Greater Chaco protection…More than lines on the map

SIERRA CLUB News:

FARMINGTON – Members of the Greater Chaco Coalition are participating this week public gatherings as part of the Department of the Interior’s Honoring Chaco Initiative, which calls on the Bureau of Land Management to protect the entire Greater Chaco landscape and address the cumulative impacts of oil and gas on communities and tribal nations.

The sessions are part of the Bureau of Land Management’s public comment process on its proposal to suspend new mineral leases on public land within a 10-mile buffer of Chaco Culture National Historical Park for a 20-year period.

Supportive for the retreat that Grand Chaco Coalition has long insisted that much more needs to be done to protect the Greater Chaco landscape and meaningfully engage affected communities and tribal nations.

The Greater Chaco region is a vibrant and ancient cultural landscape. A thousand years ago, Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico was the ceremonial and economic center of the Chaco cultural landscape, an area spanning more than 75,000 square miles across southwest New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah that is sacred to indigenous peoples. Now the vast majority of land across the region is already leased for fracking, with more than 40,000 oil and gas wells littering the landscape and impacting local communities’ land, air, water, health and cultural resources.

Late last year, in response to calls from tribes, pueblos and affected communities, Home Secretary Deb Haaland launched the Honoring the Chaco Initiativea two-part process that includes 10-mile mineral mining and a new, collaborative and yet to be defined process to address meaningful stewardship and protection of cultural landscapes.

The comment period for the proposed buffer closes on May 6 if members are from the Greater Chaco Coalition plan to deliver Thousands of public comments supporting proposed mineral extraction and calling for greater protection of the landscape. Since 2016, the coalition has submitted more than a million public comments to the bureau calling for an immediate moratorium on fracking across the landscape.

Despite promises to protect Greater Chaco, the Bureau of Land Management continues to approve new oil and gas wells and fracking-related projects, including miles of roads, pipelines and irreparable heavy machinery disruption inside and outside the proposed 10-mile buffer. New Mexico, the US’s second largest oil producer, has become known as one energy sacrifice zone. Oil and gas production in the Permian Basin of southeastern New Mexico is so extensive that the region has been described as one climate bomb. Avoid catastrophic global warming requires the cessation of new investments in fossil fuels. End of the new federal fossil fuel leasing, responsible for a quarter of US climate emissions, is the basic starting point.

Truly honoring Greater Chaco requires a pause in all new oil and gas activity while the process to honor Chaco is underway and the ministry is consulting with tribes, pueblos and affected communities to assess the cumulative impacts of oil and gas to tackle in the region.

STATEMENT

“Diné CARE stands with local Diné communities and allotment recipients who have passed resolutions supporting the need to rethink land, air, water and cultural resource planning within the Greater Chaco landscape. The proposed twenty-year withdrawal cannot be the be-all and end-all for the protection of the Greater Chaco, especially if oil and gas activities on existing leases continue to threaten the health of the Diné population. With a legacy of broken promises, fracking has already polluted land, air and water and destroyed sacred cultural sites throughout the Greater Chaco landscape. The Biden administration has failed on its promise to stop oil and gas on federal land, and unfortunately, grassroots and frontline communities must push to make that promise a reality. As a designated “energy victim zone,” Diné communities and allotment recipients rightly distrust the federal government’s broken promises, and they will continue to take action to defend the land, the air, the water, and the sacred.”

  • Robyn Jackson, Acting Managing Director of Diné CARE

“As a collective of Diné allotment owners and heirs, we are directly supporting the 20-year 10-mile retreat that will help protect the landscape of the Greater Chaco and those who call this space home. We understand that this is not a panacea for the problems of extraction in this region, but it is an effective start. We need real solutions and implemented initiatives that continue to protect and accommodate the Eastern Agency Diné population. Industrialized fracking has exacerbated damage to longstanding mining systems, with the vast majority of available acreage leased for oil and gas and more than 40,000 oil and gas wells in the Greater Chaco landscape. DAAX advocates fair and equitable treatment of allotment recipients, an end to the era of extractive colonialism in the Eastern Navajo Agency, and new processes of collaboration and consent with federal and state agencies to ensure environmental justice for the Diné population. We advocate federal, tribal, and state policies that respect the rights of allotment beneficiaries, protect the health, prosperity, and well-being of our communities, and support a just transition to a non-extractive future that empowers future generations in harmony and balance the land can flourish.”

