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article imageFeds move ahead with oil and gas leases near World Heritage site

By Karen Graham     Jan 31, 2019 in Politics
U.S. land managers will move forward in March with the sale of oil and gas leases that include land near Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sites sacred to Native American tribes.
In a sale notice published by the Bureau of Land Management January 30, 2019, it was announced the March 2019 Notice of Competitive oil and gas Lease Sale list, which includes 156 parcels totaling about 217,476 acres.
The sale is scheduled to occur online at on March 25-26, 2019, and includes more than 50 parcels in New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Democrat lawmakers, tribal leaders and environmentalists have criticized the government agency because they called back employees during the government shutdown to push ahead with the drilling permit reviews and preparations for the energy leases.
Aerial photo: Overview of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in 2013.
Aerial photo: Overview of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in 2013.
John Wiley User:Jw4nvc - Santa Barbara, California
Critics have complained that they were locked out of the process because the agency didn't release any information about the sale, a seemingly deceitful act on the government's part. There are also unanswered questions - like would the BLM have had the time to adequately review the land they have put up for bid, and would the agency allow protests against the sale.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall told The Associated Press in an email he is concerned about this latest attempt by the government to lease "potentially" culturally significant land in New Mexico without having a plan in place.
“It’s a mistake that while critical public services were shuttered for 35 days during the government shutdown, BLM still moved forward with this opaque process,” the New Mexico Democrat said.
Pueblo Bonito Aerial Chaco Canyon - 2009
Pueblo Bonito Aerial Chaco Canyon - 2009
BLM spokesperson Cathy Garber said the agency had decided to push back the sale by a couple of weeks, due to the government shutdown. Publication of this sale notice starts on February 11. The 30-day protest period closes at 4:30 p.m. on March 1, 2019.
In the BLM announcement, the agency says all protests must be submitted via U.S. mail addressed to the BLM-Utah State Office at 440 West 200 South, Suite 500, Salt Lake City, UT 84101; in person to the Utah State Office, or via fax to the attention of Sheri Wysong at (801) 539-4237.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Chaco is a United States National Historical Park hosting the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest. Covering 33,977.8 acres (13,750.3 hectares), the park lies between Albuquerque and Farmington, in a remote canyon cut by the Chaco Wash.
This 11th century pictograph at Chaco Canyon may depict the supernova of AD 1054 This supernova and ...
This 11th century pictograph at Chaco Canyon may depict the supernova of AD 1054 This supernova and the Moon were in this configuration when the supernova was near its brightest. An imprint of a hand at the top signifies that this is a sacred place.
Alex Marentes
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is incorporated into a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the arid and sparsely populated Four Corners region, the Chacoan cultural sites are fragile and are considered sacred ancestral homelands by the Hopi and Pueblo people.
Actually, its cultural significance is even greater than many people realize. The park preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian cultural and historical areas in the United States and the biggest collection of ancient ruins north of Mexico.
In recent years, the park has been at the center of the expansion of oil and gas development in the Southwest. Land managers ended up creating an informal 10 mile (16 kilometers) buffer zone around the park. Then, in early 2018, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke halted a lease sale over cultural concerns after hundreds of people protested.
Chaco National Cultural Historic Park
Chaco National Cultural Historic Park
UNESCO/Jean-Marc Duchesne
Even while the BLM has been trying to broker a mutual resource management plan for the San Juan Basin with local tribes, Udall argues that repeated efforts by the government to pursue oil and gas development have resulted in “a scattershot, shoot-from-the-hip approach.” He called for the upcoming lease sale to be delayed.
Paul Reed, a Preservation Archaeologist with Archaeology Southwest said the informal buffer should be adopted as part of a management plan. “Aside from the sites that everyone knows about in Chaco, there are a number of communities that exist within the 10-mile zone that we think need a greater level of protection,” he said.
More about Trump administration, Oil and gas leases, New mexico, World Heritage Site, bureau of land management
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