Chaco Canyon may be kept free from nearby drilling for another 20 years

As the clock wound down on a one-year moratorium on drilling near New Mexico's Chaco Canyon, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a plan to spare the historical and ecological gem for another 20 years. 

As the clock wound down on a one-year moratorium on drilling near New Mexico's Chaco Canyon, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a plan to spare the historical and ecological gem for another 20 years.  

On Jan. 7, the agency proposed a ban on new oil and gas leasing within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The ban would protect the park’s 351,000 acres of land as well as its elk, bobcats, badgers and other unique desert species, all while preventing light pollution that could taint the “International Dark Sky Park.” 

“This 20-year ban on oil development is a good first step,” said Virginia Carter, Conservation America campaign associate with our national network. “Congress must pass a comprehensive bill protecting the greater Chaco landscape. There should be no oil and gas excavation — new or old — in or near this special place.”

Leading up to the decision, our national network’s supporters submitted tens of thousands of petition signatures calling for restored Chaco Canyon protections. 

Read more about the decision.

Learn more about Our Public Lands campaign. 

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Photo: During the day, visitors to Chaco Canyon can see more than 4,000 archaeological sites. At night, the remoteness and lack of light pollution allows stars to light up the "International Dark Sky Park.” Credit: Flower-Photographer