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Advocates Want Better Protection From Drilling at Greater Chaco


Monday, December 27, 2021   

Conservationists are calling on President Joe Biden to make permanent recent steps to protect Chaco Culture National Historical Park from further destruction by the extraction industry.

Last month, the administration took temporary action to stop oil and gas drilling for a surrounding 10-mile area.

According to Pew Charitable Trusts, over the past few decades, 90% of federal lands surrounding the park have been open to drilling.

Reyaun Francisco with the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, said Chaco was once the hub of cultural activity for Native American people.

"There's so much history in this area, as Native people, we often say that "all roads lead to Chaco" because that was true," Francisco pointed out. "It was the hub for Indigenous peoples all over these areas."

In addition to 37,000 oil and gas wells drilled in the Chaco region, 15,000 miles of road have been built. The federal government has proposed a 20-year withdrawal from federal lands to prevent further oil and gas leasing within ten miles of the Chaco park.

Francisco wants to see development throughout northwestern New Mexico better managed to address significant impacts on the health and well-being of tribal communities.

"Activism has grown to protect the community, and we've seen indigenous Native American activism become such a resilient force, not only in the community but across the country and across the world," Francisco asserted. "There is so much history in this area."

Native peoples once visited Chaco as a center for ceremony, trade and political administration. Now Francisco added, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is marked by oil wells, flares from fracking and methane emissions.

"Hopefully we'll one day live in a world where this wouldn't be a question, and this wouldn't be a difficult conversation," Francisco remarked. "It would be, 'Yes, this is a historic site that needs protection.' "

The proposed federal withdrawal will not apply to Individual Indian Allotments or to minerals within the area owned by private, state and tribal entities.

Disclosure: Save the Children and The Pew Charitable Trusts - Environmental Group contribute to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Children's Issues, Climate Change/Air Quality, Consumer Issues, Early Childhood Education, Education, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Health Issues, Poverty Issues, Public Lands/Wilderness, and Salmon Recovery. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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