BLM Defers Fracking in Greater Chaco!

The Bureau of Land Management recently announced its decision to defer the spring oil and gas lease sale of 4,435.37 acres in the Greater Chaco. Twelve of the parcels are within the Rio Chama Watershed boundary and are considered part of Greater Chaco. This deferral reflects the unprecedented wave of opposition from Indigenous individuals and groups, local advocates, land owners, and businesses as well as our own local and fierce opposition via Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens which provided close to 100 of the 459 official administrative protests. This is indeed by far the largest number EVER for an oil and gas lease sale in New Mexico.

Peggy Baker, RACC Board Member, made an official comment saying that “we applaud the BLM for finally acknowledging that more studies will be required before drilling where underground and surface water impacts are not well known and cannot be generalized across the Continental Divide.”

Efforts were bolstered by Senators Udall and Heinrich who have vocally opposed reckless oil and gas leasing in Greater Chaco.

Kyle Tisdale of the Western Environmental Law Center stated: “I encourage Sec. Zinke to take a hard look at the legal liabilities inherent in using an obsolete management plan to approve unstudied fracking in a sacred landscape. With 90% of the landscape already leased, is it worth the risk to leap before we look in this sacred landscape, still home to so many?”

Sec Zinke recently issued a memo instructing the BLM to do away with several opportunities for public involvement in future oil and gas leasing. However, the BLM is required to manage our public lands for multiple use and this new direction effectively undermines the voices of other land users.

It remains unclear how long it will take the BLM to conduct further consultation and cultural studies before they make their final decision around the Greater Chaco parcels. So stay tuned folks! We have won the immediate battle but there may well be more opportunities in the not too distant future to stand up for the Rio Chama Watershed regarding this and other oil and gas lease sales.

Thank you! to all of you who stepped up and wrote so many heartfelt and extremely articulate and science-based protest letters about the dangers of fracking in our watershed. We made a difference!