Join us in protecting the public health, land, air, and water of the Rio Chama Watershed.

Thank you to all who stepped up and wrote protest letters in December 2017/January 2018. We made a huge difference!

On March 1, 2018, the BLM announced its decision to defer the spring oil and gas lease sale of 4,435.37 acres in the Greater Chaco. Twelve of these deferred parcels are within the Rio Chama Watershed boundary and are the ones we specifically protested.

This deferral reflects the unprecidented wave of opposition from Indigenous individuals and groups, local advocates, land owners as well as our own local and fierce opposition via Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens which provided close to 100 of the 459 official protests.


Please visit us on our Facebook page while we continue to develop this site.

BREAKING ADDITIONS to our last post - the recent ruling reversal regarding drilling in the Chaco Region. We are providing here - RACC Board of Directors communications between themselves as they speak to the WELC (Western Environmental Law Center). For the entire story, we encourage you to scroll down 2 posts beginning with April 24 when the news broke about the judge's ruling. Then visit RACC President William Clark's letter (post below) which leads you to this feedback from BOD member Peggy Baker, issued a few hours ago. Thank you RACC Board members for keeping us informed.

...." I think there will be an appeal, but per WELC office, no strategy has been formulated. They will be asking to see additional BLM documents in record and San Juan Citizens Alliance will be putting in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to view documents. Since they were apparently already in BLM's evidence submittal to judge, they may not yet be available. Judge does not specify docs that changed his mind. Obviously, BLM submitted an overwhelming volume of documents that the court claims the had not had time to fully review initially.

It seems pretty likely the decision was also based on pressure from oil companies exercised through the pro-industry Department of Interior.

(Kyle) said options were still on table, including appeal to 10 District Court in Denver. Judge Browning, U.S. Distict Court Judge for New Mexico appointed by G.W. Bush in 2003, made the final brief on adequacy of Chaco lawsuit agaist BLM. He reversed his initial, apparently less informed opinion, that parts of NEPA, particularly National Historic Preservation Act, had not been adequately addressed by BLM.

(Kyle) said there were footnote citations to final decision brief, identifying BLM documents that were given further consideration.

WELC has not yet had time and resources to delve into many boxes of "evidence" (my quotes) submitted to court by BLM and to track down footnotes/citations in 132 page decision brief.

Apparently Judge Browning, in NM, has a record of decisions favoring oil and gas, as well as other corporate interests in general, based on decisions where he has declared that economic benefits outweigh local environmental concerns.

So, this is where things stand currently. WELC and other lawyers in case, are still evaluating appeal options and researching basis of Judge Browning's ruling."
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3 days ago

Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens

The days of taking action and speaking up are firmly upon us - to make sure our representatives truly represent us. Here is a live rally at the NY State Capitol requesting Gov. Cuomo show climate leadership.
The demands? :
• Halt all fracking infrastructure projects
• Move swiftly and justly to 100% renewable energy
• Make corporate polluters pay #CuomoWalkTheTalk

The People For Bernie Sanders
The largest climate rally New York State Capitol has ever seen. Thousands of New Yorkers are in Albany calling on Governor Cuomo to show real climate leadership.
Their demands:
• Halt all fracking infrastructure projects
• Move swiftly and justly to 100% renewable energy
• Make corporate polluters pay #CuomoWalkTheTalk
... See MoreSee Less

The People For Bernie Sanders

Sustainable Good News Sunday - Earth Day 2018! First up, NRDC gives us 5 ways we can impact the earth in a positive way, today and every day. Next, we focus on Sustainable Energy Groups you can explore online to broaden your sustainable viewpoint. The groups include – Mothers for Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Energy for All and last, Solar Energy International which has an online campus where classes can be taken to learn all about solar PV System installations and more. Enjoy – and Happy Earth Day! (see links below in comments Section) ... See MoreSee Less

Sustainable Good News Sunday - Earth Day 2018! First up, NRDC gives us 5 ways we can impact the earth in a positive way, today and every day. Next, we focus on Sustainable Energy Groups you can explore online to broaden your sustainable viewpoint. The groups include – Mothers for Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Energy for All and last, Solar Energy International which has an online campus where classes can be taken to learn all about solar PV System installations and more. Enjoy – and Happy Earth Day!  (see links below in comments Section)
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new BLM oil and gas lease sale is coming our way. Parcels on offer in the March 8th, 2018 lease sale are east of Hwy 112 and near the towns of Laves, Regina and Gallina, and are well within our watershed boundaries. Look on the map for the beautiful waterways of the Chama River and Abiquiu Lake and you will see red flags within very few miles.

Lease sales now happen online only so there will be no opportunity to protest in person as we have done in the past. The public comment period to the BLM is very short, beginning December 6th and ending January 4th of this year.

Click the map above to explore an interactive map that shows the new parcels that will be part of the lease sale. Notice the red flags (leases) that are well within our watershed boundary, including the beautiful waterways of the Chama River and Abiquiu Lake.


