WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

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Greater Chaco – ending oil and gas leasing in the heart of the American Southwest.

Greater Chaco

The Greater Chaco region of northwestern New Mexico is the sacred heart of the American Southwest. It contains Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and former home of Ancestral Puebloan civilizations. Modern-day Tribes maintain a connection to the landscape, and Navajo live in the region. But these sacred lands have also been targeted extensively for resource extraction, with more than 91 percent of available land leased to oil and gas companies and thousands of wells blighting the landscape. Despite rising opposition from Tribes and others, the Bureau of Land Management continues to approve fracking in the region.

Guardians and Tribal, local, regional, and national groups work together to turn the tide in Greater Chaco. We keep the Bureau of Land Management from selling more leases in the area for fracking. We sue to halt the approval of new drilling until it can be proven that health, climate, and communities will be protected. We also support the resistance efforts of Tribal communities and activists. Together, we’re building a sustained movement to defend Greater Chaco and move our public lands away from fossil fuels.

Our Demands
No more leasing
Bring a swift end to fracking in the Greater Chaco region.
Meaningful Tribal consultation
Including Free, Prior, and Informed Consent with all impacted Tribal Nations.
Extensive analysis
Comprehensive health, social impact, and environmental justice analysis, including plans for a just transition to more sustainable local economies.
Restore the balance
No new fracking leases in Greater Chaco, retiring non-producing and expired leases, and beginning working toward environmental cleanup and remediation.


Amount of northwestern New Mexico's public lands leased for drilling

Wells already in the Greater Chaco area

New wells already approved by the BLM

An Energy Sacrifice Zone

The Greater Chaco region spans nearly 8,000 square miles in northwestern New Mexico, with Chaco Culture National Historical Park at its heart. For six centuries, starting in 700 A.D., Ancestral Puebloans constructed monuments of architecture and engineering in this area, and ruins still dot the landscape today. Modern-day Pueblo in New Mexico maintain ties to the land, and, over the last 600 years, Navajo have settled it.

In the 1970s, the Nixon administration designated the Four Corners area, which includes Greater Chaco, as an “energy sacrifice zone”—essentially giving extractive industries a blank check to inflict environmental destruction while the government turned a blind eye. Uranium, coal, oil, and natural gas companies mined the land for decades.

With the invention of horizontal drilling (“fracking”), which allowed companies to reach oil and gas deposits previously locked away under layers of rock, fracking activity in the area exploded.

Industrialized fracking continues to wreak havoc on the landscape of Greater Chaco and on its Native communities. Convoys of semi-trucks destroy communities’ dirt roads. Sacred lands are inaccessible. And that’s before diving into fracking’s heinous effects on air, water, and wildlife.

Today, 91 percent of lands in northwestern New Mexico are leased for oil and gas drilling, with much of the remaining nine percent located in Greater Chaco. The Bureau of Land Management continues to auction off more land despite protests from the Navajo Nation, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, the National Congress of American Indians, 15 Navajo Chapter Houses, the New Mexico House Legislature, Guardians, allies, and hundreds of thousands of public citizens—and despite the fact that it hasn’t studied industrialized fracking’s effects on environment and community.

Enough is enough. Greater Chaco must be protected.