Protectors Highlight Mounting Controversy with Greater Chaco Management Plans
Farmington, NM -- Native groups and allies working to stop fracking across the Greater Chaco Landscape hand delivered a letter yesterday to Bureau of Land Management officials at the Farmington Resource Advisory Council Meeting (RAC), requesting the agency course correct and amend its plans to continue drilling and leasing lands in Greater Chaco.
Signed by traditional Navajo government bodies and more than two dozen Native groups and allies, the letter records grave concerns over the proposed outline for the new Resource Management Plan (RMP) received on January 24 from the Bureau of Land Management in Issue 2 of its Farmington Mancos-Gallup RMP Amendment/EIS Newsletter.
“We continue to express our concerns to BLM, but nobody listens,” said Daniel Tso, former Torreon Council Delegate for the Navajo Nation and member of a community health project that surveys local impacts from fracking while the BLM fails to do so. “If this outline is any indication of future planning, it’s clear these federal agencies are on the wrong track to resolve conflicts and are trying to divide our interests instead.”
At the January 30 Farmington Resource Advisory Council meeting, council members echoed concerns over an absence of meaningful tribal consultation and the push from Secretary Zinke’s Department of Interior to expedite the current planning process and oil and gas leasing, despite reasonable requests for restraint. Zinke’s Administration is working to disband Resource Advisory Boards across the country.
“The public outcry over fracking in Greater Chaco is unprecedented,” said Rebecca Sobel, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians, who also gave public comment at the meeting. “Despite continued demands from tribal governments, businesses and residents of the area, the BLM seems hellbent on marginalizing Native communities and sacrificing every last acre of land for short term fossil fuel profits. By pitting public health, environmental and cultural concerns against each other, BLM’s planning process is undermining, not protecting the public health, environment, and cultural integrity of the Greater Chaco Landscape.”
The BLM recently received a record breaking amount of administrative protests opposing its March 2018 lease sale, highlighting the growing controversy and unrest over oil and gas development in Chaco Canyon and the surrounding Greater Chaco region.
However, the BLM had failed to account for an additional 339 hand-delivered protest comments, which nearly quadruples the unprecedented number to 459 protests opposing the upcoming oil and gas lease sale, by far the most protests the state has ever received for an oil and gas lease sale.
In northwest New Mexico, 91% of BLM’s public lands have already been leased to oil and gas development. Much of the remaining 9% is in Greater Chaco, an area lacking proper air, land, water, cultural resource, and public health protections under the existing BLM Farmington Field Office’s 2003 Resource Management Plan.
The BLM is currently updating their RMP with an amendment, but in the meantime over 400 wells have been drilled and the agency plans to auction off another 4,434 acres of Greater Chaco in the March 2018 lease sale.
A lawsuit currently stands asserting that drilling without a plan is illegal. The Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors, National Congress of American Indians, 15 Navajo Chapter Houses, the New Mexico House Legislature, and over 300,000 public citizens have requested a moratorium on drilling until the RMP amendment is complete.
“The BLM is being told to put people over profit and to defend our land and water,” said Kendra Pinto, resident of Twin Pines who witnessed a 2016 WPX fracking explosion in her backyard. “Despite their best efforts, they won’t be successful in erasing native communities and silencing our voices. We will persevere to fight for what is right.”
A copy of the letter is available here.
“BLM needs to stop rushing the RMPA. Stop calling out the local law enforcements, you are putting our safety at risk by continuing to approve leases. BLM needs to Consult local Native Americans governments, like Navajo chapters houses and communities.”
- Samuel Sage, Community Services Coordinator, Counselor Chapter House, firstname.lastname@example.org, (575) 568-4311
“We only ask BLM to uphold their responsibilities to assure suitable protections for the region, by comprehensively analyzing impacts of existing and potential oil and gas development on public health, local quality of life, cultural resources, environmental resources, and climate change."
- Carol Davis, Coordinator, Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, email@example.com, (928) 221-7859
“Our grandchildren deserve a place to live."
- Thomas Johnston, Spotted Eagle Surveying, firstname.lastname@example.org, (970) 731-8999
"BLM's actions are nothing short of a corporate giveaway of public lands at the expense of indigenous rights, the environment and the legacy of the American West. They are acting as agents of big business with no regard for natural resources or fragile cultural concerns."
- Eleanor Bravo, Southwest Director, Food & Water Watch, email@example.com, 505 730 8474
“If you thought the U.S. government gave up marginalizing Native communities decades ago, think again. Over 90 percent of the San Juan Basin has already been leased to private oil and gas interests, yet the Bureau of Land Management appears intent on finishing the job—which shamefully now comes at the expense of living Native communities and the treasured cultural landscapes of Greater Chaco."
- Kyle Tisdale, Climate and Energy Program Director, Western Environmental Law Center, firstname.lastname@example.org, (575) 613-8050
“For too long the Greater Chaco region has been a national sacrifice zone. The BLM leasing process must cease to be a rubber stamp for the oil and gas industry. Enough is enough.”