(AP) — Federal land managers have proposed limiting the number of parcels to be leased for oil and natural gas development near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico. The Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday released its environmental assessment for the lease sale that will take place in January. The agency has called for cutting the number of available parcels to just four. The industry initially nominated 38 parcels totaling more than 19,000 acres. One of those was less than a quarter-mile from the park's boundary.
The Hopi Tribe in Arizona and others had criticized the idea of drilling near the park, which includes a series of monumental stone structures that date back centuries. The area was considered a ceremonial and economic center for the ancestors of many Native American tribes in the region. Critics were concerned development could harm archaeological and environmental resources at the World Heritage site. BLM officials said they consulted with tribes before issuing their proposal and that the proximity of the parcels to Chaco was one of the considerations.
The parcels that will be up for lease are several miles from the park and adjacent to existing oil and gas operations.