February 02, 2018

Udall Responds to BLM Limiting Reviews of Oil and Gas Leasing on Public Lands, Shutting Out Public Comments

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall responded to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) abrupt decision to weaken its oil and gas leasing review process, shutting out public comments and accelerating potential leases to oil and gas companies. The changes reversing a number of Obama administration reforms were published in an “Instruction Memorandum” this week. Udall said he was particularly concerned about how the change will affect the sensitive areas around Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which the BLM and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) are currently reviewing at Udall’s request to plan the most appropriate way to balance resource development and protect unique archaeological sites and the communities in the surrounding landscape.

“Oil and gas development has long been important to New Mexico’s economy, but New Mexico must be able to effectively and appropriately balance the use of our abundant natural resources with the protection of our cultural heritage, precious public lands and local communities’ needs. I’m particularly disturbed that the changes reduce the amount of time for public comment on proposed development. Local communities, Pueblos and Tribes should have a say when development is proposed in their back yards or near sacred or culturally sensitive land. The BLM’s decision to shut out public input and to dramatically weaken the review process is part of a pattern of dangerous behavior from the Trump administration, where the interests of industry are prioritized ahead of everyone else.

“I am particularly concerned about what this abrupt change will mean around Chaco Culture National Historical Park, an area of deep importance to the Navajo Nation and several New Mexico Pueblos who consider the sites sacred. The BLM’s announcement threatens to undermine the BLM and BIA’s unique partnership, and it completely undercuts the spirit of openness, consultation, and communication that we have carefully worked to cultivate at Chaco. It is also unacceptable that the BLM appears to be eliminating the 10-mile buffer zone surrounding Chaco Canyon that has been in place to provide a basic level of protection for the land while the planning is ongoing. I will be calling on Secretary Zinke to reaffirm his previous commitment to me to moving forward with the BLM and BIA’s cooperative approach to managing this land."