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Groups Call for Comprehensive Greater Chaco Protection

June 20, 2019
Rebecca Sobel, (267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
#FrackOffChaco, #GreaterChaco, #KeepItInTheGround, #NoNewLeases, #RunningForOurLives
For Immediate Release

June 20, 2019

Photos and video available on https://www.facebook.com/FrackOffChaco/ and https://www.flickr.com/photos/wildearth_guardians

Albuquerque, NM: Alongside the June 20 oil and gas lease sale, Native groups and allies working to stop fracking across the Greater Chaco Landscape hand delivered a letter today to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Santa Fe. The letter demands the agency stop its plans to continue drilling and leasing lands in the Greater Chaco area managed by the Rio Puerco Field Office and immediately initiate a meaningful planning process that honors tribes and environmental justice.

Traditional Navajo government bodies and more than two dozen Native groups and allies representing over 2.5 million members and supporters signed the letter, which details the hypocrisy of the Bureau of Land Management’s decisions to cherry-pick cultural protections across the landscape. The letter was delivered as part of a 50-mile #RunningForOurLives prayer run, where indigenous youth ran from the BLM Rio Puerco office in Albuquerque to the Santa Fe headquarters, protesting further sacrifice of land, water, and lives for fracking.

At the June online lease sale today, the agency is offering close to 40,000 acres of New Mexico public and tribal land throughout the state, including more than 37,000 acres of land in the northern portion of the Rio Puerco Field Office.

“Youth are literally running for their lives, today,” said Eileen Shendo of Jemez Pueblo. “In the face of a growing climate crisis and yet another BLM oil and gas lease sale in the Greater Chaco Landscape, we are running to include the voices of youth and compel action for our collective future.”

The BLM received protests for today’s sale from Counselor,  Ojo Encino, and Torreon/Star Lake Chapters of Navajo Nation as well as Acoma and Santa Clara Pueblos, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, environmental groups, and over 12,000 individual citizens, highlighting the growing controversy and unrest over oil and gas development in Chaco Canyon and the surrounding Greater Chaco Landscape.

Department of Interior Secretary Bernhardt recently announced a one-year moratorium on leasing in part of the Greater Chaco Landscape considered for permanent protection under the 2019 Chaco Cultural Heritage Protection Act. But last March, former Secretary Zinke directed the BLM to defer leasing in the same area where parcels are offered today, pending the completion of an ongoing analysis of more than 5,000 cultural sites. That analysis has yet to occur.

The current plan guiding resource management for the Rio Puerco office was approved in 1986 and never considered the impacts of industrialized fracking.  In light of the recent decision by the Tenth Circuit which found BLM illegally approved drilling in the region without by failing to analyze the cumulative impacts of fracking, groups hope BLM will heed the letter’s call and comply with the mandate to stop leasing and drilling in the area.

“The BLM is playing bait and switch with Greater Chaco protections and the games must stop,” said Rebecca Sobel, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner with WildEarth Guardians. “After promising extensive cultural studies and being reined by the courts, the Bureau of Land Management has no reasonable basis for continuing to lease the Greater Chaco Landscape. Arbitrary protections must become meaningful, and we’re demanding every BLM office follow the same rules.”

A copy of the letter is available here.

See here for a map of oil and gas leasing and Chacoan Great Houses in the region.


“Again, the BLM is going to attempt to ignore the will of the People. We will see land, air and Sacred Water contamination in this beautiful region of New Mexico. Right next to the Navajo and Laguna Pueblo reservations.  “

“BLM continues to fail the public by not upholding the duties they are charged with by allowing unchecked development despite public concerns routinely raised about adverse cumulative public health and environmental impacts. We demand accountability from the Rio Puerco Field Office of the BLM. “

“Leasing lands in the Rio Puerco Field Office  for oil and gas is unacceptable given the lack of planning by the BLM. The BLM should immediately cancel this highly illegal lease sale.”

“Fracking is violence against our sole source aquifer and to ourselves as water beings. We must be in respectful, right relations with our Earth,Sky, and All, for our survival now and into the future. Natural law must be given their protective rights above any governmental claims to exploit resources that only enact harm.”

  • Beata Tsosie-Peña and Kathy Sanchez, Environmental Health and Justice Program, Tewa Women United, beata@tewawomenunited.org and kathy@tewawomenunited.org

“We are dismayed that oil and gas leasing could be considered under a thirty-year old Resource Management Plan, when current day technologies like horizontal drilling did not even exist. Nor should such leasing or development be authorized until cultural sites have been surveyed and protection guaranteed.”

“Funny how good Christians assume that when God put oil and gas in the ground…that it was there for them…Seems they forgot about the “forbidden” fruit that Eve could not leave be. If mankind keeps destroying our sacred places AND life giving fresh water…we too shall be cast from THE GARDEN…Just because you can, does not mean you should. LEAVE IT IN THE GROUND for the sake of the FUTURE!”

“We urgently call on you to withdraw plans to lease public lands for oil and gas development in the Greater Chaco region of the Rio Puerco Field Office of New Mexico. We are also calling on you to restart the Resource Management Plan (“RMP”) revision process for the Field Office.”

“The BLM must stop this relentless pursuit of fossil fuel extraction threatening sacred land and fragile landscapes. Chaco and all public lands must be preserved from an industry which seeks to squeeze every drop of oil at any cost. We must turn to a just transition to 100% renewables and safeguard our earth, wildlife and public health.”

“The BLM must consider cumulative impacts before any additional leases, anywhere. The climate emergency we are confronting demands nothing less.”

“We call on the Bureau of Land Management to hear us clearly when we say, “Enough! Stop leasing public land!” Allowing the gas and oil industry to use these valuable and sacred lands for their own gain threatens to permanently harm the people and resources in the surrounding communities. The BLM hasn’t done the proper impact studies and is, therefore, acting irresponsibly when it leases land to an industry that has shown time and time again that it’s only concern is profit.”

“The Bureau of Land Management needs to stop acting like a regulatory service of the fracking industry. They’ve turned an entire region into a sacrifice zone. A total ban on new oil and gas approvals is long overdue.”

“The people deserve due process and their voice and concerns to be addressed. This process of lease sales has proved to be a violation of the human rights and the rights of nature. We demand that BLM calculate the emissions generated in already in the region and the potential emissions impact of any further leasing on climate change impacts. For the BLM not to do so, the federal government is engaging in ecocide and genocide and will be held accountable. “

“We can no longer keep drilling. Period. Our survival depends on a radical shift away from extraction and an extractavist mentality. Let’s invest in solar and wind.”

“The time has come and gone for the BLM to perform their duties to act in the interest of protecting our public lands, the health and wellbeing of frontline communities and the climate not just the interest of the oil and gas industry. Our membership at 350NM demands the BLM consider the cumulative effects of horizontal fracking and restart a robust RMP for the Mancos shale.”

Other Contact
Eileen Shendo, Jemez Pueblo, (505) 980-1998, wns.shendo@gmail.com