The BLM leases lands near Chaco Canyon for $3 million

The controversial parcels are the first auctioned online in New Mexico.

 

On January 25, the Bureau of Land Management leased nearly 850 acres of land for drilling in northwest New Mexico, netting close to $3 million. The agency offers leases on millions of acres of public land per year, but this latest sale was unusual. Not only was it the first time that the BLM has conducted a lease sale online rather than live in the New Mexico region, the sale had also been postponed three times over the last five years, because its lands are just 20 miles from Chaco Culture National Historical Park (also a UNESCO World Heritage site and an International Dark Sky Park).

Pueblo Bonito ruins in Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Flickr user John Fowler

While Chaco Canyon and its ruins, such as Pueblo Bonito, are protected from development, as is a 10-mile buffer around the park, surrounding areas are not. Chaco is the core of a much larger Ancestral Puebloan civilization that extended for hundreds of miles in the central San Juan Basin from about 900 to 1150 A.D. The land today is sacred to Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and other Pueblo Indians, and bears remnants of a system of 30-foot-wide roads radiating outward from Chaco Canyon, as well as extensive ruins, artifacts and even lunar calendars etched into boulders. None of those have yet been studied thoroughly by archaeologists.

Nonetheless, about 90 percent of the Greater Chaco area has already been leased for oil and gas development, and Native Americans and environmental groups have fought to exclude the remaining areas. They succeeded in delaying this lease sale multiple times over concerns that hydraulic fracturing and drilling would harm the environment and public health. A petition signed by 650 residents and industry representatives, however, asked the BLM to allow the sale to proceed for the jobs and revenue it would generate.

Drilling near Lybrook, New Mexico, about 45 miles from Chaco Canyon.
Flickr user John Fowler

While the local Bureau of Land Management office gathered public input after the initial outcry, Duane “Chili” Yazzie, president of the Shiprock Chapter of the Navajo Nation, recently told the Durango Herald, “It’s an amazing contradiction to me. (The BLM) say they are getting input into the process from the local people, but at the same time, they seem to be proceeding with the sale, regardless of what comments they generate.”

The parcels won't be released to the winning bidders until several protests filed against the leases have been resolved.

Jodi Peterson is High Country News’ senior editor.

High Country News Classifieds
  • SEASONAL SAN JUAN RANGERS
    Seeking experienced crew members to patrol Colorado's most iconic mountain wilderness.
  • ENDANGERED SPECIES STAFF SCIENTIST
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a staff scientist to advocate for the conservation of endangered species. General position overview: The position will involve working...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM
    The Center for Biological Diversity - a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of imperiled plants, animals and wild places - seeks a dynamic...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Staff Attorney to join our team of attorneys, scientists, campaigners who are working to protect America's public lands...
  • SOUTHWEST CONSERVATION ADVOCATE
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Southwest Conservation Advocate to join our team of attorneys, scientists and campaigners who are working to protect America's...
  • OCEANS PROGRAM CAMPAIGNER
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks an experienced campaigner for its oceans program. The aim of the position is to campaign for the protection of...
  • CLIMATE LAW INSTITUTE ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute is looking to add an attorney to its team and will consider applicants at both staff attorney...
  • FULL-TIME CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a full-time Campaign Director in our Climate Law Institute to join our campaign for progressive, urgent government action to...
  • WESTERN WATER PROJECT MANAGER
    National Wildlife Federation is hiring NM-based position focused on riparian corridors, watershed health. Learn more and apply online: https://www.nwf.org/about-us/careers
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Associate Program Director Location: New Mexico; flexible in state Position reports to: Senior Program Director Position Closes: March 13, 2020 GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The...
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIVE
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....
  • ORGANIZING AND TRAINING COORDINATOR
    Is this your dream job? Are you looking to join a nationally recognized organizing network, live in a spectacular part of the West, and work...