Unlike in the past, this time we are only allowed to send our comments by fax or by snail mail or hand delivery (no email).

As locals who understands the importance of the Rio Chama Watershed, this will be an opportunity to make sure that the current administration understands that we will not accept the commodification of this vital watershed in Northern New Mexico.


Write a Letter to the BLM! We will guide you through every step and as you will see below, it's easy! Don't let the holidays stop you from making your voice heard! What better gift to the watershed you live in than to take this opportunity to act. By giving the watershed a voice, you are giving it your protection!

Fellow Rio Chama Watershed Protectors! Here are instructions and talking points to help facilitate your comments to the BLM regarding the 12 new oil and gas leases that will appear on BLM's online only Spring Lease Sale. The parcels are within the our watershed. Let's get to work!

The protest period runs from DECEMBER 6, 2017 UNTIL JANUARY 4TH, 2018. The BLM will accept protest letters received NO LATER THAN 4:30 PM ON JANUARY 4TH, 2018.


By fax: 1-505-954-2010

By mail:
BLM State Office
Attn: State Director
301 Dinosaur Trial
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508


You may 1) mail your letters "Return Receipt", or 2) hand deliver your letter to the BLM and request a receipt, or 3) fax your letter and request a receipt faxed back to you.

Acu-Copy on Riverside drive in Espanola will fax for $1.25 for one page, $1.00 for additional pages. The El Rito Library will fax for free.

There are three points of particular relevance that should be included when writing your comment letters. They are as follows:

1) The BLM has not completed an independent, official study of the hydrology of the proposed oil and gas lease sale area in our watershed.

2) The BLM is using information from an outdated, 2003 RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PLAN, which does not take into consideration the effects of new fracking technologies, like hydraulic fracturing.

3) Any and all hydraulic fracturing begins to defeat the creation of the frontier district brought to life in Rio Arriba county's "2009 OIL & GAS ORDINANCE". This ordinance is in place to protect Rio Arriba county citizens and environment from oil and gas development.

Don’t forget to put your mailing address below signing your name at the bottom of your letter!
The BLM is required to respond to your protest. RACC is documenting Protest Letters so we can hold the BLM authorities accountable. Please email us at and let us know that you sent a comment to the BLM. Keep your receipt from the post office or the fax machine!


Click the button below to download a sample letter you can edit with Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

If you can't use the downloadable sample letter, you can just copy and paste the text below into whatever software you use to write letters:

Dear BLM State Director,

My name is ( )

My interest in protesting is; “I am a resident”/”I am a rancher”/”I am a frequent visitor...” (SPECIFICALLY STATE IF YOU RESIDE IN THE WATERSHED AND WHY YOUR INTERACTION WITH THE RIO CHAMA WATERSHED IS SO IMPORTANT TO YOU.)

“I am writing to protest the inclusion of parcel numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 and 12 that are within the Rio Chama Watershed and near the communities of Llaves, Regina and Gallina, and that are included in the MARCH 8, 2018 Oil and Gas Lease Sale, Farmington Field Office."

“I am (demanding/asking/requesting) that these parcels, east of the Continental Divide and within the Rio Chama Watershed, be dropped from the MARCH 8, 2018 Lease Sale, pending further study on groundwater flow and geology.”


LACK OF A HYDROLOGIC STUDY BY THE BLM - the Bureau of Land Management has not completed an independent and official study of the underground water flow and the surface water pathways, into the Rio Chama Watershed, in the proposed lease sale area near the Continental Divide and the communities of Llaves, Regina and Gallina.

There is a blatant failure by the BLM to delineate, or portray precisely, the Eastern San Juan Basin’s complex hydrology. This area is on the southeastern edge of the San Juan Basin and is adjacent to, or part of, a strong geological uplift area that is characterized by complex folded layers known as the Nacimiento Uplift.

The EA (Environmental Assessment) states there may be drainage from seeps, springs, sumps or floods. It also states that parcels may contain stock ponds and developed wildlife water supplies. It does not acknowledge irrigation uses of potentially contaminated water. Water from fracking or other drainage from Parcels 1-12 could come out on our side of the Continental Divide and into the Rio Chama Watershed. Certainly any spills or loss of fracking wastewater would drain towards the Chama Watershed and Rio Gallina.

There is no supporting evaluation in the EA that impacts would not be significant.

BLM’S USE OF INFORMATION FROM OUTDATED STUDIES - The BLM repeatedly cites information on the upcoming lease sale EA (Environmental Assessment), from the BLM Resource Management Plan (RMP) EA, which was written in 2003 and is now 15 years out of date.


The BLM has an internal administrative policy that allows this use of outdated documents until a new one is prepared. What are your thoughts on this? What about the option of a deferral of drilling until the 2003 Resource Management Plan is properly updated?

RIO ARRIBA COUNTY’S OIL AND GAS ORDINANCE PROTECTION – Further introduction of hydraulic fracturing (unconventional drilling, horizontal drilling, fracking), with all its contaminants, pollutants, carcinogens, and spillage to the Rio Chama Watershed, is not in the best interest of Rio Arriba County and the residents of the county.

