We commend Senators Udall and Heinrich for their proposed legislation to protect Chaco and we support efforts to expand this protection to the larger Chaco region.
To prevent any further damage to the Chaco culture’s invaluable heritage, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must cease permitting new oil and gas wells in the Chaco region. Especially, and at the very least, they must not grant any leases within the Chaco Cultural Heritage Withdrawal Area as defined by Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2018 proposed by Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich. Further, the withdrawal area boundaries of this proposed bill should be extended to cover a 20 mile buffer zone around Chaco National Historical Park and 10 mile buffer zones around outlying Chaco Great Houses.
Approaching Chaco today you are confronted with an unreal sight of fracking rigs and flares, creating noise, air, and groundwater pollution. The ground fracturing vibrations risk damage to some of the most valuable archaeological sites in North America.
In 2014, the BLM promised a new Resource and Management Plan to govern all future oil and gas leases. They have not yet delivered. Instead, the BLM plans to sell leases this December inside the ten mile ‘buffer zone’ around Chaco Canyon, a protective boundary they previously assented to. This sets a dangerous precedent for advancing energy activity closer to Chaco Canyon.
The BLM has also permitted many roads to cross the ancient Great North Road’s 35 mile course from Chaco Canyon to Kutz Canyon. The Chacoans created this elaborate corridor to connect their ceremonial center to the direction North. For descendant Puebloan peoples it holds profound spiritual significance. However, modern energy roads continue to erase the Great North Road. This erasure risks getting worse: the Chaco people created numerous Great Houses and other ‘roads’ as a web, uniting their sites with special landforms and astronomical directions. This comprehensive web of a sacred landscape must be protected.
Much of the area adjoining Great Houses in the ‘buffer zone’ is only beginning to be analyzed with LiDAR (aerial LASER scanning); this data requires much further evaluation, along with on-the-ground truthing by experienced archaeologists. These efforts should proceed and the findings deter any further leasing.
We also urge mitigating actions by the BLM to prevent public health hazards to surrounding communities already encroached upon by intense energy development. We further support a shift in the region’s economy to job-creating, sustainable energy enterprises.
Follow this link and select “Layers” in the upper left box to view the proposed and existing intense fracking activity in the Chaco region:
And again, you can submit testimony for the record to the Committee at: