US state of New Mexico drops fracking plan

Written by CNN Staff

In January, the US State Department unveiled its plan to auction off new oil and gas leases in the protected Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.

An environmental coalition filed a lawsuit challenging the plan soon after. Among their claims: that the government, which is likely to have been influenced by oil and gas companies, had decided that Chaco only had a “passive” presence.

Earlier this month, before the case was scheduled to go to trial, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed course and agreed to work with other states to protect the park.

“The decision to grant the lease sale, made in advance of that determination, was illegal,” Sessions said in a statement.

“They have agreed to rescind it. It is a victory for New Mexico’s and the United States’ significant interest in protecting this historic area, and will preserve its unique and irreplaceable heritage for future generations.”

Are the Hijos the only descendants of the Hijos of Chaco? Human remains were discovered in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, in 2012. Heritage Museums of the Southwest staff in Chaco came across relics, shrines and communication gear during excavations. CNN

At issue in the lawsuit was whether the US government’s lease sale violated the National Environmental Policy Act by opening the park to potential development within the national monument.

That exemption was proposed in January, shortly after Chaco was designated a monument — a step that has generally been seen as beneficial for ecotourism, as well as expanding the park’s ecological resources, according to a Forbes report.

Chaco stands on top of the Esmeralda Plateau in the National Park of Chaco. Heritage Museums of the Southwest

Following the lease cancellation, some of the plaintiffs — who include the American Friends Service Committee, Sierra Club and National Parks Conservation Association — issued a joint statement noting that, “saving Chaco Canyon has become one of the state’s most significant issues and has galvanized local communities around the state.”

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