A few miles north of Chaco Canyon lies the remains of an ancient outpost. It was undoubtedly an imposing and impressive place in 900 AD. Built atop a towering butte, it would have been visible for many miles. At night, great fires would have urged weary travelers onward. Even now, at sunset, for example, or when the wind rises, it is an evocative and powerful place.
Yet, today, it has become a different kind of outpost. This is where intensive oil and gas development, which has increased over 400 percent in the last decade, completely transforms much of the northwestern New Mexico landscape.
On this past Monday in Santa Fe, during the first of several congressional hearings, tribal leaders and key witnesses spoke about the need for stronger Federal oil and gas regulations. Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Valio told members of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources that not enough is being done to safeguard sacred sites in the Greater Chaco Landscape beyond the National Park at Chaco Canyon. "Many cultural resources and sites exist which the Bureau of Land Management does not currently recognize", he said.
Our current administration must honor repeated requests from tribal leaders and withdraw lands surrounding Chaco Canyon from future oil and gas leasing. The Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs must finish the long-awaited joint management plan for the area. The plan should be based on a detailed viewscape and soundscape field study. It must include significantly stronger protections for cultural resources, as well as local residents, including limiting the location and scale of development.
We need proper leadership more now than ever to accomplish this.
be strong, be safe, Talon