Protect the Greater Chaco Cultural Landscape

February 15, 2019

Mr. Tim Spisak
Bureau of Land Management
New Mexico State Office
301 Dinosaur Trail
Santa Fe, NM 87508

Dear Mr. Spisak:

In response to the ongoing Resource Management Plan Amendment planning process, the undersigned collective body of professional and avocational archaeologists working in the American Southwest, strongly encourage you to establish a permanent 10-mile protection zone surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Within the protection zone, we strongly urge you to prohibit any new leasing of federal mineral interests for oil and gas development.

Importantly, the 10-mile protection zone includes a substantial portion of the Chaco World, a center of Ancestral Pueblo culture that flourished from the 9th through the 13th centuries in the San Juan Basin and beyond. Chaco culture is world renowned for its monumental architecture, including massively built multi-story great houses, great kivas, and expansive landscape features such as roads and shrines, which spread across much of the northern U.S. Southwest. Many of these large Chacoan architectural complexes are surrounded by extensive but often poorly documented residential communities that are essential for understanding the nature of community and economy in the region. Researchers also argue that the physical setting and the visual landscape around these settlements were key considerations in their placement, suggesting that landscape-scale considerations are essential to understanding and appreciating the Chacoan culture.

We do not believe that adequate mitigation measures exist that can allow surface occupancy in this area without irreparable damage to the Greater Chaco Cultural Landscape. Prohibiting any new leases is not an irrevocable decision. Drilling in the vicinity of Chaco Cultural National Historical Park, within the core of the Chacoan universe, is irrevocable and unacceptable, given the significance of this area to humanity. We strongly urge you to consider our comments.

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