This is a statement read on behalf of Senator Udall at the #ItsNotOver Rally against fracking that took place in Albuquerque rally March, 6th.
CHACO CANYON RALLY
March 6, 2018
Thank you for inviting me today--and thank you for being here. It is great to be here celebrating the cancellation of the oil and gas leases around Chaco Canyon, instead of protesting their sale to the highest bidder. This victory is yours.
We had a record number of protests filed with the BLM. Tribes, nearby residents, concerned citizens, scientists all joined to demand more tribal and public input, more analysis of human health and public safety concerns, more study on the effects of drilling on cultural and sacred sites, and additional review from BLM and BIA, before moving forward.
More than a thousand years of ancient Native cultural activity is stored within the national historic park boundaries and the Greater Chaco Landscape. This area represents the very heart of ancient Puebloan culture and also houses important Navajo and Apache artifacts. Sacred sites and archeological objects that lie beyond the formal borders of the national historic park also deserve protection.
We worked hard to get BLM and BIA to work together to conduct an environmental impact statement and prepare a resource management plan amendment for the northwest region of our state. That joint effort is historic. And it is time we return to that public process.
And that effort should not be cut short by leasing out lands before we have a more complete understanding of the impact of drilling on the cultural sites in and around Chaco. We need an up-to-date, comprehensive, and regional analysis so that we don’t lose or destroy
And we should not lease out lands before we understand the impact on nearby homes, families, farms, and communities, and protect against harm. We all remember the explosion from oil tanks the summer of 2016 near Nageezi -- only 14 miles from the Chaco boundary – causing some 50 residents to evacuate their nearby homes. Minerals should not be leased out from under anyone without their input. And health and safety are paramount.
Leasing these Chaco lands now would have also cut short meaningful consultation with tribes and input from the public. Chaco and its environs are a critical piece of Native heritage and an important part of our national heritage. New Mexicans deserve a say in any proposed development on public lands in our state, especially when the development is on or near sacred or culturally sensitive lands.
I will continue to fight hard in the Senate to protect our citizens and our national heritage in and around Chaco. Thank you to everyone here today for your hard work to preserve Chaco.