2014

  • This week on Earth Matters, Donna Stevens interviews Nathan Newcomer, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance Gila Grassroots Organizer and a co-host of this radio program. We discuss Nathan’s two recent excursions, which have similar themes – wilderness – but in terms of destination, could hardly have been more different.

    In late May, Nathan hiked the Gila River through the Gila Wilderness Area, and emerged from the forest on the 90th anniversary of the designation of the Gila Wilderness Area, the nation’s first such designation. A month later, Nathan traveled to Washington DC for “America’s Great Outdoors Week.” In the nation’s capital, he spoke with Senators Heinrich and Udall about the Gila Wilderness, the Gila River diversion issue, and the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. He delivered more than 200 hand-written letters from local citizens, asking for wilderness and river protections.

    Listen to this week’s show for more about the importance of wilderness.

    Listen Now.

  • Sangre de Cristo Chronicle
    November 20, 2014

    We were pleased to hear that Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) were able to steer the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act through the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday (Nov. 13). Now the bill is headed to the full Senate. Locals have been working for years to get this proposed wilderness area near Red River a reality. Making the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness a full-fledged wilderness area would ensure that water resources New Mexico communities rely on would receive even more protection. It would be a boon to the health of the Red River and the Rio Grande. The town of Red River would benefit from the guarantee that adjacent land would be permanently left protected from development. We encourage readers to contact Heinrich and Udall to ensure that this bill gets quickly passed and does not linger in Washington’s gridlock. Contact Udall’s Washington office at 202-224-6621 or his Santa Fe office at 505-988-6511. Heinrich’s Washington number is 202- 224-5521and his Santa Fe office number is 505-988-6647. Their help is essential.

  • Sangre de Cristo Chronicle
    November 20, 2014

    We were pleased to hear that Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) were able to steer the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act through the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday (Nov. 13). Now the bill is headed to the full Senate. Locals have been working for years to get this proposed wilderness area near Red River a reality. Making the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness a full-fledged wilderness area would ensure that water resources New Mexico communities rely on would receive even more protection. It would be a boon to the health of the Red River and the Rio Grande. The town of Red River would benefit from the guarantee that adjacent land would be permanently left protected from development. We encourage readers to contact Heinrich and Udall to ensure that this bill gets quickly passed and does not linger in Washington’s gridlock. Contact Udall’s Washington office at 202-224-6621 or his Santa Fe office at 505-988-6511. Heinrich’s Washington number is 202- 224-5521and his Santa Fe office number is 505-988-6647. Their help is essential.

  • Sangre de Cristo Chronicle
    November 20, 2014

    We were pleased to hear that Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) were able to steer the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act through the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday (Nov. 13). Now the bill is headed to the full Senate. Locals have been working for years to get this proposed wilderness area near Red River a reality. Making the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness a full-fledged wilderness area would ensure that water resources New Mexico communities rely on would receive even more protection. It would be a boon to the health of the Red River and the Rio Grande. The town of Red River would benefit from the guarantee that adjacent land would be permanently left protected from development. We encourage readers to contact Heinrich and Udall to ensure that this bill gets quickly passed and does not linger in Washington’s gridlock. Contact Udall’s Washington office at 202-224-6621 or his Santa Fe office at 505-988-6511. Heinrich’s Washington number is 202- 224-5521and his Santa Fe office number is 505-988-6647. Their help is essential.

  • Emily Yehle, E&E reporter
    Published: Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Conservation groups plan to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service over the recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, arguing that the agency does not have an adequate road map to help the species survive.

    The wolf was nearly wiped out in the early 1970s, prompting efforts to rebuild the population. Today, about 83 live in the wild.

    The groups assert that FWS has dragged its feet in drafting a new recovery plan, leaving a 1983 plan in place. The agency last drafted a plan in 2011, which called for three interconnected populations totaling at least 750 animals, according to a press release from the groups.

    “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s more than three-decade failure to develop a science-based recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf is a travesty,” Michael Robinson, a Mexican wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “The absence of a recovery plan has hurt the Mexican wolf, leaving this unique subspecies perilously close to the brink and suffering from genetic inbreeding and consequent lower pup births and survival.”

    Earthjustice will file the lawsuit on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, retired Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David R. Parsons, the Endangered Wolf Center and the Wolf Conservation Center.

    The announcement comes less than two months after FWS released a proposed rule that would expand the boundaries of the wolf population so its numbers can increase. Environmental groups welcomed the larger range, but they criticized a new provision clarifying when states and ranchers can kill a wolf (Greenwire, July 25).

  • Emily Yehle, E&E reporter
    Published: Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Conservation groups plan to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service over the recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, arguing that the agency does not have an adequate road map to help the species survive.

    The wolf was nearly wiped out in the early 1970s, prompting efforts to rebuild the population. Today, about 83 live in the wild.

    The groups assert that FWS has dragged its feet in drafting a new recovery plan, leaving a 1983 plan in place. The agency last drafted a plan in 2011, which called for three interconnected populations totaling at least 750 animals, according to a press release from the groups.

    “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s more than three-decade failure to develop a science-based recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf is a travesty,” Michael Robinson, a Mexican wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “The absence of a recovery plan has hurt the Mexican wolf, leaving this unique subspecies perilously close to the brink and suffering from genetic inbreeding and consequent lower pup births and survival.”

    Earthjustice will file the lawsuit on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, retired Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David R. Parsons, the Endangered Wolf Center and the Wolf Conservation Center.

    The announcement comes less than two months after FWS released a proposed rule that would expand the boundaries of the wolf population so its numbers can increase. Environmental groups welcomed the larger range, but they criticized a new provision clarifying when states and ranchers can kill a wolf (Greenwire, July 25).

