‘A dangerous game of chicken’ on drilling near Chaco Canyon

Feds go back and forth on leasing culturally important lands.


For the third time, the Trump administration has pulled back lands in Chaco Canyon that it had posted for oil and gas lease.


Northwest New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon was the hub of an Ancestral Puebloan civilization extending hundreds of miles. The region, which is sacred to Navajo and Pueblo tribes, holds extensive ancestral sites and remnants of ancient roads. While 34,000 acres are protected as Chaco Culture National Historical Park, most of the federal land in the Greater Chaco region has been leased for oil and gas development. Native Americans, New Mexico lawmakers and environmental groups have fought to protect the remainder (“Drilling Chaco: What’s Actually At Stake,” HCN, 4/13/15).


In February, the Bureau of Land Management pulled about 1,500 acres located within 10 miles of the park from its March oil and gas lease sale. It’s the third time that the Trump administration has announced plans to lease parcels near Chaco, then removed them. Ernie Atencio of the National Parks Conservation Association said in a statement, “This administration is … playing a dangerous game of chicken with local communities and tribes. This decision only reinforces the need for permanent protection of these lands.”

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