing to Protect NEPA,” an all-day action meant to uplift and empower the voices that were excluded by the Trump administration.
Groups are also pushing back in other critical ways. Last month, WildEarth Guardians joined hundreds of other groups in demanding the Trump administration extend the public comment period for the proposed rollbacks and calling for more public hearings.
Congressional leaders are also rising up to defend NEPA. In a bipartisan letter last month, U.S. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, a Democrat, and Representative Francis Rooney of Florida, a Republican, were joined by hundreds of other members of the U.S. House in calling on the Council on Environmental Quality to back down from the proposed rollbacks.
In the meantime, now, more than ever, we need your voice to help derail these terrible rollbacks to NEPA. If you haven’t yet, sign our petition and join thousands of others who are rising up to speak out for our environment and our voice.
Together, we can thwart Trump and his gang of polluters in the White House. Together, we can #ProtectNEPA.
Today, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representatives Ben Ray Lujan and Deb Haaland of New Mexico, with the support of State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, introduced the “Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act,” in the U.S. Senate and House, which would create a Chaco Protection Zone around Chaco Canyon.
The legislation would withdraw the oil, gas, coal and other minerals from federal public land within an approximate 10-mile buffer zone around the Park. Importantly, the legislation would allow for the termination of non-producing federal leases within the Protection Zone and prohibit the Secretary of Interior from extending them.
The legislation also acknowledges the broader Chaco cultural landscape across New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah, and recognizes the need for “additional studies…to address health, safety and environmental impacts to communities.”
From my perspective, this legislation is worthy of some major applause.
We are grateful to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Lujan and Haaland for introducing a Greater Chaco bill that better protects Indigenous communities, sacred lands and the climate. The intersection of climate justice and sacred landscapes calls for bold leadership and that’s what all Americans are getting in this bill.
I want to commend both Senators and Representatives for listening to community concerns over the last year and responding by better protecting Navajo communities and the climate from the threat of fossil fuel extraction. When this bill becomes law it will provide a beachhead of protections for the Greater Chaco region that, we hope, will be the beginning of a regional transitions to more equitable economies.
We still have considerable work to do enact this legislation and defend communities and the climate from the reckless actions of the Trump Administration and yet today we pause to acknowledge the hard work that Senators Udall and Heinrich have engaged in.
We live in increasingly complex and challenging times and we believe our solutions must reflect that complexity. By recognizing the intersectionality of climate justice, community resilience and the need for energy and economic transition in the Greater Chaco region this bill creates a framework to protect the health and well-being of this sacred region and its peoples.
Thank you to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Haaland and Luján.
WildEarth Guardians is in court today defending the Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico from fracking!
Before a federal appeals court, we intend to make the case that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management illegally allowed the oil and gas industry to drill and despoil this sacred landscape, putting our climate, clean air, and Navajo communities at risk.
Stay tuned to WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Twitter account @ClimateWest for updates and developments!
Together with the Western Environmental Law Center, Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, in 2015 we filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of hundreds of drilling permits in the Greater Chaco region.
Sadly, last year our lawsuit was rejected by a U.S. District Court judge in New Mexico. Undeterred, we’ve continued to press for justice.
Today, we’re literally getting our day in court. At a hearing in Salt Lake City, Utah, we’ll be arguing before a panel of three federal appeals judges. Their hearings start at 9 AM mountain time. We’ll likely be arguing between 11 and noon.
WildEarth Guardians’ Managing Attorney, Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, will be presenting to the court. Alongside her will be the Western Environmental Law Center’s Energy and Communities Director and Staff Attorney, Kyle Tisdel.
The hearing won’t be streamed online, but we’ll try to provide updates via social media as we can. Stay tuned to @ClimateWest and future updates here on our Brave New Wild blog!
The oil and gas industry and their cronies in the Trump Administration are again setting their sights on the Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico, but we’re gearing up to thwart their plans.
In the past week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced plans to auction off nearly 50,000 acres of public lands in this sacred area for fracking, including lands literally on the doorstep of Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
The Greater Chaco region is the home of the Ancestral Puebloan people, who more than 1,000 years ago constructed a thriving civilization within the high desert of the Four Corners region. Chaco Canyon, which is protected as Chaco Culture National Historical Park, is at the heart of Greater Chaco.
All told, the agency intends to sell more than 11,000 acres in the region in March 2019 and more than 37,000 acres in June 2019.
We put together an interactive map showing where these parcels are located, check it out below or click here for a full-size version.
This map not only shows the location of the lands the Trump Administration wants to sell this year, but you can click on the layers tab and see the location of lands that were sadly sold last December, and lands that were “deferred” from sale in 2018.
Don’t be fooled, though. Deferred doesn’t mean these lands were taken off the table, it just means their sale has been postponed. While we’re breathing a sigh of relief, we know we have to remain vigilant.
Because as you can also see in this map by clicking on the layers tab, the Greater Chaco region is already under siege by the fracking industry.
More than 91% of the region has been sold to the oil and gas industry already and more than 40,000 wells have been drilled. More than 500 have recently been drilled and fracked near Chaco Canyon, the heart of the Greater Chaco region.
While more fracking promises more climate destruction, more loss of public lands, and more threats to the cultural integrity of the landscape, it also threatens present-day Navajo people who reside in the region.
Much of the Greater Chaco region lies within the Navajo Nation. And of the lands proposed for sale this year, may lie within Navajo Chapters, which are local government units within the Nation. As our map shows, the Huerfano, Nageezi, Counselor, and Ojo Encino Chapters all stand to be impacted.
In 2017, the Navajo Nation President and Vice President took a stand in opposition to more fracking in the region. Locally, the Ojo Encino, Counselor, Torreon/Star Lake, and Dilkon Chapters have all adopted resolutions opposing fracking in Greater Chaco.
The modern day Pueblo Tribes are also standing up to defend their ancestral lands. The All Pueblo Council of Governors has not only called for a moratorium on fracking in Greater Chaco, they’ve actively resisted the Bureau of Land Management’s past attempts to sell lands to the oil and gas industry.
Together with our Indigenous allies, we’ve been at the forefront of resisting more fracking in this sacred landscape. Last fall, we filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit to overturn hundreds of fracking approvals.
And we’ve continued to mount challenge after challenge to more fracking sales in the region, bringing forward tens of thousands of comments opposing these giveaways.
At the same time, we’ve been working closely with New Mexico’s U.S. Congressional delegation to strengthen proposed legislation that would protect the Greater Chaco region from fracking and help advance a just transition away from dependence fossil fuels.
And together with all our members, supporters, allies, friends, partners, and more, we’ve been upping the resistance, showing up in greater and greater numbers to demand justice and protection for Greater Chaco and its peoples.
Greater Chaco remains under siege, but we are holding the line. Although there’s every reason to be concerned, there’s every reason to be hopeful we will defend this sacred region and secure the lasting protection it deserves.