  • Emily Yehle, E&E reporter
    Published: Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Conservation groups plan to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service over the recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, arguing that the agency does not have an adequate road map to help the species survive.

    The wolf was nearly wiped out in the early 1970s, prompting efforts to rebuild the population. Today, about 83 live in the wild.

    The groups assert that FWS has dragged its feet in drafting a new recovery plan, leaving a 1983 plan in place. The agency last drafted a plan in 2011, which called for three interconnected populations totaling at least 750 animals, according to a press release from the groups.

    “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s more than three-decade failure to develop a science-based recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf is a travesty,” Michael Robinson, a Mexican wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “The absence of a recovery plan has hurt the Mexican wolf, leaving this unique subspecies perilously close to the brink and suffering from genetic inbreeding and consequent lower pup births and survival.”

    Earthjustice will file the lawsuit on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, retired Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David R. Parsons, the Endangered Wolf Center and the Wolf Conservation Center.

    The announcement comes less than two months after FWS released a proposed rule that would expand the boundaries of the wolf population so its numbers can increase. Environmental groups welcomed the larger range, but they criticized a new provision clarifying when states and ranchers can kill a wolf (Greenwire, July 25).

  • The Hill
    By U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Steven M. Anderson (Retired)
    April 9, 2014

    A few years ago, I participated in the VFW’s Bataan Memorial Death March – an annual marathon every March through the challenging,high-desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range. I was stirred by the camaraderie with fellow soldiers, and the breathtaking landscape of Southern New Mexico. The U.S. Military has a rich history in this region – one I am fighting for today so that future generations can also appreciate the history and beauty of the five mountain ranges of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region. (But perhaps without the strenuous run.)

    World War II military history unfolded on these public lands: bomber pilots and crew practiced using the new Norden bombsight technology. Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) are working with the local community and the White House to permanently protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region as a national monument.

    In my mind, it’s a no brainer. These public lands contain breathtaking natural resources and historical significance of interest to the entire country. They attract business owners, tourists, and wannabe marathoners like me, boosting the local economy. Having grown up in northern California, spending summers hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I know how important getting outside is to the health of our kids, too, and want to see all children have similar opportunities to access and enjoy public lands.

    Additionally, having served 31 years in the U.S. Army, I believe that a national monument here would not hinder our national security, but actually improve it by providing better, more direct access to our border security personnel.

    I’m not alone in my read of the situation. Thomas Winkowski, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a January 2014 letter to Senator Heinrich:“The provisions of this bill would significantly enhance the flexibility of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to operate in this border area.”

    Some have disagreed with the commissioner, but anyone who has read the common-sense proposal from Udall and Heinrich can see that it enhances Border Patrol’s ability to conduct law enforcement and border security operations along the U.S.-Mexico border. It provides a five-mile buffer zone (it is now only 1/3 of a mile) for vehicle access and infrastructure needs. It also retains Border Patrol’s current access to lands within and around other parts of the proposed monument boundary.

    Moreover, the current wild character of the Portillo Mountains has led to extremely low rates of illegal activity and apprehension. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Border Patrol agents apprehended only 13 people in the area around the Portillo Mountains in fiscal year 2009. This is one of the safest areas of our nation’s southwest border, and we should act while we still can to preserve its history and beauty.

    Last month, the House of Representatives passed legislation intended to curtail the president’s authority to protect new parks and monuments. Should the bill become law, protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks would be impossible. As a conservative Republican and a veteran, this partisanship about our natural and cultural heritage baffles me. We should defend our national heritage – not deride it.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region of Doña Ana County is the crossroads of New Mexico’s diverse history and culture — filled with natural wonders, compelling history, and incredible recreational opportunities. Let’s protect these public lands; it is unquestionably in our national interest.

    Anderson retired in April 2010 after a 31-year career in the U.S. Army that included logistics command and staff assignments in Korea, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Germany, Hawaii and four tours in the Pentagon. His most notable military assignment was serving under General David H. Petraeus as his Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics for the Multi-National Force in Iraq for 15 months (Aug 06 – Nov 07). His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Bronze Star.

  • The Hill
    By U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Steven M. Anderson (Retired)
    April 9, 2014

    A few years ago, I participated in the VFW’s Bataan Memorial Death March – an annual marathon every March through the challenging,high-desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range. I was stirred by the camaraderie with fellow soldiers, and the breathtaking landscape of Southern New Mexico. The U.S. Military has a rich history in this region – one I am fighting for today so that future generations can also appreciate the history and beauty of the five mountain ranges of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region. (But perhaps without the strenuous run.)

    World War II military history unfolded on these public lands: bomber pilots and crew practiced using the new Norden bombsight technology. Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) are working with the local community and the White House to permanently protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region as a national monument.

    In my mind, it’s a no brainer. These public lands contain breathtaking natural resources and historical significance of interest to the entire country. They attract business owners, tourists, and wannabe marathoners like me, boosting the local economy. Having grown up in northern California, spending summers hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I know how important getting outside is to the health of our kids, too, and want to see all children have similar opportunities to access and enjoy public lands.

    Additionally, having served 31 years in the U.S. Army, I believe that a national monument here would not hinder our national security, but actually improve it by providing better, more direct access to our border security personnel.

    I’m not alone in my read of the situation. Thomas Winkowski, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a January 2014 letter to Senator Heinrich:“The provisions of this bill would significantly enhance the flexibility of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to operate in this border area.”

    Some have disagreed with the commissioner, but anyone who has read the common-sense proposal from Udall and Heinrich can see that it enhances Border Patrol’s ability to conduct law enforcement and border security operations along the U.S.-Mexico border. It provides a five-mile buffer zone (it is now only 1/3 of a mile) for vehicle access and infrastructure needs. It also retains Border Patrol’s current access to lands within and around other parts of the proposed monument boundary.