Parcels 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,and 12 in the BLM March 8, 2018 Farmington Field Office Oil and Gas Lease Sale are east of the Continental Divide in the Rio Chama Watershed and pose a threat to the watershed. East of the Continental Divide in the Frontier District means all the water flows east into the Rio Chama and into Abiquiu Reservoir.

It is too great a risk to bring hydraulic fracturing into the Rio Chama Watershed. Over 60% of the State of New Mexico gets water from the Rio Grande Watershed and the Rio Chama is its largest tributary.

WATER – anything you’d like to say about water; quality, availability, importance of clean water, etc. Millions of gallons of water are required for each proposed well, and oil and gas companies will want to use our water. The BLM Environmental Assessment (EA) states that all water for well development and fracking will be taken from “permitted sources,” but it does not state how or where, the quantities and how waste water will be disposed.

It is too great a risk to bring hydraulic fracturing into the Rio Chama Watershed. Over 60% of the State of New Mexico gets water from the Rio Grande Watershed and the Rio Chama is its largest tributary.

CHEMICALS – many chemicals are used in fracking, some known, some not – most are toxic or can be radioactive at low levels. BLM makes the statement that the Radium found naturally in lower rock levels will be contained in rocks, even if brought to the surface. However, Radium turns in a radioactive gas called Radon, and that will be dispersed into the air.

Talk about your concerns for clean air, especially for children and older people.
Ingesting food from local farms in areas where air, water and soil can become contaminated, is a real concern.

Toxic wastewater will be produced by the millions of gallons and there is no reference in the BLM Assessment about how they will dispose of it.

SEISMIC ACTIVITY – especially around Abiquiu Reservoir where there are several known fault lines near this water source. Injection wells are often used to dispose of wastewater and these are known to cause seismic activity. There is also increasing evidence in Texas and Oklahoma that fracking is associated with significantly more earthquakes.

AIR QUALITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE – flaring is a common practice
used in fracking in which huge amounts of hydrocarbons are released
directly into the atmosphere. A 3- 12 miles radius near flaring pits has been identified as dangerous to human and animal health.

In 2014, scientists working on a NASA study discovered a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane hovering over the Four Corners region. The BLM seems to dismiss this as being of unknown origin, although recent studies, (sited by the Environmental Defense Fund), clearly indicate that oil and gas development is the largest source of emissions contributing to this massive methane “hotspot”.

SOIL RESOURCES – in this high desert climate, the soil can be fragile. Talk about your concerns for the soil in light of heavy traffic from big rigs used in fracking; erosion caused by roads and construction of drilling pads; toxic chemical spills and anything else you might have to say about the earth. The BLM states that in some areas, soils are fragile but this is of minor concern due to remoteness of parcels.

WILDLIFE – talk about the endangerment of any particular species – disruption of migratory patterns, etc. Wastewater pits, with indeterminate lining, are another means of disposing of fracking’s toxic sludge. These are open pits. What are the provisions to keep birds and animals from drinking, or landing in, the open pit storage water?

DARK SKY – talk about your feelings for an uninterrupted night sky view, especially along NM Route 112 and surrounding ranches and communities.

CULTURAL RESOURCES AND LANDSCAPES – talk about what is dear to your heart in this area – what resources and landscapes you want to remain intact? For instance, Gallina Canyon Ranch, San Pedro Wilderness, and hiking, camping and rafting in the Rio Chama River could be effected by traffic noise and pollution, and an interruption of the night sky view. How would cultural use of the Watershed change with active oil and gas leasing?

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE - According to the BLM, “environmental justice refers to the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of people of all races, cultures, and incomes, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, programs, and policies. It focuses on environmental hazards and human health to avoid disproportionately high and adverse human health of environmental effects on minority and low-income populations.”
Talk about your feelings in light of this statement and what you understand about the effects hydrofracking would potentially have on the Rio Chama Watershed environment and culture.

SOCIO ECONOMIC - According to the BLM's current Environmental Assessment (EA) on the parcels in question, “An assumption is that the No Action Alternative (no lease option) would not affect current domestic production of oil and gas.”


Also, according to the BLM:
“If the BLM were to forego leasing and potential development of the
proposed parcels, the assumption is that the public’s demand for the resource would not be expected to change. Instead, the mineral resource foregone would be replaced in the short and long-term by other sources that may include a combination of imports, using alternative energy sources (e.g. wind, solar), and other domestic production. This offset in supply would result in a no net gain for oil and gas domestic production.”
Write about what you think about that.

IN CLOSING – round out your letter with a reiteration of your demand/ request to defer parcels 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,910,11 and 12 in this Lease Sale. Use your own words. The BLM Farmington Field Office has the authority, as the sale agent, to defer leasing these parcels.


Your name / signature

Your mailing address (required!)

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Help us keep this beautiful land pristine for another 100 million years.