Press Release

New Chaco bill will protect indigenous land from oil and gas development

Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, New Mexico

Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, NM

Mason Cummings, TWS

Legislation draws broad support; would help preserve cultural resources

Congressional legislation that would prevent any future leasing or development of minerals owned by the U.S. government on lands in a 10-mile buffer region surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park was unveiled today. The introduction came in advance of a tour of the area by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.

New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon includes many sites that are sacred and culturally important to the Pueblos and Navajo Nation. The legislation, the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act,  has support from the president of the Navajo Nation, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Southwest Native Cultures, and The Wilderness Society.

The Wilderness Society applauds the entire New Mexico congressional delegation for their support of this bill, including Senator Udall, and Congressman Lujan for their leadership on this important issue.

“More leasing and drilling could destroy the Greater Chaco area and we need better protections like these if we want ensure future generations inherit a place that has not been permanently scarred by unchecked energy development,” said Michael Casaus, New Mexico state director of The Wilderness Society. “The interests of the Pueblos and Navajo Nation are being heard by our congressional champions and these lands could be permanently safeguarded through this proposed mineral withdrawal. That is an important part of this bill.”

The legislation comes as HNRC chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz) and other members of Congress are preparing to tour the Chaco Culture National Historical Park on Sunday, April 14 (with a press availability at 2PM at the visitor center).

Oil and gas leasing is impacting valuable cultural resources and drawing closer to Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Drilling at the doorstep of the park would destroy the cultural experience that visitors enjoy and would pollute the air in and around this historic site. The lands surrounding the park contain countless unprotected Chacoan ruins and artifacts which could be lost forever to further archeological discovery if oil and gas development is allowed to proceed.

In addition, The Wilderness Society announced that it added Chaco Canyon to its list of most imperiled American public lands known as Too Wild to Drill. The list includes such iconic places as the Grand Canyon, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Bears Ears National Monument.

Chaco Canyon is located in the Four Corners region of Northern New Mexico.  It was the cultural center for Ancestral Puebloans. The canyon has some of America’s most well-preserved ancient dwellings and artifacts that document the history of this once-thriving gathering place. Visitors experience the past in and around Chaco in a setting that harkens back centuries. 


Tony Iallonardo, Director of Strategic Communications, 202-429-2699, [email protected]

The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. Visit