Oil, gas drilling threatens critical cultural heritage

Chaco Canyon and the greater Chaco landscape of northwest New Mexico draw people together in a unique and enduring way. These lands provide an opportunity to experience the Southwest as it once was – a vast open landscape rich in cultural history. Currently, this landscape beyond the national park’s boundaries is threatenedn.

To the Pueblo people, Chaco Canyon is the place of their ancestors, who built the magnificent great houses, roads and other structures within and around the canyon. The Navajo people also have deep ties to the Chacoan landscape, with families farming and ranching the land and gathering plants and minerals for their traditional cultural ceremonies.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and affiliated sites on nearby Navajo Nation and Bureau of Land Management lands, are designated as a World Heritage Site – one of only 22 such sites in the United States and the only such site jointly managed with BLM. While the park is considered the crown jewel of the area, the surrounding public lands have upwards of 2,000 cultural sites, created by Pueblo, Navajo and other groups.

Unfortunately, these lands, cultural sites, traditions and peoples are now very much at risk. Oil and gas drilling has moved closer and closer to Chaco Canyon.

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