For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

May 22, 2018


Mark Allison, New Mexico Wild, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 505-239-0906

Judy Calman, New Mexico Wild, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 505-615-5020


New Mexico Wild Celebrates Introduction of Chaco Protection Legislation

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO - On Tuesday, May 22nd, New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced legislation in Congress to protect the area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has been subjected to rampant oil and gas development for many decades. The areas immediately surrounding the park are some of the only places in the San Juan Basin that remain relatively undeveloped.

If the bill passes, no additional land managed by the Bureau of Land Management within ten miles of the park and certain significant outlying sites could ever be leased for mineral extraction.

“Despite outcries from local communities, tribes, and conservation organizations, the Bureau of Land Management continues to allow oil and gas companies to lease parcels near sacred sites and the boundary of the park itself,” said Judy Calman, Staff Attorney for New Mexico Wild. “Parcels slated for the March lease sale were temporarily deferred, but we fully expect them to be re-nominated for the December lease sale. This Administration seems determined to lease as much public land for mineral extraction as it can, and we are very encouraged by the Senators’ action.”

Chaco and its surrounding areas are sacred to both the Navajo Nation and the pueblos of the Southwest. It contains myriad archaeological sites, including entire structures from thousands of years ago. It is still used today for religious ceremonies, and attracts visitors from all over the world, greatly contributing to the local economy.

“Many Chacoan sites exist outside the Park's official boundaries, so lease sales by BLM in the surrounding area almost always mean the loss of artifacts, history, and sacred sites as well as wildlands, habitat and dark skies.  This bill represents a major step forward toward permanently protecting the area’s rich cultural heritage, world-class archaeological resources and sensitive natural landscape,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “We are proud to stand in solidarity with the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the Navajo Nation supporting this legislation and want to express our profound thanks to Senators Udall and Heinrich for their leadership.”

More information on the bill can be found HERE and text of the bill can be found HERE.

The Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act is supported by Navajo Nation, All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG), New Mexico Wild, the Wilderness Society, and Southwest Native Cultures. The resolution in support from APCG can be found HERE.

This Act would permanently withdraw 316,076 acres of oil, natural gas, coal and other minerals owned by the U.S. Federal Government. Existing federal mineral leases as well future leases of state, tribal, and allottee minerals would not be impacted by this withdrawal. See map: Proposed Chaco Protection Zone