    Moreover, the current wild character of the Portillo Mountains has led to extremely low rates of illegal activity and apprehension. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Border Patrol agents apprehended only 13 people in the area around the Portillo Mountains in fiscal year 2009. This is one of the safest areas of our nation’s southwest border, and we should act while we still can to preserve its history and beauty.

    Last month, the House of Representatives passed legislation intended to curtail the president’s authority to protect new parks and monuments. Should the bill become law, protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks would be impossible. As a conservative Republican and a veteran, this partisanship about our natural and cultural heritage baffles me. We should defend our national heritage – not deride it.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region of Doña Ana County is the crossroads of New Mexico’s diverse history and culture — filled with natural wonders, compelling history, and incredible recreational opportunities. Let’s protect these public lands; it is unquestionably in our national interest.

    Anderson retired in April 2010 after a 31-year career in the U.S. Army that included logistics command and staff assignments in Korea, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Germany, Hawaii and four tours in the Pentagon. His most notable military assignment was serving under General David H. Petraeus as his Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics for the Multi-National Force in Iraq for 15 months (Aug 06 – Nov 07). His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Bronze Star.

  • The Hill
    By U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Steven M. Anderson (Retired)
    April 9, 2014

    A few years ago, I participated in the VFW’s Bataan Memorial Death March – an annual marathon every March through the challenging,high-desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range. I was stirred by the camaraderie with fellow soldiers, and the breathtaking landscape of Southern New Mexico. The U.S. Military has a rich history in this region – one I am fighting for today so that future generations can also appreciate the history and beauty of the five mountain ranges of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region. (But perhaps without the strenuous run.)

    World War II military history unfolded on these public lands: bomber pilots and crew practiced using the new Norden bombsight technology. Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) are working with the local community and the White House to permanently protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region as a national monument.

    In my mind, it’s a no brainer. These public lands contain breathtaking natural resources and historical significance of interest to the entire country. They attract business owners, tourists, and wannabe marathoners like me, boosting the local economy. Having grown up in northern California, spending summers hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I know how important getting outside is to the health of our kids, too, and want to see all children have similar opportunities to access and enjoy public lands.

    Additionally, having served 31 years in the U.S. Army, I believe that a national monument here would not hinder our national security, but actually improve it by providing better, more direct access to our border security personnel.

    I’m not alone in my read of the situation. Thomas Winkowski, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a January 2014 letter to Senator Heinrich:“The provisions of this bill would significantly enhance the flexibility of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to operate in this border area.”

    Some have disagreed with the commissioner, but anyone who has read the common-sense proposal from Udall and Heinrich can see that it enhances Border Patrol’s ability to conduct law enforcement and border security operations along the U.S.-Mexico border. It provides a five-mile buffer zone (it is now only 1/3 of a mile) for vehicle access and infrastructure needs. It also retains Border Patrol’s current access to lands within and around other parts of the proposed monument boundary.

    Moreover, the current wild character of the Portillo Mountains has led to extremely low rates of illegal activity and apprehension. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Border Patrol agents apprehended only 13 people in the area around the Portillo Mountains in fiscal year 2009. This is one of the safest areas of our nation’s southwest border, and we should act while we still can to preserve its history and beauty.

    Last month, the House of Representatives passed legislation intended to curtail the president’s authority to protect new parks and monuments. Should the bill become law, protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks would be impossible. As a conservative Republican and a veteran, this partisanship about our natural and cultural heritage baffles me. We should defend our national heritage – not deride it.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region of Doña Ana County is the crossroads of New Mexico’s diverse history and culture — filled with natural wonders, compelling history, and incredible recreational opportunities. Let’s protect these public lands; it is unquestionably in our national interest.

    Anderson retired in April 2010 after a 31-year career in the U.S. Army that included logistics command and staff assignments in Korea, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Germany, Hawaii and four tours in the Pentagon. His most notable military assignment was serving under General David H. Petraeus as his Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics for the Multi-National Force in Iraq for 15 months (Aug 06 – Nov 07). His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Bronze Star.

  • Apply to the Hispanic Access Foundation’s 4 Stops: 1 Destination tour to go on a nine day tour of four national parks in the Southwest and advocate for their protection. Details about the program, eligibility and application are included below and in the attachments.

    The application deadline is June 12! Please send questions and completed applications to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." style="background-color: transparent; border: 0px; margin: 0px; outline: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(89, 82, 44); font-weight: bold; text-decoration: none;">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Summary:
    The Hispanic Access Foundation is searching for four Latino college students to participate in a nine-day tour of four national parks in the Western United States. While on tour, students will engage in a video blogging and social media campaign to share their experiences and describe how they were personally impacted by this travel experience. After the tour, students will become advocates to raise awareness in their communities and in Washington, DC about policy issues related to public lands.

    Eligibility: 
    The program is open to students enrolled in college programs in Arizona, California (preference for Southern California), Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico.

    Deadline: Applications due June 12.

    HAF 4-Stops College Program Overview

    HAF 4-Stops College Student Application (Word)

    HAF 4-Stops College Student Application (PDF)

  • 2015 10 19 12 35 55

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    Giving your two cents in real time is now available through the mapping cooperation between Cibola National Forest and the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The Forest Service in the last two years had been working on updating the Cibola Land Resource Management Plan, which has not had a thorough scrubbing in nearly 30 years. Now, people can make comments on possible Wilderness-designated areas via the Forest Service’s website.

    Through the USGS system, people can draw shapes around the areas they seek to have designated because of a lack of roads, human presence and other factors that make it a safe haven for natural habitats. The map also allows people to see other comments and make comments on their own designations.

