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Photo: WildEarth Guardians

We’ve been working to protect the Greater Chaco region from rampant and largely uncontrolled drilling for over ten years. Sadly, the need for protections is only increasing. Our partners organized a rally of over 200 people to protest the latest lease sale in the region. We submitted our own official protests and support their effort to raise awareness and action against such irresponsible approval of these sales without adequate tribal consultations or analysis of impacts.

To our surprise, the BLM pulled the leases within Greater Chaco from the lease sale. We’re working to better understand why, but believe that it was probably again due to lack of tribal consultation. We’ll keep working with our partners to make sure Greater Chaco enjoys the protections it deserves.

From Mike Eisenfeld, ourEnergy and Climate Program Manager for 12 years:

“It’s unacceptable that BLM is moving forward with this lease sale without having completed a robust assessment of the impacts of fracking for the environment, climate, and cultural resources in the Greater Chaco region. It’s clear that meaningful tribal consultation has not occurred just like last time when Secretary Zinke deferred the March 2018 lease sale, and that opportunities for public input have been curtailed under the current Administration. Decisions to drill for oil and gas in this landscape need more analysis and consultation, not less.”

This is one of those campaigns that will take many years and loads of persistence. We’ve got both.

You can see the full press release below.

“Not Your Sacrifice Zone: We Demand Justice” – Greater Chaco Advocates Rally at BLM to Protest Sale of Over 89,000 Acres for Fracking


For Immediate Release: December 5, 2018

Santa Fe, N.M. — Over 200 clean air and water advocates rallied in front of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) state office in Santa Fe today to protest the December 5th and 6th online auction of over 89,000 acres of public and ancestral tribal lands, including over 44,000 acres in the Greater Chaco region, and over 40,000 near Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Tribal leaders, environmental groups, and advocates expressed growing outrage at BLM’s chronic disengagement with the public, its lack of meaningful tribal consultation, and its failure to consider the public health and environmental impacts of selling off federal and tribal lands for fracking.

“Meeting with BLM is like talking to a wall, and we have been hitting the wall for a long time.”  said Samuel Sage, Community Services Coordinator for Counselor Chapter, Navajo Nation. “For the BLM, it’s all about greed, but all we want is clean air and water for our kids and grandchildren. They call us ‘activists’ when they should be calling oil and gas industry proposals ‘terrorist.’”

Despite receiving a record-breaking 10,000 protest comments, the BLM is moving forward with the controversial leases based on outdated Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for the Farmington, Rio Puerco, Carlsbad, and Roswell Field Offices, all of which were written before new fracking methods were feasible and without meaningful tribal consultation or consent from Navajo Nation and Pueblos who consider the Greater Chaco region sacred.

“We have fought to have our Pueblo tribal leaders at the table, to have clean air and soil for the Dine communities, and we have gone to D.C. to talk about our concerns as indigenous people. Yet, BLM continues to lie and neglect their responsibilities.” said Julia Bernal, Co-Director of Pueblo Action Alliance. “That BLM has a mandated ‘Trust Relationship’ with Tribal Nations and we must still demand to be consulted is blatant disrespect. Maybe they think we’ll leave, but we’re not going anywhere. Public lands are ancestral lands and we are the land.”

Although BLM state headquarters were shuttered today due to a federal day of mourning for former President George H. W. Bush, Greater Chaco advocates proceeded with their planned rally to remind agency officials of their promise to Tribes and the American public to develop a new plan to protect Greater Chaco.

Advocates wrote personalized messages to the BLM on a large banner that read “Not Your Sacrifice Zone: We Demand Justice”, and taped the banner to the front wall of BLM headquarters. “Sacrifice Zone” is a label that has stuck to the Four Corners region since the early 1970s, when the Nixon Administration began prioritizing energy extraction policies, at great cost to the communities, land, and water in the Southwest. With their banner, advocates refused for New Mexico to remain a national energy sacrifice zone, and demanded instead that the BLM engage in meaningful tribal and public consultation, and ensure protections for the environment and public health.

