Santa Fe, NM – This month, the Greater Chaco Coalition/Frack Off Chaco Coalition, including a number of 11th Hour Project grantees, united in a deafening cry for stronger protections for the Greater Chaco Landscape and surrounding communities from expanded oil and gas activities. Environmental justice advocates, Indigenous grassroots organizations, tribal community leaders, and members of the public delivered nearly 80,000 comments to the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to stop new oil and gas leasing for a 20-year period on roughly 350,000 acres of land within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the ancestral home to both the Pueblo and Navajo peoples.
The land, water, air and its communities need justice as we are fighting a historic legacy of extraction. It has been decades of discretion to the landscape and has contributed to global greenhouse gas emissions. Protecting Chaco is climate justice, environmental justice, and reproductive justice. We are gathered yet again, all on the Bureau of Land Management to include greater long term protections for the landscape.Julia Bernal, Executive Director, Pueblo Action Alliance
The Greater Chaco Region is a checkerboarded area of Tribal, state, federal, and allotment lands. Fracking development threatens ancient Chaco culture and sacred sites and also Navajo people and living communities in the area who have been dealing with the impacts of resource extraction for decades.
The oil and gas industry’s stranglehold is strong in New Mexico, with the state receiving $1.1 billion last year from mineral leasing on federal lands– more than any other US state, directly undermining efforts needed to halve greenhouse gas emissions this decade. New Mexico is the fastest-warming and most water-stressed state in the continental US, where wildfires have recently devoured over 300,000 acres and remain uncontained. Despite this, the Bureau of Land Management has approved more than 500 new fracking wells without adequate Tribal consultation or protections for community health, water and climate impact, the Coalition said.
Responding to the threat of unchecked fracking in the region, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last year announced the “Honoring Chaco” initiative, a two-part process involving the withdrawal of federal minerals within 10 miles of Chaco Park and a new collaborative process to address the need for landscape-level management reforms. Coalition members have long called on federal entities to address environmental racism, ensure just transition efforts and infrastructure investments in impacted communities, to fully analyze the cumulative impacts of oil and gas drilling, meaningful tribal consultation and free, prior and informed consent within decision making processes, and for permanent landscape-level protections beyond a 10-mile protective zone.
Protecting 10 miles around Chaco Canyon is an important step forward, but without landscape-level safeguards for the Greater Chaco region, fracking will continue to tear apart the land, its people, and its cultural integrity. Honoring Chaco means ending fracking throughout all of Greater Chaco, not just a 10 mile buffer.Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians
Since 2015, Greater Chaco Coalition members have delivered nearly two million public comments to the Bureau of Land Management calling for an immediate moratorium on oil and gas leasing and drilling on public lands throughout the region. The coalition also stressed that the Honoring Chaco process must result in meaningful consultation with impacted community members and serve as a model for landscape level protections that address the legacy impacts of over 40,000 oil and gas wells in the region.
11th Hour Grantees leading the initiative include Pueblo Action Alliance, WildEarth Guardians, Diné C.A.R.E., Nuestra Tierra, and New Energy Economy. To learn more about the initiative and to take action, visit www.frackoffchaco.org.