  • Corn Howland, Diné Allotees Against Extraction (DAAX)

“The Pueblo Action Alliance believes that fighting for the Greater Chaco region is a fight for a healthier future for all generations to come. We can no longer be ignored and concrete action must be taken now! The initial announcement of the potential 10-mile mineral exploitation around the boundaries of Chaco National Park, along with the 90-day comment period, was not only an unprecedented move by the Department of the Interior, but also a defining moment for Indigenous peoples and grassroots organizations that have been put in place since Dedicated to protecting the Greater Chaco landscape for decades. It is high time we held our decision makers accountable for the injustices that have historically occurred across the Greater Chaco landscape. Free, Prior and Informed Consent, also known as FPIC, can be an important tool throughout the Honor Greater Chaco process, particularly in relation to the 10-mile withdrawal of public land. We demand a fair and just transition away from fossil fuels!”

  • Gracie Aragon, Pueblo Action Alliance

“Many of our sacred sites are important ecological sites that are on the front lines of the cumulative impacts of climate change and environmental degradation caused by fossil fuel development. We encourage the development of meaningful and equitable co-management processes and practices to protect the Greater Chaco landscape. We also offer the following recommendation for implementing an equitable and culturally sensitive approach to consultation and consent that upholds the inherent rights of indigenous peoples.”

  • dr David J. Tsosie, Diné-Centered Research and Evaluation

“Fracking is violence against our only aquifer and against ourselves as water beings. We must be in respectful, right relationships with our earth, sky, and all to survive now and into the future. Natural law must be protected over all state claims to the exploitation of resources that only cause harm.”

  • Talavi Cook, Environment, Health and Equity Manager, Tewa Women United

“The Native Organizers Alliance stands in solidarity with Indigenous communities throughout the Greater Chaco region who are supporting a 20-year pause in the extraction of new minerals within a 10-mile buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park. More importantly, these communities are seeking broader protection. Communities in the Greater Chaco region affected by adverse cumulative impacts from oil and gas exploration have basic human rights to clean air, healthy water, agriculturally sustainable lands to support food security, and full access to cultural resources that reflect the diverse cultures throughout the greater region Chaco landscape. Systemic changes are necessary to ensure the quality of life in these communities. The Bureau of Land Management must ensure that those directly affected by oil and gas exploration have opportunities to have a voice throughout the energy development process.”

  • Carol Davis, Executive Director, Native Organizers Alliance

“While the San Juan Citizens Alliance supports the administrative withdrawal, it is not a substitute for a full landscape-level analysis by the Department of the Interior.”

  • Mike Eisenfeld, Energy and Climate Program Manager, San Juan Citizens Alliance

“If the Department of the Interior truly wants to ‘honor the Greater Chaco,’ it would refrain from approving further drilling permits and related infrastructure throughout the Greater Chaco landscape and protecting the air, land, water and public health.” of the municipalities give priority to the region. This region continues to be ravaged by oil and gas exploration. The only way to restore the cultural integrity of this landscape is to extend permanent protection beyond a 10-mile mineral workings around Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The administration can and must be courageous and go further.”

  • Miya King-Flaherty, Organization Representative, Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter

“Fracking is devastating Navajo communities and destroying the cultural integrity of the Greater Chaco landscape well beyond the 10-mile buffer around Chaco Canyon. If the Department of the Interior is serious about honoring Chaco, then the Department needs to work seriously to end fracking throughout the Greater Chaco landscape.”

  • Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

“A tragic legacy of colonization and exploitation has been endured for generations by the people and communities that call the Greater Chaco landscape home. We are at a moment when this legacy must be addressed and justice actively sought. The Honor Chaco Trial and a 10-mile retreat are steps in that direction, but new lines on a map aren’t enough. We must ensure a just transition away from fossil fuel exploitation, not only for those currently living in the shadows of development, but also for the future generations that will inherit this land.”

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