Our Work

Native American tribes pressure feds on oil, gas drilling

Native American tribes pressure feds on oil, gas drilling

By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 at 8:45am

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leaders from the nation’s largest Native American reservation and pueblos throughout New Mexico are putting more pressure on federal land managers to curb oil and gas development in the northwest corner of the state.

The Navajo Nation has sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management seeking a moratorium on drilling and lease sales across a wide swath of land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors also has raised concerns, and Democratic lawmakers have introduced memorials calling for more consultation among tribes and the federal government.

The pressure comes as environmental groups look to build support for their years-long campaign aimed at fossil fuel development in the Four Corners region, from coal mines and coal-fired power plants to proposed pipelines and the recent uptick in oil and gas drilling in the San Juan Basin.

While the campaign has focused in years passed on pollution concerns, the tribes’ cultural ties to Chaco and the archaeological sites that are scattered across the northwestern quadrant of the state have intensified the debate, drawing the attention of even some congressional representatives.

A board member of the Navajo Nation’s association of medicine men has spoken out against drilling at tribal council committee meetings, and Navajo President Russell Begaye wrote in his letter to federal officials earlier this month that increased drilling is interrupting the daily lives of his people and threatening sacred sites.

“We are descendants from the Chaco Canyon area. We are connected to these lands spiritually,” Begaye said in a statement. “The voices of our ancestors live in this area and any disturbance to this area is culturally and morally insensitive.”

But Navajo leaders are torn when it comes to energy development. The tribe’s extensive mineral resources are among Indian Country’s most valuable and they provide a significant chunk of the tribe’s revenues.

For example, despite pollution concerns, Navajo officials have been scrambling to save a coal-fired power plant in northeastern Arizona and the mine that feeds it, both of which account for hundreds of jobs on a reservation where unemployment is about eight times higher than the national rate.

Some local Navajo leaders are pushing the tribe to shift to renewable energy development, but such projects would still require reviews to determine potential impacts on the environment and cultural resources.

As for oil and gas drilling, the Bureau of Land Management has already established a 10-mile buffer around the park and is developing a new resource management plan for millions of acres in the region. Federal officials have agreed to consider the cultural significance of sites as part of that effort.

Agency spokeswoman Donna Hummel said tribal meetings and government-to-government consultations will continue to be offered to help inform the agency’s oil and gas decisions.

The Navajo Nation’s Historic Preservation Department is also requesting the agency draft a management plan specifically for cultural resources. The preservation department has said it doesn’t have all traditional cultural properties and sacred areas documented within the basin.

Take Action to Protect Greater Chaco

  • SIGN THE PETITION!

    Tell the BLM and State leaders that the natural and cultural resources of the Greater Chaco Region are too important to sacrifice. Say NO MORE to oil and gas leasing near Chaco Canyon. Read More
  • 1

Search

News About the Chaco Canyon Campaign

  • Native American tribes pressure feds on oil, gas drilling

    Native American tribes pressure feds on oil, gas drilling

    By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press
    Published: Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 at 8:45am

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leaders from the nation’s largest Native American reservation and pueblos throughout New Mexico are putting more pressure on federal land managers to curb oil and

    Read More
  • 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

    Read More
  • 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
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

NM Wild Supporters