Native American activists in northern New Mexico are fighting to prevent a BLM lease plan that would open millions of acres of sacred land to fracking and exacerbate air pollution in an area already ravaged by COVID-19, the Guardian reported. The lands covered by the lease, proposed by the DOI Bureau of Land Management could result in up to 3,000 new fracking wells that would threaten to desecrate sacred lands and destroy countless artifacts around the sacred Chaco Canyon. “To a non-indigenous person, they [are] ruins. But to an indigenous Pueblo person, they’re still active sites that are used in spiritual ways,” said Julia Bernal, the environmental justice director at the Pueblo Action Alliance. While certain parts of the canyon are protected by law, there are some 250 outlying sites, many connected by ancient roads, that are, or are at risk of, being destroyed by continued oil and gas extraction.
The Navajo Nation and surrounding areas have some of the highest per-capita coronavirus infection rates in the world and residents worry new fracking operations will only increase air pollution, and potentially the COVID-19 mortality rate. Sam Sage, the administrator at the Counselor Chapter House, a Navajo local government center, said the new plan is the latest iteration of the Trump administration’s energy dominance agenda that disregards risks to Indigenous communities. “They’re gonna kill us for their own greed,” he said. (The Guardian)