Santa Fe, NM: Citing Tribal rights and environmental requirements, four government agencies and 27 organizations, representing over 5 million members sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today calling for public hearings on the proposed December 2018 New Mexico oil and gas lease sale.
In March of this year, in response to public pressure and calls from New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke directed the BLM to defer leasing in the Greater Chaco region pending more cultural consultation, noting that, “this area certainly deserves more study.” The same issues remain in relation to the December lease sale, and while groups are urging the BLM to similarly defer its leasing plans, they request, at minimum, a public forum on BLM’s proposed action.
Despite the fact that no additional cultural study has occurred, BLM has expanded the scope of its proposed sale, offering over 98,000 acres of public land, including over 45,000 acres within the Greater Chaco area, with four of the proposed lease parcels within 10 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
The sale is all-the-more controversial given a recent federal court ruling that held the BLM illegally ignored the potentially significant environmental impacts of leasing in the Greater Chaco region. The same issues remain in relation to the December lease sale.
The BLM has also failed to complete updates of its outdated Resource Management Plans for the region, which do not account for new horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracking technology. The Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors, National Congress of American Indians, 15 Navajo Chapter Houses, and the New Mexico House Legislature have all requested a moratorium on drilling until the BLM has adequately updated their planning process to include health, environmental, and cultural impacts of industrialized fracking in the region.
“This Administration continues to shroud its efforts to giveaway every last acre of our public lands for private profit. Despite receiving unprecedented opposition from Tribal Nations, New Mexicans, and Americans across the country who continue to challenge fracking across Greater Chaco, BLM seems hellbent on sacrificing this sacred landscape for oil and gas. We continue to demand meaningful engagement around still unfulfilled promises to safeguard the culture, community health, and environment of the Greater Chaco Landscape. At the very least, the agency should show respect for demonstrated concerns and allow the public a forum to engage this lease sale.”