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US delays oil-and-gas lease sale near sacred tribal land

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Staff and Wire Report

U.S. land managers decided Friday to defer the lease sale on nine parcels in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. The sale was set for March 28.

Officials with the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico said they needed more information before offering the land for lease for oil and gas production.

“They will not be part of the March 28 sale but that’s not to say they won’t be part of another sale once the information is collected,” said Cathy Garber, spokeswoman for BLM New Mexico. “They haven’t collected enough information.”

BLM holds lease sales every month. The next sale is set for June, Garber said. The federal agency plans to continue to gather information about the parcels to inform themselves about leasing in the area, according to BLM New Mexico State Director Tim Spisak.

The decision Friday by the federal Bureau of Land Management comes after tribal leaders and others criticized the agency for pushing ahead with drilling permit reviews and preparations for energy leases near the site.

Numerous tribes in the region say the now-remote park recognized as a United Nations world heritage site had been a ceremonial and economic hub for their ancestors. They expressed concern about federal officials' plans to push forward with a lease sale despite the recent government shutdown.

The March 28 lease sale will include 37 parcels in New Mexico and nine parcels in Oklahoma. The parcels in New Mexico include 11 in Sandoval County, 11 in San Juan County, seven in McKinley County, one in Rio Arriba County, four in Lea County and three in Eddy County.