Obama administration cancels fracking leases outside New Mexico’s sacred Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon

Photo by Debra Atlas

For those who’ve never been there, Chaco Canyon, a National Historical Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site located in northwestern New Mexico, between Albuquerque and Farmington, is an amazing collection of ancient Native American ruins and pueblos. Archeologists continue to excavate throughout the area as they uncover even more artifacts and as yet unknown villages to add to the area’s mystique.

But Chaco, which is only accessible by a daunting, poorly maintained 21 mile washboard-type road, has been threatened by the possibility of fracking nearby. The real possibility of damage from this has spurred environmentalists and local citizens to speak up and speak out.

Seems that the federal government finally listened.

Yesterday, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced it was cancelling lease sales of over 2,000 acres near New Mexico’s historic Chaco Canyon.

Rachel Richardson, program director of Environment America’s Stop Fracking program issued the following statement:

“This announcement is an important victory for Chaco Canyon and all those who visit it for hiking, stargazing, and exploring pueblos more than a thousand years old. Fracking outside the canyon would turn this amazing place into an industrial zone.

Chaco Canyon's Chetro Ketl Great Kiva plaza.

Chaco Canyon’s Chetro Ketl Great Kiva – one of many awe inspiring sights visitors can enjoy

“We applaud Secretary Jewell’s decision to cancel the upcoming lease sale pending adequate environmental review and consultation with tribal leaders — steps we believe will show just how much Chaco Canyon stands to lose if risked to fracking. Furthermore, we urge the Obama administration to halt all new fracking on public lands, both to protect other treasured landscapes like Chaco and to help stem the climate crisis.”

Having visited Chaco Canyon just two weeks ago, it’s clear that this was a major victory for this fragile yet important area. Visitors can be assured that their visit won’t be marred by the possibility of earthquakes or pollution or continue large truck traffic anywhere nearby. The pristine wonder of Chaco is too special a place to be put at risk.

Thank you Secretary Jewell and President Obama for taking steps to protect this gem in the Land of Enchantment for future generations. And, if you haven’t visited it yet, add it to your vacation bucket list. Don’t let the road scare you away. Wonders await!

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