On Friday, the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management Farmington Field Office and Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Regional Office released a joint draft resource management plan amendment (RMPA) that will shape oil and gas development decisions in Chaco Canyon for years to come.
Chaco Canyon — a portion of which is now designated the Chaco Culture National Historical Park (Park) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site — centuries ago was the center of a thriving civilization that flourished in the Four Corners region. This society left behind a vast and sacred landscape rich in cultural resources, which the Pueblos use today as integral to individual and collective living identity. Many of these cultural resources are located within 10 miles of the Park. For this reason, the Pueblos along with other stakeholders have prioritized protecting federal land in this area from new oil and gas development.
If finalized with Department of the Interior’s preferred alternative, the resource management plan amendment could open the door to new oil and gas leasing on federal land in this culturally critical area surrounding the Park. For years, and at the urging of Pueblos and other tribes, Department of the Interior has designated federal land in this 10-mile area unavailable or otherwise removed parcels from oil and gas lease sales. All Pueblo Council of Governors and many other stakeholders of this region have repeatedly called upon the federal government to protect this region. To reduce current protections in any way could be a significant step backwards.
All Pueblo Council of Governors has long advocated alongside Pueblos and other stakeholders for enactment of the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, which would withdrawal federal land from future oil and gas development within an approximately 10-mile withdrawal area that surrounds the Park and important cultural resource outliers. No alternative Department of the Interior proposed in its draft resource management plan amendment would accomplish this.
“All Pueblo Council of Governors is disappointed in Department of the Interior’s preferred alternative to allow more oil and gas leasing in an area of great cultural and sacred importance that is already over 90% leased, contrary to the consistent input provided by our Pueblo Nations. We will be providing strong comment on the resource management plan amendment reflecting All Pueblo Council of Governors’ long-standing efforts to permanently protect the withdrawal area designated as part of the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, and we will call upon supporters to participate in the public comment period.” – Chairman J. Michael Chavarria, All Pueblo Council of Governors.
Stakeholders and the public have 90 days to comment on the draft resource management plan amendment. Department of the Interior will announce public meetings, hearings, or other public participation activities through public notices, media releases, and/or direct mailings. The deadline to submit public comment on the draft resource management plan amendment is May 28, 2020. The Department of the Interior states it anticipates a final decision on the resource management plan amendment by the end of 2020.