Earlier this year, Interior Secretary Zinke deferred the March lease sale of 4,434 acres calling for more cultural consultation admitting the Greater Chaco region needs more cultural study. To date, the BLM has yet to survey over 5,400 cultural resources in the region.

Instead, the BLM has rolled back opportunities for the public to weigh in on oil and gas leasing, shortening “protest” or appeal periods from 30 days to just 10 days and refusing to hold any public hearings, even near impacted communities.

Advocate groups currently have a lawsuit asserting that drilling without a plan is illegal. The Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors, National Congress of American Indians, 15 Navajo Chapter Houses, the New Mexico Legislature, more than 100 organizations, and over 400,000 public citizens in total have requested a moratorium on drilling until the BLM updates its Resource Management Plans.

The vast majority of public lands in the San Juan Basin of Greater Chaco and in the Permian Basin around Greater Carlsbad Caverns are already leased for oil and gas development, and residents nearby have been dealing with the impacts of resource extraction for decades. Today’s rally sends the message to officials that advocates refuse to relent until justice is upheld.

“Despite the Administration’s recent climate report that shows federal fossil fuels account for one quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, this December BLM is selling off close to two million acres of western public and tribal lands for oil and gas, and the New Mexico agency is the most egregious offender of public process, offering up nearly 100% of Greater Chaco and Greater Carlsbad for sacrifice,” said Rebecca Sobel, Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “It’s clear Trump’s ‘Energy Dominance’ agenda will stop at nothing to sacrifice every inch of public land for private profit, but today’s event shows that the people are also relentless in our commitment to rise up and demand justice for Greater Chaco and beyond.”

A map of the oil and gas leases is available here.

Additional Statements:

“BLM has allowed so much destruction to our homeland that things are not like they were before. Counselor Chapter has been trying to work with BLM since the 2003 Management Plan was published, despite shifting roles and increased hurdles for participation; still, officials are always disrespectful to our people and our concerns – they don’t even look me in the eye.”

– Samuel Sage, Community Services Coordinator, Counselor Chapter, Navajo Nation,, (505) 360-2090

“Diné CARE supports the Tri-Chapter Navajo Communities of Counselors, Ojo Encino and Torreon/Star Lake position that the December 2018 lease sale completely disregards their public health and safe clean water issues.  This lease sale is being held without any real consultation with the local Navajo governments and how these lease sales make the Tri-Chapter Communities a sacrifice area for the continued prosperity of the State of New Mexico and the United States.  Time and time again, local leaders have demanded some “meaningful consultation,” but this lease sale shows that the energy colonization by the United States only continues”.

– Mario Atencio, Diné CARE Board Member and Torreon/Star Lake community member,

“Our only source of water lies beneath our earth and our health is bound to the health of our environment. It is time for the BLM to listen to the will of the People and oppose any new lease sales, establish protection of the greater Chaco landscape, and preserve what pristine lands remain for future generations. Fracking is violence and we must end this rampant assault as caregivers of our only home”.

– Kathy Sanchez and Beata Tsosie, Tewa Women United, Environmental Health and Justice Program, and, (505) 747-3259

“With the BLM allowing the land lease sale to commence today, they are ignoring requests, by over 100 organizations, over ten thousand public comments, dozens of Tribes, Navajo Chapters and the All Pueblo Council of Governors, for a moratorium on further oil and gas exploration and development until an adequate Resource Management Plan assessment can be completed.  In this statewide land lease sale, the BLM is showing no concern for the health, safety and welfare of the affected citizens throughout New Mexico, particularly the next seven generations. In addition, no meaningful Tribal consultations have been conducted, where Federal agencies, in accordance to Presidential Executive Order 13175 and the State of New Mexico Tribal Collaboration Act, must consult with Indian Tribes and respect Tribal sovereignty as they develop policy on issues that impact Indian communities, whose concerns be addressed with free, prior and informed consent”.

