EcoFlight provided an aerial tour of Chaco Culture National Historical Park and the surrounding landscape to the Partnership for Responsible Business, a nonprofit arm of the Green Chamber, a Santa Fe-based group of business leaders, and to regional journalists.
The BLM is soliciting comments from concerned parties as it prepares to amend its Resource Management Plan (RMP) with an associated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mancos-Gallup District due to renewed oil and gas development in the area. About 90% of lands in the Farmington field office are already under lease for oil and gas drilling. When the BLM completed their RMP for the area in 2003, experts presumed that oil and gas resources were exhausted. The invention and improvement of hydraulic fracturing has made it possible to continue to extract oil and gas from the Mancos layer. This increase in industrial development poses clear threats to the Chacoan cultural landscape of northwestern New Mexico.
Diverse stakeholders argue that if wells are allowed too close to Chaco, sensitive cultural resources and roadless lands will be damaged, the park’s famous night sky will be compromised, and water supplies and air quality might be affected. There is citizen pressure for the BLM to designate land near the park as an “area of critical environmental concern”, to reflect its cultural significance, wilderness characteristics, remoteness and undeveloped nature.