New Mexico

Oil and Gas Drilling: Chaco Canyon

Mason Cummings, TWS

Historic cultural center for Ancestral Puebloans


Chaco Canyon is home to some of America’s most abundant and intact Native American ruins and artifacts. But this rich cultural history is being encroached on by oil and gas drilling.

We are working with local communities to protect public lands surrounding Chaco Canyon from oil and gas development, conserving important archaeological sites and preventing pollution from affecting nearby communities.

Why this place matters

Chaco Canyon was a major center of Ancestral Puebloan culture and the area includes important archaeological sites and structures that are among the most significant intact examples of pre-Columbian culture.

15,000 artifacts
Number of artifacts unearthed during digs in Pueblo Bonito, a Chaco Canyon cultural site.
Great Houses
The area contains huge stone buildings that sometimes took decades to construct.
Prime star-gazing spot
Chaco Canyon is considered one of the best places for dark night skies unmarred by light pollution.

The threat

Chaco Canyon, a rich source of Ancestral Puebloan history, is being crowded by oil and gas leases on neighboring land. Those drilling projects, with their noise, light and air pollution, also threaten some of the best stargazing spots in America.

Leasing also threatens nearby communities whose homes, schools and community centers would be affected by air and water pollution and other effects of drilling. The Bureau of Land Management is evaluating a new management plan that could better protect local communities, but is proceeding with reckless oil and gas leasing in the meantime.

What we're doing

  1. Protecting land around Chaco Canyon

    We work to support legislation that would protect public lands surrounding Chaco Canyon from oil and gas development.

  2. Raising awareness

    Through our “Too Wild to Drill” campaign and other efforts, we are working to raise awareness about the risks from energy development on sensitive lands near Chaco Canyon and making the case for increased protections.