Advocates Hold “End Sacrifice Zones” Rally at New Mexico Bureau of Land Management
Diverse Coalition of 270+ Advocates, Indigenous Groups, Farmers, Artists, Musicians, Educators, and Businesses Call for End to Federal Fossil Fuel Leasing
For Immediate Release: May 25, 2023
Santa Fe, N.M. – Over fifty advocates rallied at the Bureau of Land Management New Mexico state office in today to deliver a letter signed by 272 local and national groups, unions, businesses and institutions urging the agency to cancel its plans to auction off over 10,000 acres of public lands administered by the New Mexico State Office to the oil and gas industry on May 25.
Holding signs and chanting, speakers and musicians called for the Bureau of Land Management to stop leasing public and ancestral tribal lands for fossil fuels. Advocates wrapped a 20-foot banner reading “Phase Out Federal Fossil Fuels” around the building as frontline community members delivered mounting demands to address the legacy of fossil fuel sacrifice zones in New Mexico.
“Despite our continued protests, the Bureau of Land Management seems poised to prioritize oil and gas above all other uses of public lands,” said Miya King-Flaherty, Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. “Climate disasters are intensifying, public health impacts are increasing, and our environment is suffering from continued fossil fuel development. Now is the time for the Bureau of Land Management to restore the balance of our public lands and to phase out and end new oil and gas drilling."
Organized by Greater Chaco Coalition and Permian Basin Climate Justice Coalition members, the Santa Fe event comes after a week of demonstrations at Bureau of Land Management field offices in Farmington, Carlsbad, Las Cruces, and Albuquerque where advocates delivered calls to end the federal fossil fuel leasing program and stop sacrificing New Mexico’s clean air, clean water, and healthy lands to more oil and gas operations.
“Many Indigenous nations in New Mexico have cultural connections and relationships with lands being sacrificed to oil and gas, like the Greater Chaco landscape, when they have stewarded these ancestral lands since time immemorial,” said Julia Bernal, Executive Director of Pueblo Action Alliance. “It is imperative that Indigenous people and their knowledge of the landscape be centered in land management decisions to address the oil and gas industry, the global climate crisis, and to ensure better land and water practices that absorb the shock of climate change, but this collaboration has yet to occur.”
“Not only does oil and gas production in the Permian have a profound impact on the climate, but it also greatly affects public and environmental health in the region,” said Kayley Shoup, community organizer with Citizens Caring for the Future. “I fear we have no idea just how contaminated our water, land and therefore our bodies may be by these highly toxic and health harming fracking chemicals. It’s shameful that our health and well-being are up for sale.”
In the letter, groups pointed to recent findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the window for addressing disastrous climate impacts is rapidly narrowing and that drastic reductions in fossil fuels are required to avert catastrophic warming. Nearly 25% of U.S. climate pollution comes from fossil fuel production on federal public lands, with oil and gas drilling in New Mexico contributing significantly to the “Permian Climate Bomb.” Federal data shows that of the 6,430 oil and gas drilling permits that the Biden administration approved in its first two years - outpacing the number of permits granted by the Trump administration - more than half were in New Mexico’s Permian Basin, where oil production increased nearly 10-fold since 2010, leading to a surge of devastating air, water and climate pollution.
“Every new well drilled is another nail in the coffin, and communities cannot afford to wait for an end to the destruction of our clean air, clean water, and healthy lands,” said Rebecca Sobel, Organizing Director for WildEarth Guardians. “In the courts and in the streets, the calls to end the era of fossil fuels are resounding.”
Since 2016, Indigenous, environmental, and social justice organizations have delivered millions of public comments challenging Bureau of Land Management lease sales in New Mexico, but the agency continues to lease more lands for oil and gas extraction. Advocates urge that the Bureau finally take this resounding public protest to heart, cancel the upcoming oil and gas lease sale and stop leasing public and ancestral lands for extraction.
“Each new lease is a failure of Biden’s climate leadership that promises more heat, drought, fires and floods for New Mexico,” said Soni Grant, New Mexico Campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Biden has the authority and a moral duty to phase out oil and gas extraction on public lands. Our climate can’t take any more. We stand with frontline communities here in New Mexico and all over the country to demand an end to sacrifice zones.”