chaco canyon 1Chaco Culture is one of the most spectacular areas in New Mexico. Its combination of natural beauty and outstanding cultural significance justify its World Heritage Site status and has made it beloved by visitors the world over. However, several developments are threatening this jewel of New Mexican heritage.

For several years there has existed the potential for oil and gas leases on state lands within the view shed of the Visitor’s Center of Park. In addition, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands to the north are also threatened with development. These lands are part of a connective corridor to the Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness through the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and other potential wilderness units identified by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

Recent publicity has caused the State Land office and the Cimarex Oil Company to delay any immediate plans for developing leases visible from the Park’s Visitor Center. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, working on behalf of our members (and everyone who loves the Park) has met with the State Land Office (SLO) and other relevant agencies to forestall development.

chaco canyon 2In addition, associated seismic exploration by Cimarex and other companies in the vicinity of Chacra Mesa are threatening the cultural resources of the park. The Park’s relative isolation and absence of roads on its periphery has been a key to the protection of its world class resources and scenery. The connectivity to the Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness is one large stretch of wild lands in a part of our state that has been overrun with oil and gas development. Increased seismic and/or drilling activities, roads and access will make it easier to get to parts of Chaco that are isolated now. It is also clear that oil field related dust, air pollutants, and noise will reduce visibility and degrade the experience of one of our Country’s great National Parks.

Our goal remains the removal of all oil and gas leases on the periphery of the Park; the permanent protection of archaeological resources on the periphery of the Park; the further protection of archaeological resources within the Park; working to link the Park to other protected landscapes (wilderness and WSA’s); and maintaining a wildlife and wildlands buffer against the never-ending tide of oil and gas development in this part of the Land of Enchantment.

If you’d like to be part of the efforts to protect one of New Mexico’s most important and famous places, please contact:

Demis Foster
NMWA Community Partnership Director
341 East Alameda Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501-2229
Phone: (505) 216-9719

To achieve that end, our goal for 2008 is the introduction of Congressional legislation that will do the following:

  • Transfer State lands adjacent to Chaco NHP into the Park. This will require identifying and trading BLM lands elsewhere in New Mexico to the State Land Office and adjusting the boundary of the park.
  • Revision of the boundary of the Pueblo Pintado Outlier to include the large ruin and other identified significant archeological sites. Administrative jurisdiction on those lands needs to be transferred to the NPS.
  • Designation of approximately 20,000 acres of the Park as Wilderness (The National Park Service has identified these acres as suitable for Wilderness designation).