    The website states forest officials are looking to get input on the area by Nov. 21.

    “We are in a forest-plan-revision mode on the Cibola,” said Champe Green, forest planner with the Cibola National Forest. “This occurs every 15 years, but because of budget short falls and various other reasons, it’s been 29 years since the plan has changed.”

    By hosting a series of public workshops in the last two years, Cibola officials have garnered the input to shape proposals for a planned preparation of an environmental impact statement, critical to completing the planning process under the National Environmental Protection Act.

    “We have informally scoped the needs for change to the existing plan, and we have started the wilderness inventory process with 35 public meetings,” Green said. “We’re going to publish a notice of intent probably in December. That begins the formal scoping process with the counties and tribes and cooperating agencies.

    Green said the consensus has been pretty clear from the various meets as to what people want the forest plan to encompass.

    “What we’re doing now is seeing if there are any more areas that have potential for Wilderness designation,” Green said. “At the end of the plan process, the forest supervisor can recommend areas to Congress. And Congress may or may not pass a law that actually designates what the forest recommends.”

    Sometimes these congressional designations can take years to get ratified.

    “Wilderness has had a lot of attention, but there’s also more — mountain bike trails, better protection from uncharacteristic wildfire, and more restoration and treatments on the forest and more prescribed burning, (tree) thinning and riparian stream site restoration,” Green said, adding there are some who have lobbied for a compatible way to increase elk herds numbers. “There’s new science that will manage water quality and technology in the mining industry as well as the recreational industry.”

    People will have many more opportunities to comment and get involved up until the very end when the forest supervisor makes a decision on the final plan the draft environmental impact statement.

    “We just encourage everybody to participate,” Green said. “This is an important time for people to weigh in.

     Use the software here to suggest wilderness within the Cibola National Forest.

  • Native News Online
    25 Jan 2014

    AKELA, NEW MEXICO — On Friday, January 24, 2014, the Fort Sill Apache (FSA) tribe, issued a resolution of support for the establishment of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument located in FSA’s aboriginal homeland.

    In accord with Senators Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, and Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe fully supports the permanent protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks with a national monument designation.

    The senators hosted a public hearing on Friday with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Las Cruces, New Mexico near the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks monument to hear public comments about the proposal.

    In December 2013, the Senators introduced legislation to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to conserve, protect and enhance scenic, recreational and culturally significant land, according to Senator Heinrich’s office.

    The Fort Sill Apache, descendants of the Warm Springs and Chiricahua Apache people, resided in Southwest New Mexico, occupying territory that included the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region before settlement by Europeans and Americans.

    “As the people of this land we strongly believe that this region should be permanently protected to preserve valuable tribal cultural resources that originated on these territories,” said Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous. “National monument designation would allow our children and future generations the opportunity to understand and appreciate the bounty and beauty of their cultural heritage and aboriginal homelands,” added Haozous.

    In addition to protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, the Tribe desires to participate in the management of the monument based on their cultural, historical and modern day connection with the former tribal lands. When it’s available, a copy of the official resolution will be posted on the Fort Sill Apache New Mexico website.

    The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is the successor to the Chiricahua – Warm Springs Apache Tribe. In 1886, they were taken as prisoners of war by the U.S. Army and removed from their homelands of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona to Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma, where they were released. They organized as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe after a Federal Court affirmed their claim for the loss of over 14.8 million acres of their homeland. The Tribe has always maintained both its independence as Chiricahua – Warm Springs Apaches and its desire to return to its rightful home. After receiving an invitation from the Governor of New Mexico in 1995 and again in 2000 to return to New Mexico, the Tribe purchased land in Luna County in 1998 and was granted a Reservation in November 2011.

    For more information and updates on the Tribe, please follow us on Twitter(@FortSillApache) and Facebook (Fort Sill Apache Tribe New Mexico).

  • Native News Online
    25 Jan 2014

    AKELA, NEW MEXICO — On Friday, January 24, 2014, the Fort Sill Apache (FSA) tribe, issued a resolution of support for the establishment of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument located in FSA’s aboriginal homeland.

    In accord with Senators Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, and Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe fully supports the permanent protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks with a national monument designation.

    The senators hosted a public hearing on Friday with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Las Cruces, New Mexico near the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks monument to hear public comments about the proposal.

    In December 2013, the Senators introduced legislation to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to conserve, protect and enhance scenic, recreational and culturally significant land, according to Senator Heinrich’s office.

    The Fort Sill Apache, descendants of the Warm Springs and Chiricahua Apache people, resided in Southwest New Mexico, occupying territory that included the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region before settlement by Europeans and Americans.

    “As the people of this land we strongly believe that this region should be permanently protected to preserve valuable tribal cultural resources that originated on these territories,” said Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous. “National monument designation would allow our children and future generations the opportunity to understand and appreciate the bounty and beauty of their cultural heritage and aboriginal homelands,” added Haozous.

    In addition to protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, the Tribe desires to participate in the management of the monument based on their cultural, historical and modern day connection with the former tribal lands. When it’s available, a copy of the official resolution will be posted on the Fort Sill Apache New Mexico website.

    The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is the successor to the Chiricahua – Warm Springs Apache Tribe. In 1886, they were taken as prisoners of war by the U.S. Army and removed from their homelands of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona to Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma, where they were released. They organized as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe after a Federal Court affirmed their claim for the loss of over 14.8 million acres of their homeland. The Tribe has always maintained both its independence as Chiricahua – Warm Springs Apaches and its desire to return to its rightful home. After receiving an invitation from the Governor of New Mexico in 1995 and again in 2000 to return to New Mexico, the Tribe purchased land in Luna County in 1998 and was granted a Reservation in November 2011.

