ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Latest on lease sales in the Chaco Canyon region (all times local):
Federal land managers say they are working on an ongoing analysis of nearly 5,500 cultural sites in a portion of northwestern New Mexico that had been slated for oil and gas leasing.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced late Thursday that he directed the Bureau of Land Management to defer a scheduled lease sale that included parcels near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park so the analysis could be completed.
Zinke said he made the decision after hearing from American Indian tribal leaders, members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation, historic preservation experts and others.
He says the area deserves more study.
Agency officials received more than 450 protests against the upcoming sale.
Environmentalists welcomed Zinke’s decision, saying more safeguards are needed before further development is considered.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he’s deferring a planned oil and gas lease sale near Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico until further “cultural consultation” can be conducted.
Zinke told the Albuquerque Journal in an interview Thursday in Washington that the Bureau of Land Management will halt the sale of about 25 parcels, citing the concerns about the project’s cultural impact.
The bureau has received 120 protests opposing the sale that was set for next week.
Tribal leaders and other critics have asked for a moratorium on drilling, saying the lease sites are too close to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sites they consider culturally significant.
Zinke says the proposed leases “are well outside Chaco” and that “not everyone is happy we are deferring it.”