– Terry A. Sloan, Director, Southwest Native Cultures,, (505) 858-0050

“By going forward with this lease sale, the Trump Administration is sending a message that profits from oil and gas extraction are more important than public health and safety, clean air and water, tribal sovereign rights, environmental justice, and protecting our states’ rich cultural resources. We’re already experiencing falling oil and gas prices because of a national glut, and the Permian Basin is producing more oil and gas than it can feasible transport out. There is no sound reason for moving forward with this controversial lease sale that the public opposes, other than for industry greed and maximizing profits.”

– Miya King-Flaherty, Our Wild New Mexico Organizer, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter,


“It’s unacceptable that BLM is moving forward with this lease sale without having completed a robust assessment of the impacts of fracking for the environment, climate, and cultural resources in the Greater Chaco region. It’s clear that meaningful tribal consultation has not occurred just like last time when Secretary Zinke deferred the March 2018 lease sale, and that opportunities for public input have been curtailed under the current Administration. Decisions to drill for oil and gas in this landscape need more analysis and consultation, not less.”

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


“We’ve held the Bureau of Land Management accountable over failed decision-making and for wrongfully sacrificing public health and sacred places for oil and gas industry profits. WELC will always defend our communities and the environment against exploitation by fossil fuel interests.”

– Kyle Tisdel, Attorney, Climate & Energy Program Director, Western Environmental Law Center,


“We are heading towards a climate catastrophe & this administration has its foot on the accelerator. Are we really going to just sit back and allow this to happen? None of us are powerless.”

– Mark LeClaire, We Are One River,


“From Chaco to Carlsbad, our communities, our land and our water supply are being ravaged by fracking, equating to profits over people and profits over the planet.   The environmental injustices that these communities are suffering at the hands of the federal government and the oil & gas industry are appalling and unforgivable.  Severe drought conditions in NM are ever present and we, New Mexicans cannot allow for the possibility of one drop of our precious water supply to be poisoned by fracking or to be used in the extraction of fossil fuels. The IPCC report and the Fourth National Climate Assessment are extremely clear.  We have 12 years to drastically cut our carbon emissions but by acting now we can still avoid the most serious and dangerous impacts.  Climate change is not a partisan issue, it is a human issue.  We must act now and keep every drop of oil and gas in the ground or we will suffer the consequences”.

– Delese Dellios, Steering Committee, 350 New Mexico,


“The BLM is obviously following the mandate of the administration to remove any obstacles to the leasing of public lands for oil and gas exploration. The agency has become a pawn of big business with no consideration for the short or long term effects of the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels. We stand with our indigenous neighbors in outrage that BLM has ignored the wishes of the people and continued to lease public lands at an alarming rate.  These are irrevocable actions which cause damage to public health, the environment and to the legacy we wish to leave our children. Public land is for all people not just the wealthy 1%. We call for an immediate cease to all lease sales and a just transition to renewables.”

– Eleanor Bravo, Southwest Director Food & Water Watch/Food & Water Action,


“As co-founders for both Our Revolution New Mexico and Frack Free Four Corners, we emphatically protest the sales of the identified land parcels through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Despite the receipt of over 10,000 voices of opposition to these land sales, the BLM is forging ahead as a business facilitator for the ‘extractive industries’ with little recognition of indigenous and tribal community advice or consent.  Equally bad, we are a water poor state and the extractive industries seem determined to destroy our precious water sources along with the Trump administration. They further propose to use our state as ground zero for the reintroduction and re-use of their waste water into agricultural uses and other means.  These plans leave the vulnerable, poor and unconnected at risk for everything bad. We believe that these sales are dangerous to the health of New Mexico, but we also believe that this is Environmental Destruction & Racism.”.

– Margarita Mercure Hibbs & Jenni Siri, Co-Founders Our Revolution New Mexico and Frack Free Four Corners and

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