Department of Interior Announces BLM-BIA Cooperative Effort on Oil-Gas Leasing across the Greater Chaco Landscape

Paul F. Reed, Preservation Archaeologist
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(October 21, 2016)—The Department of Interior has just announced that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Farmington Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be partnering on an expanded analysis of oil & gas leasing and management on public and tribal lands in the Greater Chaco Landscape. Read the press release here. Read the notice on the Federal Register here.

This is excellent news!! A large part of our effort, together with our partners, has focused on encouraging the agencies to coordinate and combine their efforts to protect the ancient Chacoan landscape from the encroaching impacts of oil and gas development. Our primary effort has been directed at the Farmington BLM’s amendment process for their Resource Management Plan (RMP). The RMP was on track for release in draft form by summer 2017.

The news that BIA-Gallup will be working with BLM and evaluating proposed oil and gas development across public and tribal lands is welcomed. Our coalition has met with BIA representatives, and with Navajo Nation officials, several times. In addition, the National Park Service (NPS) and Chaco Cultural National Historic Park have been involved in this process, as a cooperating agency.

I’m hopeful that the active engagement of the federal agencies will improve the amendment process for the RMP. Outreach to the Navajo Nation chapters directly affected by the oil and gas development is a primary goal of the expanded process and we support that effort. We will continue to do outreach to the Native American tribes and pueblos concerning the protection of Chaco’s amazing legacy on the landscape.

Great North Road

Looking north, down the Great North Road from behind Pueblo Alto, Chaco Canyon. Photo by Paul Reed.

Here are some official statements in support of this development:

Paul F. Reed, Preservation Archaeologist, Chaco Scholar
“Archaeology Southwest is pleased to learn that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) will be partnering directly with Farmington Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape. Together, BLM and BIA, along with the Navajo Nation, are the primary managers of a large landscape in excess of 7 million acres surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Cooperation between these agencies is a logical and essential step. We expect that this agreement will provide a pathway to long-term protection of the fragile and unique great house sites, roadways, traditional cultural places, and other sites that comprise the ancient Chacoan cultural landscape.”

Ellis Richard, Director, Park Rangers for our Lands
“We applaud the news that the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs plan to coordinate with stakeholders on the challenge of managing oil and gas development throughout the Greater Chaco Landscape. The Chaco National Historical Park at the center of this culturally important landscape of ancient roads and cultural sites deserve careful consideration when planning for future development. Meaningful consultation with pueblos and tribes as well as the National Park service and archaeologists will lead toward a true, landscape-level management plan for the Greater Chaco Landscape.” 

Michael Casaus, New Mexico Director, The Wilderness Society
 “When we work together across federal agencies and include local stakeholders in land management decisions we can avoid much of the conflict we have seen in the past. The Interior Department’s efforts to bring the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs together to craft a better plan for protecting the greater Chaco landscape will help protect the rich cultural resources that continue to be put in harm’s way by expansive oil and gas drilling. It’s time all stakeholders are given a seat at the table to develop a plan for managing oil and gas development in a way that protects our cultural and natural heritage and addresses the needs of local communities.”

Camilla Simon, Director, Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO)
“We commend the Interior Department and its agencies, the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs, for taking this forward-looking step. The agencies must ensure that meaningful, government-to-government consultation with interested pueblos and tribes begins as soon as possible. And the agencies must also reach out to community members, as well as other key stakeholders, including the National Park Service and archaeologists, and ensure their perspectives are honored during this planning process.”

Chris Sager, Director, Western Values Project
“The Department of Interior is on the right track in Chaco. By encouraging ground-up collaboration and cooperation between all levels of government the greater Chaco landscape will reap the benefits. That collaborative spirit will be key to ensuring that the important cultural resources and undeveloped landscapes are carefully considered and protected when planning for future energy development.”
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