On May 22, Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats from New Mexico, introduced the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act. If passed, the Act will prohibit oil and gas development on federal land and minerals within a roughly ten-mile buffer zone surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
The proposal drew praise from the All Pueblo Council of Governors, the Navajo Nation, and other historical preservation and conservation groups. Yet others say that while it was a positive first step toward protecting cultural resources from the onslaught of oil and gas drilling, it simply doesn’t go far enough, particularly when it comes to looking out for the Navajo communities that are currently bearing the brunt of drilling.
The map below shows why the response hasn’t been as enthusiastic as one might expect. It also gives one an idea of how the checkerboard land patterns in the Chaco region make it particularly hard for federal land managers or anyone else to get a handle on oil and gas development. For the compelling story of the resistance to drilling Chaco, as well as deep background and history of the Checkerboard, read my feature story for High Country News.