NM Chaco supporters rally for protections against drilling / Public News Service

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At a rally today in Santa Fe, thousands of comments regarding a proposed withdrawal of new oil and gas drilling leases near New Mexico Chaco Culture National Historical Park will be submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

After considerable pressure from conservation groups, a proposal to ban future oil and gas leases within 10 miles of the park has been proposed by the US Department of the Interior.

Miya King-Flaherty, Our Wild New Mexico organizing representative for the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, said another goal of the gathering is for the federal government to provide better management and protection of the wider landscape.

“There are traditional, historically very important landscapes all over the United States that have been sacrificed in the name of fossil fuel extraction,” King-Flaherty observed. “What’s happening here in Chaco is really no different than anywhere else in the United States”

New Mexico is the second-largest oil-producing state, and the vast majority of land in the Chaco region is already leased for hydraulic fracturing. King-Flaherty pointed out that more than 40,000 oil and gas wells dot the landscape, affecting air, water, health and cultural resources. The rally will be held at the BLM State Office in Santa Fe at noon.

King-Flaherty is encouraged US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland says it’s time to consider more durable protections for the Grand Chaco, a sacred place for indigenous peoples.

“We hope she will also ensure that meaningful tribal consultations are taken seriously,” King-Flaherty said. “That members of the community who are impacted by oil and gas activities be taken into account.”

Due to its wealth in uranium, coal, oil and natural gas, the Grand Chaco region in the northwest corner of the state was officially designated an “energy sacrifice zone” in the 1970s by the Nixon administration. The area spans nearly 8,000 square miles, with the Chaco Culture National Historical Park at its center.

Disclosure: The Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club contributes to our fund for reporting on climate change/air quality, energy policy, public lands/wilderness and water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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