Interior Secretary Zinke cancels Chaco Canyon lease sale to frackers

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has canceled an oil and gas lease sale near Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico until the agency can further review the impact on cultural artifacts in the area. The sale was set for March 8.

Zinke said that “there have been some questions raised” so the Bureau of Land Management will hold off on the sale of about 25 parcels on 4,434 acres within Rio Arriba, Sandoval, and San Juan Counties in northwestern New Mexico.

“We’re going to defer those leases until we do some cultural consultation,” Zinke said.

The Bureau of Land Management received 120 protests opposing the March sale. Tribal officials, environmentalists and others say the lease sites in question are too close to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sites they consider culturally significant.

“We heard from the tribe and Sen. (Tom) Udall’s and (Martin) Heinrich’s offices have both voiced some concerns,” Zinke said. “My job is to make sure that the local voices are heard and the state and national interests are reflected. In this case, there is some concern about the proximity to Chaco of some of the leases and the uncertainty about cultural impacts.”

Great news… for now.

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