MILWAUKEE – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) voted Friday to approve a resolution calling for a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the San Juan Basin in northwest New Mexico. The San Juan Basin includes the world-renowned Chaco Canyon National Park and its associated sacred sites spread across tribal land and public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
NCAI resolution MKE-17-008 is a direct response to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s call to approve new drilling permits and hold more lease auctions on public land near Chaco Canyon National Park. On July 6, 2017, Secretary Zinke signed an order for the Interior Department to approve applications for permit to drill (APD’s) and to hold new oil and gas lease sales in several jurisdictions. More than 90% of public lands in the region are already leased for oil and gas drilling with very little sacred land remaining unfettered from drill pads, pipelines, and industrial access roads.
The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Farmington Field office is currently preparing a Resource Management Plan (RMP) amendment that will shape future development in northwest New Mexico. Tribes throughout the Four Corners area are very vocal about the need to respect the RMP amendment process. Collectively, they propose a moratorium on new drilling until the BLM plan is complete.
Friday’s NCAI resolution outlines continued support for protection of Chaco Canyon National Park, as well as sites on public land that lie outside the monument boundary. This tribal action opposes the Interior Department’s directive to issue new leases and permits in the Greater Chaco region. Recently, two permit applications threatened and encroached the 10-mile buffer zone that protects the Park, including areas along the Great North Road.
In a joint statement issued September 6, 2017 from Senator Tom Udall (NM), Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (NM CD- 3), the lawmakers called on Secretary Zinke to defer all leases on land near Chaco Canyon until the RMP amendment process concludes.
The All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG), a body of 19 Pueblo nations, also met in September and issued a similar moratorium on any new drilling or auctions in the San Juan Basin. The APCG’s actions are in response to the proposed lease auction scheduled for March 2018.