Groups Applaud Strengthened Bill to Protect Greater Chaco Landscape
Federal Bill Underscores Need to Protect Cultural Resources, Community Health, and Safe Climate
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Santa Fe, N.M. - Members of the Greater Chaco Coalition are applauding New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and Congresswoman Deb Haaland for re-introducing the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2019 in the U.S. Senate and House, and for their efforts to safeguard cultural resources, community health, and environmental justice.
The bill, which was first introduced by Senator Udall in 2018, withdraws federal minerals from oil and gas leasing in roughly a 10-mile buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. It acknowledges that the Greater Chaco Landscape, which is far greater than this buffer, spans across the four corner states of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado and encompasses local communities, including Pueblos and Indian Tribes, and public land, which includes additional cultural resources and sacred sites not impacted by the mineral withdrawal. The new version of the bill affirms the need for meaningful Tribal consultation and for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to manage oil and gas leasing on federal and tribal lands in the interest of the health, safety, economies, and quality of life of local communities. The bill calls for additional health and safety measures for the Greater Chaco region, including the termination of non-producing oil and gas leases.
Also this week, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Vice Chair Haaland (D-N.M.), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, will hold a field hearing on Greater Chaco protections, which includes a field visit to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and a hearing on Oil and Gas Development: Impacts on Air Pollution and Sacred Sites, where New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will be among those testifying.
The vast majority of lands managed by the BLM in the Greater Chaco region are already leased for oil and gas development and resource management plans for the area are ongoing. While residents have been experiencing the impacts of resource extraction for decades, the BLM has failed to take a hard look at the cumulative effects of development for communities, the cultural landscape, and the climate.
“Protecting our ancestral communities, our cultural landscapes and climate in the Greater Chaco region protects the cultural identity of our indigenous communities who call this region ‘home.’ This bill gives hope to many who sought enforcement of laws intended to rein in unchecked oil and gas development. For too long, BLM has allowed inadequate tribal consultation to satisfy federal management requirements in sacrificing our land and communities to resource extraction. We are extremely thankful to Senators Udall and Heinrich for supporting our concerns and continuing efforts of federal protections and revamping the management plan for the area and the expansive Greater Chaco Landscape.”
Carol Davis, Coordinator, Dine Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Ahee’hee, Kwaq’Kwa (thank you) Honorable Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich for your beautiful work on the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act 2019. The People have spoken and you have listened. What an historic event for Mother Earth, her Inhabitants, Indigenous People and the People of New Mexico and around the World. Precedence has been set. We must all work together now to remind the BLM and other agencies to recognize and engage Tribal Consultation, perform a thorough Greater Chaco Region land impact and community health assessment(s), and more and together we can make this UNESCO World Heritage Site a Global Treasure for Mother Earth and her Inhabitants and the Seven Generations to follow. Again, Thank You Senators for working to protect our Sacred Chaco Canyon.
Terry Sloan, Director, Southwest Native Cultures,email@example.com
“I appreciate the actions of Senators Heinrich & Udall on this bill to protect our Greater Chaco area. Thanks to all who continue the work and who realize the important task of showing reverence for the natural and cultural beauty of our State. Let's protect our land, air, and water for generations to come, and toward the success of diversification of economy to tourism, outdoor recreation, retirees, environmentally-friendly businesses, and more.’
Gloria Lehmer, Farmington Resident, firstname.lastname@example.org
“We deeply appreciate Senators Udall and Heinrich’s hard work to protect Greater Chaco and its living communities. The Chaco Cultural Heritage Protection Act of 2019 is a legacy-building opportunity and an essential facet of a comprehensive suite of actions needed to safeguard New Mexico’s intertwined natural and cultural heritage.”
- Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Executive Director, Western Environmental Law Center, email@example.com
“We’re thankful to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Lujan and Haaland for their leadership in taking steps to rein in unfettered oil and gas development and in their acknowledgment of the total costs of our federal drilling program to climate change, culture, and community health. Affirming environmental justice and addressing climate change go hand in hand. While New Mexico’s oil and gas production has increased, the state still ranks lowest in the nation for child poverty, education, and welfare. This bill is an important first step to level the playing field and give New Mexican communities a fighting chance.”
Rebecca Sobel, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner, WildEarth Guardians, firstname.lastname@example.org
"We must protect sacred sites, communities and cultures, and our wild and special places, which is why the Greater Chaco region must be protected from expanded fracking. We applaud Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Lujan and Haaland for their efforts to ensure that the Greater Chaco region and the people who live there are safeguarded from the Trump administration's attempts to sell it off to the fossil fuel industry."
Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director, email@example.com
“This bill is an important first step in protecting the Greater Chaco’s living communities and the region’s unique cultural and natural resources from unchecked oil and gas development. For too long, the Bureau of Land Management has allowed development to proceed without a proper assessment of the impacts for communities, the local environment, and the climate, and without adequate tribal consultation. We are grateful to Senators Udall and Heinrich for taking bold steps to begin protecting this truly unique and special region.”
Mike Eisenfeld, Energy and Climate Program Manager, San Juan Citizens Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org