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Welcome to oil-and-gas country!

This is a map of oil-and-gas sites near Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, New Mexico. Chaco is a special place – quiet, remote, beautiful, magical. And packed with magnificent ruins.

In 1000 AD, perhaps as many as six thousand ancestral Puebloans lived in this high, cold desert canyon, which was a large population for the era. The Chacoans built beautiful “great houses” and a remarkable network of roads. By 1300 AD, however, everything came undone and today the graceful stone ruins are empty except for a steady stream of visitors.

The lesson for us: don’t overstretch finite natural resources. They will snap and break. And you will move away.

We didn’t learn. There are 23,000 oil-and-gas wells in the San Juan Basin, many of them nasty fracking operations. They are advancing on Chaco like a conquering army. Outrageously, permits for new wells are being considered by the federal government within a few miles of the park. How much oil-and-gas do we really need? Gen and I went on a tour sponsored by the Sierra Club and hosted by a Navajo activist to see for ourselves.

Two months later – good news! The Obama Administration suspended an auction of oil-and-gas permits near Chaco indefinitely. They had not considered the feelings of Native tribes, they said.

What about the rest of us? We care too. Democracy requires perpetual vigilance. So do magical places.

Visit Chaco if you can. It’s worth the drive.

Photo © Courtney White / http://www.jcourtneywhite.com