The preservation and protection of Native American cultural sites would be a priority of U.S. land managers under one of the options up for consideration as they work to amend an outdated guide for management of oil and gas drilling across northwestern New Mexico.
The area is home to Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which has become the focal point in a decades-long fight over oil and gas. The campaign to curb drilling in one of the nation’s oldest basins has spanned at least three presidential administrations.
In recent years, concerns expanded beyond environmental effects to the preservation of cultural landmarks as tribes joined with environmentalists and archaeologists to warn that unchecked development could compromise significant spots outside the boundaries of the World Heritage site.
The draft made public through a federal notice includes alternatives crafted by both the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Aside from the option that emphasizes the protection of cultural landscapes, the other proposals cover a range of ecological and economic considerations.
The public will have 90 days to comment on the alternatives. It could take months before a final decision is made.