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All Pueblo Council of Governors and Navajo Nation Applaud U.S. Senate Hearing of bill to Protect Greater Chaco Landscape

Hearing comes before the Bureau of Land Management is expected to release a draft amendment

 

August 23, 2018



Albuquerque, NM (August 22, 2018) – The 20 Pueblo nations of the All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG) and the Navajo Nation applauded today the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining for holding a hearing on the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2018 (S. 2907). The legislation was introduced by New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and would withdraw roughly 316,076 acres of oil, natural gas, coal, and other minerals owned by the U.S. Federal Government from the Proposed Chaco Protection Zone.

The bill would safeguard the areas surrounding Chaco Canyon National Historical Park – better known as Greater Chaco landscape – from unnecessary energy development. The legislation has been developed in collaboration with Pueblo and Navajo nations and is a significant moment in the long history of Chaco Canyon.

The hearing comes just months after the APCG and Navajo Nation discussed for a second historic time how tribes in the Southwest can protect sacred sites and traditional cultural properties within the Greater Chaco Region. The first meeting between the tribes occurred in February 2017, and signified the importance of working together to protect historic and cultural sites in the San Juan Basin. Additionally, a delegation of Tribal leaders is visiting Washington, DC in September to meet with agency officials and staff to advocate for the protection of the Greater Chaco Zone.

“I am pleased to see this bill to protect Chaco Canyon for future generations advance in the U.S. Senate, said Governor Kurt Riley, Acoma Pueblo. “Chaco Canyon is a part of our past, our present, and our future. It is a sacred place for us, and I would hope the United States would take great care to preserve it.”

Greater Chaco is recognized as one of the United States’ 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as it was the center of Puebloan cultural and economic life during the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. The area holds thousands of artifacts and archaeological sites—some of which have yet to be identified and studied. Many tribes throughout the Four Corners area are the direct descendants of the Chacoan people and consider the region their traditional homelands.

Paul Reed added, “Archaeologists and researchers from all over the world come to Chaco Canyon to explore the rich history and culture that is still being uncovered today. The cultural and historical artifacts within the larger landscape are not only important to Native American Tribes, but also to all who come to learn. But once this area is developed, it is gone forever.”

More than 90 percent of public lands within the area are already leased for oil and gas drilling, and Greater Chaco is at risk of being destroyed by drill pads, pipelines, and a web of industrial access roads. Earlier this year, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke deferred the oil and gas sale near Chaco Canyon, but a federal judge reversed his previous decision that oil and gas development near the historic site violated federal law.

As oil and gas development has encroached on the park boundaries it has become necessary to build additional protections for Chaco Canyon and its outlier sites. New extraction technology including horizontal drilling is also a concern to tribes as it may negatively impact the integrity of the landscape and to the ancient buildings in the region.

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Farmington Field office – where the Greater Chaco area is located – is currently preparing a Resource Management Plan amendment that will shape future development in northwest New Mexico. Through this mineral withdrawal the APCG and Navajo Nation are wishing to leave this core protection zone preserved for future generations.

 

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