June 30, 2015—As many of you know, I’ve been actively engaged in protecting the Greater Chaco Landscape for much of the last year. Impacts to this amazing landscape from the development of oil-gas facilities in association with the Mancos Shale play could be severe. I think that our efforts, and those of our partners and other groups, are beginning to make a difference.
On June 29, together with representatives of our partner organizations on the Greater Chaco Landscape effort (National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Wilderness Society, and National Parks Conservation Association), and other groups, I met with Senator Tom Udall at the Chaco Visitor Center to discuss the urgent need to protect the irreplaceable landscape associated with Chaco Canyon.
Also in attendance at the meeting were Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Connor, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) National Director Mike Black, other top Interior officials, Chaco Superintendent Larry Turk, various National Park Service (NPS) personnel, and New Mexico Acting State Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Aden Seidlitz.
The visit coincided with a letter to Secretary of the Interior Jewell that we organized and had 30 southwestern and national archaeologists sign. In it, we ask the Secretary for help protecting the Greater Chaco Landscape by pushing for many of the same goals outlined with Sen. Udall—coordination between the agencies, commitment to the Master Leasing Plan for drilling, and additional research on fragile, irreplaceable cultural resources.
Our group asked the Senator and Interior officials for support and action on several fronts:
- Master Leasing Plan: Moving forward with a master leasing plan that would set out a detailed path forward for protecting resources and communities while managing ongoing leasing and development across the Greater Chaco Landscape.
- Interagency, Landscape-Level Strategy: Formal cooperation among the federal agencies and the Navajo Nation, and a commitment to developing a broad, landscape-level strategy for managing oil and gas development on public and tribal lands, such as a memorandum of understanding between BIA, BLM and NPS or a joint planning effort between BIA and BLM.
- Mineral Withdrawals: Withdrawing unleased public lands in close proximity to Chaco Canyon from further leasing and evaluating additional culturally significant areas around Chaco that are already leased for withdrawals, exchanges and buy-outs. Also, consider buying Tribal mineral rights and removing them from the leasing pool.
- Expanding the Chaco Archaeological Protection Sites Program: Expanding the Chaco Archaeological Protection Sites Program (last updated in 1995) by studying additional Chacoan outliers, roads and other features for inclusion in the Program, as well as a feasibility study for expanding the national historical park to include additional culturally significant lands and resources.
- Funding and Commitments for Cultural Resources Surveys: Undertaking landscape surveys and LIDAR (aerial, laser surveys) to expand the knowledge of cultural resources across the Greater Chaco Landscape including Chaco roads, via both direction and commitment by BLM and funding.
I came away from the meeting feeling that our concerns were heard and understood. Furthermore, it was clear to me and others in our group that Senator Udall is very concerned about the impacts of oil development in the Greater Chaco Landscape and is committed to protecting the fragile resources in harm’s way.
Archaeologists call on fed to protect Chaco Canyon area—Albuquerque Journal, June 30, 2015
Sen. Tom Udall and Interior Deputy Secretary Connor hit the trail at Chaco Park on Monday—Farmington Daily Times, June 29, 2015
Conservationists push for protection of cultural sites around Chaco Park—Farmington Daily Times, June 28, 2015
Ecoflight’s film on why we should protect the Greater Chaco Landscape
Graphics – modified map of the MLP proposal.
A couple of photos. Unfortunately, I did not get one of Sen. Udall at the meeting.