    For more information and updates on the Tribe, please follow us on Twitter(@FortSillApache) and Facebook (Fort Sill Apache Tribe New Mexico).

  • Native News Online
    25 Jan 2014

    AKELA, NEW MEXICO — On Friday, January 24, 2014, the Fort Sill Apache (FSA) tribe, issued a resolution of support for the establishment of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument located in FSA’s aboriginal homeland.

    In accord with Senators Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, and Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe fully supports the permanent protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks with a national monument designation.

    The senators hosted a public hearing on Friday with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Las Cruces, New Mexico near the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks monument to hear public comments about the proposal.

    In December 2013, the Senators introduced legislation to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to conserve, protect and enhance scenic, recreational and culturally significant land, according to Senator Heinrich’s office.

    The Fort Sill Apache, descendants of the Warm Springs and Chiricahua Apache people, resided in Southwest New Mexico, occupying territory that included the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region before settlement by Europeans and Americans.

    “As the people of this land we strongly believe that this region should be permanently protected to preserve valuable tribal cultural resources that originated on these territories,” said Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous. “National monument designation would allow our children and future generations the opportunity to understand and appreciate the bounty and beauty of their cultural heritage and aboriginal homelands,” added Haozous.

    In addition to protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, the Tribe desires to participate in the management of the monument based on their cultural, historical and modern day connection with the former tribal lands. When it’s available, a copy of the official resolution will be posted on the Fort Sill Apache New Mexico website.

    The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is the successor to the Chiricahua – Warm Springs Apache Tribe. In 1886, they were taken as prisoners of war by the U.S. Army and removed from their homelands of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona to Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma, where they were released. They organized as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe after a Federal Court affirmed their claim for the loss of over 14.8 million acres of their homeland. The Tribe has always maintained both its independence as Chiricahua – Warm Springs Apaches and its desire to return to its rightful home. After receiving an invitation from the Governor of New Mexico in 1995 and again in 2000 to return to New Mexico, the Tribe purchased land in Luna County in 1998 and was granted a Reservation in November 2011.

    For more information and updates on the Tribe, please follow us on Twitter(@FortSillApache) and Facebook (Fort Sill Apache Tribe New Mexico).

  • By Greg Zimmerman and Jessica Goad
    Center for Western Priorities

    At the request of local community leaders, President Barack Obama has announced that he is protecting nearly 500,000 acres of the stunning Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

    Despite widespread local support for the new national monument, anti-park and anti-federal public land members of Congress like Congressmen Doc Hastings (R-WA), Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Rob Bishop (R-UT) have reacted negatively to other recent public lands protections. Considering their past rhetoric, here are four claims that these and other elected officials may make about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, and why they are wrong:

    1) Rhetoric: there was insufficient public input and a lack of public support to warrant a monument designation for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    Reality: There is a groundswell of support from communities and leaders across the region to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. The monument has backing from hundreds of businesses, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, local elected officials, cities and towns, sportsmen, veterans, Latino and faith leaders, youth organizations, and more.

    In fact, a 2014 poll from the Vet Voice Foundation shows that nearly 3 in 4 Doña Ana County residents—the county in which the monument is located—support an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to protect important historic sites, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation.

    2) Rhetoric: rather than use executive authority, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks should have been protected by Congress through the legislative process. 

    Reality: Conserving public lands, like national parks and national forests, has a long history of support from both sides of the aisle. But in recent years, this has changed. Congress has stopped advancing broadly supported legislation to protect even the most deserving of lands.

    In the face of Congressional inaction, President Barack Obama made it clear that he is prepared to show leadership and conserve deserving lands. As he put it in this year’s State of the Union, “I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.” And Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stated last October:

    If Congress doesn’t step up to act to protect some of these important places that have been identified by communities and people throughout the country, then the president will take action.

    By protecting Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, President Obama is following the footsteps of previous presidents—Republican and Democrats alike—who used the Antiquities Act to protect America’s treasured lands, such as the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Arches, and Zion National Parks.

    3) Rhetoric: enough public lands are already protected.

    Reality: We have a proud legacy of parks, monuments, and wilderness in this country, but there remain many unprotected outdoor spaces that deserve protection and that local communities want to see protected. There are dozens of locally-driven bills in Congress right now that propose protecting lands, but this Congress has failed to act.

    Congress and the Obama administration have done less than their predecessors when it comes to protecting public lands for future generations. Since January 2009, 7.6 million acres of public lands have been leased to oil and gas companies, while only 2.9 million have been permanently protected. This new monument begins to remedy that imbalance.

    This is despite the public’s desire to see more conservation. Specifically in the West, voters want to see public lands protected. According to the 2014 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll, 67 percent of Western voters—and more than 6 in 10 New Mexico voters—are more likely to back a candidate for office who supports enhancing protections for some public lands.

    4) Rhetoric: the new national monument weakens border security.

    Reality: This national monument will change nothing about where, when, and how the United States Border Patrol operates along the U.S.-Mexico border. Law enforcement activities will be allowed and unaffected by a monument designation.

    Truman Project Executive Director, national security expert, and former U.S. Army Captain Michael Breen strongly supports the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, saying in a recent statement that, “Designating the Organ Mountains as a national monument will protect important military heritage sites without impairing border security.”

  • By Greg Zimmerman and Jessica Goad
    Center for Western Priorities

    At the request of local community leaders, President Barack Obama has announced that he is protecting nearly 500,000 acres of the stunning Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

    Despite widespread local support for the new national monument, anti-park and anti-federal public land members of Congress like Congressmen Doc Hastings (R-WA), Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Rob Bishop (R-UT) have reacted negatively to other recent public lands protections. Considering their past rhetoric, here are four claims that these and other elected officials may make about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, and why they are wrong:

    1) Rhetoric: there was insufficient public input and a lack of public support to warrant a monument designation for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    Reality: There is a groundswell of support from communities and leaders across the region to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. The monument has backing from hundreds of businesses, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, local elected officials, cities and towns, sportsmen, veterans, Latino and faith leaders, youth organizations, and more.

