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Protect Chaco Canyon!

Chaco Culture National Historic Park preserves a major prehistoric center of ceremony and trade in the Four Corners area. Natural beauty and cultural significance meet in this area of northwestern New Mexico where ruins, artifacts, and other archeological sites radiate from Chaco Canyon’s cultural epicenter. The extensive and well-preserved cultural history found here earned designation as a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Development threatens the Greater Chaco Landscape

Despite its unique and important cultural features, development continues to threaten special cultural areas both within and outside of Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Technological advances in extractive industry, such as fracking, enable industry to viably expand development to lands that were previously not cost-effective to tap. Some of these lands surround Chaco while others help create a connective corridor spanning from the Park to the Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and Bisti/De-na-zin Wilderness. Oil and gas development on state and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands bordering the park have already impacted the greater Chacoan landscape. Infrastructure such as roads, powerlines, pipelines, pump jacks, tanks, generators, and processing plants fragment wildlife habitat and impact the cultural landscape while flaring of oil and gas wells results in air pollution and impacts the dark night skies Chaco and Four Corners region currently boast.

The threat of development in the Chaco region has gained national attention. Widespread publicity generated by conservation groups nationwide pressured Cimarex Energy to delay any immediate plans for developing leases visible from the park’s Visitor Center. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and other groups have been working to forestall development on other lands in proximity to the Park with mixed results. While this delay is certainly a step forward, there is much more work to do to ensure Chaco Canyon and the lands that surround it are protected from development into the future.

Permanent protection of wildlands in the Chaco region

Senators Heinrich and Udall have introduced legislation to designate 7,242 acres currently within the Ah-shi-sle-pah WSA as wilderness and add 2,250 acres of eligible lands to the existing Bisti/De-na-zin Wilderness. Formal wilderness designation would effectively prevent oil and gas and other developments from impacting these areas. We continue to work on wilderness protection within park boundaries, as well. Approximately 20,000 acres of potential wilderness have been identified within Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

In addition to wilderness designation, we are also working toward legislation to transfer adjacent state lands into the park. Accomplishing this requires a land exchange between the BLM and the State Land Office that would essentially trade certain BLM lands for the state lands that will be transferred to the park. Ideally, this transfer would include a large ruin and other significant sites that are currently outside of the Pueblo Pintado Outlier. On unprotected and still wild BLM lands surrounding Chaco we are advocating for administrative protection as ‘lands with wilderness characteristics’ as the Farmington BLM office drafts an amendment to their existing Resource Management Plan. Add your name here to stay up to date on this process.

We need your help to protect Chaco Canyon

Here’s how you can contribute:

Give online! Your donation will help us continue the fight to protect Chaco Canyon’s cultural and historic heritage. 

Write your community leaders. Tell Senator Udall, Senator Heinrich, and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan that protection of the Greater Chaco Landscape is important to you, is good for New Mexico, and will help protect this national treasure for all Americans. 

Participate in BLM planning. Submit a comment in support of protecting the BLM lands surrounding Chaco during the comment period for the Farmington Resource Management Plan Amendment


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News About the Chaco Canyon Campaign

  • BLM, BIA hold final scoping meeting in Shiprock

    BLM, BIA hold final scoping meeting in Shiprock

    The Daily Times, Leigh Black Irvin

    February 2, 2017

    SHIPROCK — A public scoping meeting presented at the Shiprock Chapter house today by local officials of the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs to address oil and gas development drew

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  • BLM should get its priorities straight in Chaco Canyon area

    Published Sunday, July 17, 2016
    Albuquerque Journal

    By Joelle Marier, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

    The recent request by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) for the BLM to reverse its decision to postpone leasing of three oil and gas parcels in the greater Chaco area that were slated for an October

    Read More
  • Future of Chaco in question as oil and gas close in

    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

    Read More
  • Drilling the Land of the Ancients

    By: Paul Andersen,  Aspen Journalism 

    November 3, 2014

    CHACO CANYON – The roads radiating out from Chaco Canyon stretch out across mesa tops toward distant mountains. These roads, which average 30 feet wide, were highways of foot travel for people who had neither the wheel nor

    Read More
  • Wilderness Weekly- September 11, 2013


    In an unexpected move, the BLM’s Farmington field office decided not to sell 34 out of 38 parcels around Chaco Culture Historical Park that had been nominated for oil and gas development by the industry. In the Environmental Assessment released last week for the January

    Read More
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