Amid strong tribal, environmental and Congressional pushback to a planned oil and gas lease sale next week near Chaco Canyon, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has deferred action pending further study on possible cultural impacts from the sale.
“After hearing from Tribes, Senators Udall and Heinrich , historic preservation experts, and other stakeholders, I’ve decided to defer the sale,” Zinke said in a news release issued by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the lease areas. “I’ve always said there are places where it is appropriate to develop and where it’s not. This area certainly deserves more study.”
The agency has received 120 protests against the sale.
Chaco was one of the nation’s first national monuments created under President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1906 Antiquities Act, meant to stop the plundering of ancient sites.
The BLM will now “complete an ongoing analysis of more than 5,000 cultural sites in the proposed leasing area,” the agency said in deferring the planned March 8 sale.