October 20, 2016

Udall: Interior Department to Review Management of Lands in Northwestern NM

Joint BLM-BIA review will examine land-use issues, including oil & gas leasing near Chaco Culture National Historical Park

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall welcomed an announcement that the Department of the Interior will conduct a joint review of the resource management of public and Tribal lands in Northwestern New Mexico, including the impact of potential oil and gas leasing near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The analysis will be the first-ever joint review by the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Farmington Field Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) Navajo Regional Office.

Udall has urged Interior Department officials to ensure that oil and gas leasing near this iconic site is handled with the utmost consideration for Chaco Canyon's archaeological value as the Department completes its new Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the San Juan Basin.

"I appreciate the Interior Department's commitment to address concerns about the impact that oil and gas leasing could have on Chaco's irreplaceable archeological sites and its spiritual importance to Native American culture and history," Udall said. "Chaco Canyon is an incredibly rich cultural destination that is important to the heritage of many New Mexicans, including many Tribes and all Americans who wish to learn about ancient Native American culture. It's also important to the economy and the future of the region and the state. It is significant that this review will be done cooperatively between the BLM and BIA; this is an important step that I hope will result in a balanced approach as the agency writes its resource management plan for the area."

The announcement was made by Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Connor, and it comes a year after Udall hosted Connor at Chaco for a listening session about concerns surrounding oil and gas leasing near the park. A center of Native American history and culture, Chaco includes sensitive archeological sites, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is one of the world's four Dark Sky Parks. During their visit last summer, Udall and Connor toured the Chaco Canyon area to see the sensitive archeological remains and view the area beyond the park where drilling is proposed.

Click HERE and HERE for photos and information about Udall and Connor's visit to Chaco. Click HERE for video of Udall pressing Interior Department officials to visit Chaco and listen to New Mexicans.

"It's important to note that Deputy Secretary Connor took this step after hearing from New Mexicans. The BLM and BIA plan future opportunities to hear from the public in New Mexico, including near Chaco and within the Navajo Nation, and I encourage all New Mexicans and Tribal members with strong feelings about the future of Chaco and resource development in Northwestern New Mexico to get out and make their voices heard," Udall said.

A Notice of Intent to prepare the RMP Amendment and conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be published in the Federal Register on Oct. 21, 2016, which will formally open a 60-day public scoping period ending on Dec. 20, 2016. The information gathered during this new scoping process will be added to the information already gathered as part of the BLM's prior scoping process for the EIS. Information about the locations, dates and times of the public scoping meetings is available HERE.