    In fact, a 2014 poll from the Vet Voice Foundation shows that nearly 3 in 4 Doña Ana County residents—the county in which the monument is located—support an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to protect important historic sites, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation.

    2) Rhetoric: rather than use executive authority, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks should have been protected by Congress through the legislative process. 

    Reality: Conserving public lands, like national parks and national forests, has a long history of support from both sides of the aisle. But in recent years, this has changed. Congress has stopped advancing broadly supported legislation to protect even the most deserving of lands.

    In the face of Congressional inaction, President Barack Obama made it clear that he is prepared to show leadership and conserve deserving lands. As he put it in this year’s State of the Union, “I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.” And Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stated last October:

    If Congress doesn’t step up to act to protect some of these important places that have been identified by communities and people throughout the country, then the president will take action.

    By protecting Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, President Obama is following the footsteps of previous presidents—Republican and Democrats alike—who used the Antiquities Act to protect America’s treasured lands, such as the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Arches, and Zion National Parks.

    3) Rhetoric: enough public lands are already protected.

    Reality: We have a proud legacy of parks, monuments, and wilderness in this country, but there remain many unprotected outdoor spaces that deserve protection and that local communities want to see protected. There are dozens of locally-driven bills in Congress right now that propose protecting lands, but this Congress has failed to act.

    Congress and the Obama administration have done less than their predecessors when it comes to protecting public lands for future generations. Since January 2009, 7.6 million acres of public lands have been leased to oil and gas companies, while only 2.9 million have been permanently protected. This new monument begins to remedy that imbalance.

    This is despite the public’s desire to see more conservation. Specifically in the West, voters want to see public lands protected. According to the 2014 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll, 67 percent of Western voters—and more than 6 in 10 New Mexico voters—are more likely to back a candidate for office who supports enhancing protections for some public lands.

    4) Rhetoric: the new national monument weakens border security.

    Reality: This national monument will change nothing about where, when, and how the United States Border Patrol operates along the U.S.-Mexico border. Law enforcement activities will be allowed and unaffected by a monument designation.

    Truman Project Executive Director, national security expert, and former U.S. Army Captain Michael Breen strongly supports the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, saying in a recent statement that, “Designating the Organ Mountains as a national monument will protect important military heritage sites without impairing border security.”

  • By Greg Zimmerman and Jessica Goad
    Center for Western Priorities

    At the request of local community leaders, President Barack Obama has announced that he is protecting nearly 500,000 acres of the stunning Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

    Despite widespread local support for the new national monument, anti-park and anti-federal public land members of Congress like Congressmen Doc Hastings (R-WA), Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Rob Bishop (R-UT) have reacted negatively to other recent public lands protections. Considering their past rhetoric, here are four claims that these and other elected officials may make about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, and why they are wrong:

    1) Rhetoric: there was insufficient public input and a lack of public support to warrant a monument designation for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    Reality: There is a groundswell of support from communities and leaders across the region to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. The monument has backing from hundreds of businesses, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, local elected officials, cities and towns, sportsmen, veterans, Latino and faith leaders, youth organizations, and more.

    In fact, a 2014 poll from the Vet Voice Foundation shows that nearly 3 in 4 Doña Ana County residents—the county in which the monument is located—support an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to protect important historic sites, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation.

    2) Rhetoric: rather than use executive authority, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks should have been protected by Congress through the legislative process. 

    Reality: Conserving public lands, like national parks and national forests, has a long history of support from both sides of the aisle. But in recent years, this has changed. Congress has stopped advancing broadly supported legislation to protect even the most deserving of lands.

    In the face of Congressional inaction, President Barack Obama made it clear that he is prepared to show leadership and conserve deserving lands. As he put it in this year’s State of the Union, “I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.” And Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stated last October:

    If Congress doesn’t step up to act to protect some of these important places that have been identified by communities and people throughout the country, then the president will take action.

    By protecting Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, President Obama is following the footsteps of previous presidents—Republican and Democrats alike—who used the Antiquities Act to protect America’s treasured lands, such as the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Arches, and Zion National Parks.

    3) Rhetoric: enough public lands are already protected.

    Reality: We have a proud legacy of parks, monuments, and wilderness in this country, but there remain many unprotected outdoor spaces that deserve protection and that local communities want to see protected. There are dozens of locally-driven bills in Congress right now that propose protecting lands, but this Congress has failed to act.

    Congress and the Obama administration have done less than their predecessors when it comes to protecting public lands for future generations. Since January 2009, 7.6 million acres of public lands have been leased to oil and gas companies, while only 2.9 million have been permanently protected. This new monument begins to remedy that imbalance.

    This is despite the public’s desire to see more conservation. Specifically in the West, voters want to see public lands protected. According to the 2014 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll, 67 percent of Western voters—and more than 6 in 10 New Mexico voters—are more likely to back a candidate for office who supports enhancing protections for some public lands.

    4) Rhetoric: the new national monument weakens border security.

    Reality: This national monument will change nothing about where, when, and how the United States Border Patrol operates along the U.S.-Mexico border. Law enforcement activities will be allowed and unaffected by a monument designation.

    Truman Project Executive Director, national security expert, and former U.S. Army Captain Michael Breen strongly supports the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, saying in a recent statement that, “Designating the Organ Mountains as a national monument will protect important military heritage sites without impairing border security.”

