Protecting the Santa Fe National Forest from Fracking

Despite more than a hundred protests from citizens and organizations, The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service auctioned 20,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest for fracking. The lease sales engender a dangerous pattern of federal resource agencies manipulating a grossly outdated 2003 resource management plan (RMP) to facilitate a rush to frack New Mexico’s Mancos Shale in advance of a true analysis of the impacts of modern fracking technologies and techniques. This is the same rationale used to exploit the Greater Chaco region, which we are also challenging in court.

The RMP specifically excludes analysis of horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracking as unfeasible and uneconomical, which was the case 13 years ago, but does not reflect the realities of today’s market. As BLM writes a revised resource management plan to reflect this change, the agency has admitted the 2003 document used to authorize the leases is obsolete. But this didn’t stop the agency from using the outdated plan to authorize oil and gas activity on public lands in the Santa Fe National Forest and the Greater Chaco region.

In June 2018, we successfully challenged these leases in court, stopping expansion oil and gas drilling and fracking into previously undeveloped areas of the Santa Fe National Forest. The judge found the Bureau of Land Management failed to quantify the full life cycle of emissions from oil and gas, including their indirect and cumulative effects on people and the environment. Likewise, the BLM failed to analyze the water quantity impacts of fracking a region currently suffering extraordinary drought that has closed the forest to public use altogether. The court sent the leases back to the BLM and U.S. Forest Service, which must now perform a true analysis of fracking impacts on the Santa Fe National Forest. For now, the remote and steep west side of the Jemez Mountains north of Cuba and near the San Pedro Parks Wilderness will remain free of fracking. We’ll follow up on any future attempts to despoil this area for fossil fuel extraction.

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