New coalition calls for balance to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape

For Immediate Release December 2, 2015:

The Future of Chaco Canyon: A New Mexican Treasure
New coalition calls for balance to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape

Today, four organizations – Archaeology Southwest, the National Parks Conservation Association, Park Rangers for Our Lands and Partnership for Responsible Business – are launching a campaign to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape and to bring greater awareness to ongoing efforts to protect this New Mexico treasure. This internationally significant landscape includes Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as well as thousands of invaluable and fragile cultural resources on surrounding lands. These resources provide a glimpse into the vibrant culture that inhabited the region centuries ago, and whose descendants live on today in nearby pueblos. 

"Chaco Canyon embodies the soul of New Mexico and a key part of American history in the southwest."  said Paul Reed, preservation archaeologist with Archaeology Southwest, "Chaco Canyon’s ongoing significance to nearby pueblos and tribes is one of the main reasons why it was designated a World Heritage Site."

In addition to its rich cultural and natural resources, the Greater Chaco Landscape is also home to one of the country’s most productive oil and gas fields.

"As development encroaches on the Greater Chaco Landscape and its fragile cultural resources, the need to ensure that these resources are protected becomes strikingly evident," said Ellis Richard of Park Rangers for Our Lands, "What we value about Chaco Culture National Historical Park, especially its scenic vistas and night skies, are increasingly threatened by nearby oil and gas development. We need a balanced approach to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape and allow for responsible development."

Public lands are also big business and the backbone of western tourism and recreation industries. Outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in revenue nationally and $6.1 billion in New Mexico.

"In New Mexico, outdoor recreation generates billions in revenue and employs more than 68,000 people," added Alexandra Merlino with the Partnership for Responsible Business, "Our state’s business community values our public lands – and the recreation and outdoor opportunities they provide, as they help support small business owners and entrepreneurs and attract high-skilled workers to our state."

The cultural, economic and natural resources of the Greater Chaco Landscape are significant, and make it clear that the time for a balanced approach to future energy development is needed.

" The Chaco Canyon area represents a treasured and sacred part of our nation’s cultural heritage, and we need to be smart from the start as we plan for future development," said Vanessa Mazal with the National Parks Conservation Association, " Plans are taking shape across the West that will help protect our national parks from the unintended, negative impacts of future development. We urge the Bureau of Land Management to develop such a plan for the Greater Chaco Landscape."

In the coming weeks and months, members of the coalition will be working to raise awareness for how balanced solutions can and will work to protect the important resources around Chaco Canyon.  Archaeology Southwest will kick these efforts off this Saturday, Dec. 5, at the University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum, when it hosts a panel discussion with tribal leaders and archaeologists.   More information can be found at the coalition's website: protectgreaterchaco.org

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