Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 1, 2019

House Vote to Protect Greater Chaco Landscape is Major Step Forward

Halliburton destroying Greater Chaco region at Lybrook, New Mexico, in Jan. 2018. Photo by Daniel Tso.

House Vote to Protect Greater Chaco Landscape is Major Step Forward

Censored News
November 1, 2019

SANTA FE, NM - The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act (H.R. 2181), a move hailed by the Greater Chaco Coalition.

This bill would withdraw federal minerals from new oil and gas leasing within a 10-mile buffer surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. It also recognizes that the Greater Chaco Landscape extends well beyond this ten-mile buffer, and affirms the need for health studies on the impacts of fracking in the region.

H.R. 2181 has the support of the All Pueblo Council of Governors, the Navajo Nation, the entire New Mexico congressional delegation, and a broad base of communities throughout the state. The bill will now head to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

This vote represents a major step forward in defending this unique region. There is widespread support for protecting cultural resources and public health across the Greater Chaco Landscape, but the Bureau of Land Management has continued to approve industrialized fracking there for years. Nearly all of public lands in the region are leased for oil and gas development (over 91%), and fracking is harming communities and threatening cultural heritage across the Greater Chaco Landscape. The Greater Chaco Coalition will continue to advocate for landscape-level protections for public health and the environment.

“The news of the passage of “H.R. 2181: CHACO CULTURE HERITAGE AREA PROTECTION ACT” not only leaves me hopeful, but also signals much needed support to hopefully give the affected Eastern Navajo Agency communities a voice in the protection of their sacred lands and culture. U.S. Representatives Deb Haaland, Ben Ray Lujañ, Xochtil Torres-Small and Raul Grijalva showcased inspiring leadership in advocating for HR 2181. I applaud the work of our tireless local Navajo community leaders; the Navajo Nation President, Johnathan Nez; fellow colleague Delegate Rickie Nez of the Navajo Nation’s Resource Development Committee; the All-Pueblo Council of Governors; and the 100+ organizations of the Greater Chaco Coalition. I also applaud the 17 Republican representatives that voted for the passage of HR 2181. This bi-partisan support speaks volumes of how protecting sacred lands is not a partisan issue.”

Daniel E. Tso, Navajo Nation Council Delegate, (928) 318-0039

“It is unbelievable that the bill passed. The fight is worth it and we continue to protect our homeland. There are so many people to thank, especially our New Mexico Congressional Delegations. Thank you for coming out to the site, and you all came pushing. This is a good day.”

Samuel Sage, Community Services Coordinator, Counselor Chapter (Navajo Nation)

“The passing of HR218 brings up a quote from a great wise elder, Faith Spotted Eagle, who shares “We can be the makers of history and not the victims of history”. Let’s continue to defend and honor the full permanent protection of Greater Chaco landscape for our community health on the front lines and to pass on the richness of our cultural resources for future generations.”

Wendy Attcity, New Mexico Energy Organizer with Diné CARE,

“History has been made. The U.S. House of Representatives vote of 245-174 to pass the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act 2019 shows that there is finally an educated and understood concern as to why we need to protect our Sacred Chaco Canyon. I applaud Congressman Ben Ray Lujan for his tireless, unrelenting work and leadership. I also applaud all members of the Greater Chaco Coalition and other stakeholders on a job well done educating our U.S. Lawmakers to protect Chaco Canyon. The dream of a beautiful, healthy, Loved, and taken care of Chaco Canyon is one step closer. Now on to the Senate.”

Terry Sloan, Director – Southwest Native Cultures,

“This vote marks a significant step in the fight to defend the Greater Chaco Landscape from industrialized fracking. Moving forward, we must ensure that comprehensive and lasting protections are put in place across this entire living landscape to protect the public health and cultural resources of communities in northwest New Mexico.”

Mike Eisenfeld, climate and energy program manager for San Juan Citizens Alliance,

“This legislation is an exciting step towards protecting these sacred public lands from invasive activities of polluters who’d ravage them for their own private profit. The Greater Chaco Cultural Landscape is a place to be treasured and preserved for all time—and the Senate should show this kind of leadership in protecting these vulnerable and irreplaceable resources that the U.S. holds in trust for all of us, and for future generations.”

Alison Kelly, senior attorney for the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, (646) 823-4518,

"We welcome this vote to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape and the treasures it contains. We hope it is but one step towards protecting the health and climate of people across the region from the impacts of oil and gas production."

Bruce Baizel, Energy Program Director for Earthworks,

"We are thrilled that the air, water and land in this area of the Chaco Canyon will be protected from the dirty drilling impacts so prevalent elsewhere. This legislation affirms the value of America's natural heritage and the health of our communities."

John Ammondson, State Director for Environment New Mexico, (781) 859-9022,

This is a great step forward as industrialized fracking continues to besiege the Greater Chaco landscape within and outside the proposed Chaco Protection Zone. We’re grateful for our political leaders who are willing to say ‘enough’ to the oil and gas industry’s relentless attacks on our sacred landscapes, climate, clean air, and water.”

Rebecca Sobel, senior climate and energy campaigner for WildEarth Guardians,

“Public health, environmental justice, and protecting irreplaceable cultural heritage must come before oil and gas profiteering. This excellent first step finally acknowledges that the cultural resources of the Greater Chaco landscape extend well beyond the borders of the park. But with more than 91 percent of eligible public lands in the region leased for oil and gas drilling and fracking, this must represent just that: a first step toward comprehensive, permanent protections.”

Kyle Tisdel, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center,

Miya King-Flaherty - Our Wild New Mexico Organizing Representative
Sierra Club: Rio Grande Chapter
2215 Lead Ave. SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106

Cell (505) 301-0863

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