President Theodore Roosevelt declared Chaco Canyon to be an historical monument on March 11, 1907, and 108 years later to the day, a coalition of environmental groups leveled a lawsuit against the federal government alleging inadequate protection of the area.
John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, said on Wednesday that the timing was coincidental but appropriate, representing “another important milestone in the effort to protect Greater Chaco.”
The primary threat to Chaco Canyon in Roosevelt’s time was looting of archaeologically and culturally precious sites, said Horning. “Today the threat is oil and gas development and fracking in particular.”
Horning said the groups who brought the lawsuit hope to not only halt industry activity in the Chaco area, but to set “the foundation for a much better movement.”
Other plaintiffs in the legal action include Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, the San Juan Citizens Alliance and the Western Environmental Law Center.
Horning spoke to New Mexico Political Report about the lawsuit and impacts in the Chaco region from new industry development: