Kevin Beltran, 505-501-9530, firstname.lastname@example.org
New Mexico Tribes Demand Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Defer Oil and Gas Lease Sales Near Chaco Canyon
The All Pueblo Council of Governors calls on to BLM defer lease sales in the Greater Chaco region until Resource Management Plan Amendment is concluded
Albuquerque, New Mexico (March 27, 2019) – The All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG), a governing body composed of 20 sovereign Pueblo nations, is urging the Bureau of Land Management to defer its quarterly lease sales until the agency completes its statutory obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and until the agency has completed its Resource Management Plan amendment (RMPA). The BLM Farmington and Rio Puerco field offices are planning on leasing 30 parcels, nearly 10,000 acres, close to Chaco Canyon National Historic Park this Thursday, March 28th.
“Today we are calling on the Bureau of Land Management to act in good faith with the Pueblos and tribes of the southwest,” said Governor Brian Vallo of Acoma Pueblo. “As active cooperating partners, our Pueblo and many tribes have offered to assist the agency in identifying critical cultural resources and traditional cultural properties in the region. Yet, the BLM has done little to identify our critical and fragile cultural properties. Others have contributed to the Farmington RMPA process for years, that would regulate future oil and gas development. The ongoing quarterly lease-sales are an affront to this partnership and inconsistent with the goal of the field office to complete a holistic plan for energy development while acting as stewards of that sacred landscape.”
Just last year, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke deferred the oil and gas sale near Chaco Canyon. And this winter, after immense pressure from diverse stakeholders, BLM reversed course for a second time on a lease sale within the Greater Chaco area. The BLM is currently preparing a Resource Management Plan amendment that will shape future development in northwest New Mexico, and Tribes are anxiously awaiting its release. Tribal leadership from the APCG and Navajo Nation met last week at Acoma Pueblo to call on the agency to protect a core protection zone around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
“The APCG Governors support a good-faith agreement by the BLM to halt future lease sales near Chaco until the BLM meets its NHPA and NEPA duties, and the Farmington RMPA is concluded. If the Agency continues to circumvent this process of tribal and community consultation we will hold them accountable.” said APCG Chairman E. Paul Torres.
Recent legislation from Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich would withdraw federal mineral leases closest to the national park. With overwhelming support from the APCG Governors, Navajo Nation, and the NM State Land Office, it sends a strong message that the remaining unleased lands should be protected.
Governor Michael Chavarria of the Santa Clara Pueblo added, “Until this area is permanently protected, we are living in a state of uncertainty and doubt as the BLM prepares its plan amendment. Our cultural sites and ancestral homelands are put in danger every time BLM engages in these sales because it encourages haphazard development.”