  • By Anne Constable for The Santa Fe New Mexican
    Saturday, October 25, 2014

    A thousand years ago, Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico was the center of a thriving culture. Massive multistory buildings called great houses rose against a dramatic high desert landscape of mountains and mesas. Chaco was the ceremonial and economic center of the San Juan Basin with some 400 miles of prehistoric roads linking it to other great houses in the region.

    In some ways, it still looks like it did centuries ago.

    “Right now, you can stand at Pueblo Alto, look north and see a landscape that is substantially the same as what the Chacoans saw,” said Barbara West, former superintendent of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

    But that could be changing.

    Chaco, a World Heritage Site, is surrounded by one of the most productive oil and gas basins in the United States. In 2012, San Juan County ranked No. 1 in natural gas production and fifth in oil production in the state. And now new drilling technology is making the region, once thought to be played out, attractive to oil and gas companies. Thousands of new wells are possible, some close to land that is sacred to Navajos and Pueblo Indians of Northern New Mexico.

    Some like West worry that the experience of visiting the remote ruin of the center of the ancestral Puebloan world will be diminished by the sight of oil and gas rigs, flare stacks and tanker trucks kicking up clouds of dust on the long dirt road leading to the awe-inspiring national park.

    Because of such concerns, the All Pueblo Council of Governors passed a resolution in April asking to be consulted on all management plans affecting its cultural properties.

    Jemez Pueblo Gov. Joshua Madalena, whose ancestors helped develop Chaco, said recently, “We have sacred sites and places out there. We want to continue to keep them private. These are places of worship. It’s like our church. This is where we go and pray in our Native culture as we have done from time immemorial.”

    Harry Walters, a Navajo anthropologist who still teaches part time at San Juan College, also feels uncomfortable about anything that disturbs the landscape, including oil and gas development in the area.

    He said new archaeological evidence suggests Navajo and ancestral Puebloans lived side by side and that Navajos believe the air their ancestors breathed is still out there. “We say they are still there. When you tamper with these [things], there are grave consequences,” Walters said.

    And Chaco figures in his culture’s ceremonial stories, like the one involving the great gambler who enslaved the Chacoan people until his brother risked everything to free them.

    “People who passed on, their spirits are still there, in the land, the water, the sunlight. When we go there, we go with great reverence and caution,” he said.

    Environmentalists warn new development could also contaminate groundwater, pollute Chaco’s dark skies and remote landscape, and even lead to higher crime rates and increases in domestic violence.

    ‘It should be done properly’

    Nowhere is the threat to Chaco more evident than from the air. Earlier this month, Bruce Gordon, president of EcoFlight, an organization that advocates for the environment using small planes, flew over the area oil and gas companies are eyeing for the future. The tour was organized by the Partnership for Responsible Business, an educational arm of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, which works to promote businesses that protect our air, land and water.

    After taking off from the Farmington airport in a Cessna 210, he first headed east over the circular fields where the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry grows Navajo Pride brand potatoes, corn, alfalfa, beans and small grains, such as barley, wheat and oats.

    The plane then soared south through a cloudless sky over a landscape of mesas and washes dotted with wells and a spider web of roads, many of them leading to a single well pad.

    Gordon pointed out ruins of some outlying great houses and then dipped a wing over Pueblo Bonito, the largest structure in the Chacoan system, located at the north end of the canyon. Occupied from the mid-800s to the 1200s, it was four stories high with over 600 rooms and 40 kivas.

    “This area is relatively unexploited,” but eventually there could be oil and gas rigs within five or 10 miles of the historic sites, he said. Already in the area outside Aztec, and in Wyoming and Colorado, “I can’t fly 30 minutes in any direction without seeing wells and the industrialization of the land.”

    According to Gordon, environmental organizations like his are trying to get out in front of the issue by educating people about what is at stake. “Nobody is against oil and gas, but it should be done properly,” he said.

    12,000 active wells, 15,000 miles of roads

    EcoFlight and another dozen or so environmental organizations are raising concerns now because the Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington Field Office is in the process of writing a resource management plan amendment that will determine what this area looks like in the future.

    The office of the BLM manages federal lands in northwestern New Mexico stretching from the Colorado border to south of N.M. 550, east to Cuba and west to the Arizona line. The area also includes state and tribal lands and Indian allotments. And the federal agency oversees everything from grazing to recreation and wildlife as well as energy and minerals.

    According to The Wilderness Society, 94 percent of the BLM’s mineral acres in the Farmington area are currently being leased; Gary Torres, the field manager for the Farmington Field Office, says the number is 85 percent.

    Many of these leases have been held by production since the 1950s and ’60s. (A company can continue to hold a lease as long as its well is producing and it is paying royalties.)

    Torres said there are now about 16,000 active wells in the area, down from about 25,000 to 30,000. And the landscape is crossed by some 15,000 miles of roads, according to the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce.

    Drilling generates about a half-billion dollars in annual royalties, revenue that is shared between the state and the U.S. government. Prices are good for oil now, but not so much for dry gas.

    Now game-changing technologies developed in recent years are making it cost-effective to extract hydrocarbons in places previously passed over in the Mancos Gallup Shale Play along the N.M. 550 corridor. The area around Lybrook and Counselor is booming.

    WPX Energy and LOGOS Resources announced plans earlier this year to invest a total of $260 million in oil and gas production in the basin.

    Encana, a Canadian company that is another big player in the San Juan Basin, has 176,000 acres under lease and plans to drill 45 to 50 net wells this year at a cost of between $300 million and $350 million. In 2013, it paid $6 million in severance taxes and this year will pay more, said Doug Hock, media relations director.

    “This is one of our key areas of operation. Undoubtedly, we’ll have further capital to spend next year,” he said.

    “It wasn’t as if they didn’t know hydrocarbons were there, but they didn’t know how to get them out of the ground,” Torres said.

