Group says region is significant to tribes and pueblos

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FARMINGTON — Citing the need to preserve cultural properties and sacred sites from oil and gas drilling, the National Congress of American Indians has called for a moratorium on leasing and permitting in the greater Chaco area.

The tribal organization issued its stance due to the significance of the area to tribes and pueblos, in addition to protecting the region's night skies, soundscapes and views.

The organization was established in 1944 to advocate on behalf of tribal governments and communities, according to its website.

Although tribes can become members of the organization, the Navajo Nation is not a member.

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The resolution supports the creation of a protection zone around the Chaco Cultural National Historic Park.

The call for protection is necessary because of the threat from activities associated with oil and gas drilling and from hydraulic fracking, according to the resolution.

The organization is also urging the U.S. Department of the Interior and its agencies to cooperate on the management of a protection zone and conduct government-to-government consultation with tribes and pueblos.

Zach Stone, a spokesman for BLM's Farmington Field Office, said the office had no comment about the resolution.

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The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association did not respond to a request for comment.

A press release from the Campaign to Protect Greater Chaco called the NCAI resolution a response to a July 6 order by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to streamline the process for oil and gas leasing permits on federal lands.

The Campaign to Protect Greater Chaco is a group of volunteers and activists who support the protection of the area.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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