    Both hydraulic fracturing, a process in which millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals are pumped underground to break apart the rock and release the gas, and horizontal drilling — over distances up to a mile — are much more effective in extracting the minerals.

    Though widely debated and often decried, they do have some benefits, Torres said.

    Horizontal drilling, for example, allows companies to drill 20 wells from one well pad, which can help avoid damaging sensitive resources, Torres said.

    One BLM study, he said, showed that the new technology reduced impacts on the surface by 10 percent and increased recovery of minerals by 10 times.

    Amending the resource management plan

    The Farmington Field Office, which has deferred some leases in the area, is now preparing an amendment to its 2003 resource management plan to address problems unforeseen a decade ago.

    The BLM’s 4.2 million-acre planning area includes federal, state and private lands as well as Indian reservations within portions of San Juan, Rio Arriba, McKinley and Sandoval counties.

    The decision area includes 1.3 million acres of BLM-managed surface plus 1 million acres of federal mineral estate beneath lands owned or managed by private owners, the state or other federal agencies. The 34,000 acres of Chaco Culture National Historical Park are already protected and off-limits to drilling.

    A scoping period during which the public could voice its concerns about resource management concluded at the end of May. The office is now in what it calls the “alternative development stage,” during which a 20-member interdisciplinary team that includes biologists, botanists, engineers, recreation officials, visual resource managers, among others, is looking at ways to address the issues raised by the public. That process started about a month ago.

    “We talked about the big picture in 2003, but this is like we need to do our homework and make sure we are doing the right thing,” Torres said.

    By next summer, he said, the office hopes to have a draft environmental impact statement, which will analyze the alternatives. The public will have another opportunity to comment at that time. After reviewing the comments, the office will issue a determination. Once it signs a “record of decision,” that action will finalize the resource management plan amendment.

    Many of those concerned about the new development had asked the BLM to also produce a master leasing plan, but Torres said the area did not meet the technical criteria because, for one thing, the federal government did not own the majority of land in the planning area. However, he said, the environmental impact statement will consider “all the same issues that the master leasing plan identifies.”

    Several of the major players contacted about their business plans in the area did not return calls seeking comment.

    Adverse impact

    The Western Environmental Law Center, along with eight other groups, filed 105 pages of scoping comments on the resource plan amendment in May raising concerns about a new boom.

    Although oil companies have repeatedly assured the public that the new technology is safe, the document cites numerous examples of harm it has wrought on the environment and human health.

    Fracking, for example, caused methane contamination of drinking water and a explosion at a home in Brainbridge Township, Ohio. A fracturing fluid spill in Acorn Fork Creek in Kentucky resulted in a fish kill.

    Fracking resulted in groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyo., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The scoping comments by the environmental groups also cited numerous cases in which it was believed that fracking triggered seismic activity, including a 2011 preliminary report by the U.S.Geological Survey linking fracking fluid injection to a series of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

    The scoping comments cited a 2011 congressional report saying energy companies have injected more than 30 million gallons of diesel fuel or diesel mixed with other fluids into the ground nationwide between 2005 and 2009.

    All this activity increases the chances of spills, leaks, transportation accidents and illegal discharges of wastewater. A spill near Greeley, Colo., last year by PDC Energy released 2,880 gallons of oil and covered 3,900 square feet, leaving groundwater contaminated with benzene at a concentration 128 times higher than the state limit, along with the chemicals toluene and xylene, the document said.

    Fracking also requires thousands of round trips by heavy trucks transporting water and chemicals to drilling sites and waste away from the sites.

    Another concern is something called a “frack hit,” which occurs when horizontal drilling and historic and active vertical wells meet, a situation that could lead to blowouts.

    Environmentalists point out that the state is missing out on some royalties due to flaring, the burning off of excess natural gas.

    Although the BLM says the gas is of poor quality and can’t go directly into pipelines, Western Values Project claims New Mexico taxpayers have lost more than $42.5 million in royalties since 2009 due to natural gas flaring and venting. They point out that in North Dakota, many oil and gas companies are supporting gas capture planning as a way to reduce excessive flaring.

    Glenn Schiffbauer of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce said, “A valuable resource is just being burned. The BLM should pause and say, here’s a resource we can get royalties on.”

    “A closer look at some of the economics motivating the oil and gas industry’s push for great production reveals sheer industry greed and speculation,” the scoping comments conclude. “The bottom line is this — energy companies have told us, ‘Trust us, our fracking ingredients and the process for extracting natural gas are harmless.’ We now know that they have not been truthful and cannot be trusted. Without implementation of a precautionary approach to these risks, BLM will continue to place the health of our community and our environment at risk.”

    ‘We deserve better’

    Chaco, a remote site that records more than a half-million visitor days annually, is at the center of concern about adverse environmental impact from oil and gas drilling. Mike Eisenfeld, staff organizer at the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said during a recent trip to the area, he saw an active natural gas well roughly six miles north of the site. And one day there could be pump jacks within five miles of the ruin.

    Besides compromising the sense of solitude there, development could interfere with one of the ways modern-day visitors connect with Chacoan people: Chaco, which has been designated as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, is one of the best places in the country to look up and see the same skies that inspired our ancestors.

    “Once the night sky is washed out, then that connection between the people of the past and ourselves will be lost,” West said.

    “Extensive development is incompatible with protection of the environment,” Eisenfeld said. “We deserve better with our heritage.”

    Gov. Madalena, who got a bird’s-eye view of Chaco recently himself, said he is still hoping BLM officials will visit his pueblo and make a presentation about what’s coming. “Money isn’t everything,” he said. “We are rich in culture, traditions. I think that’s more important than anything, than drilling.”

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