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Counselor, NM – Earthworks and Diné C.A.R.E. sent letters to President Buu Nygren and Vice President Richelle Montoya of the Navajo Nation and Speaker Crystalyne Curley of the Navajo Nation Council inviting the leaders to tour oil & gas sites near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park withdrawal boundaries and meet with Diné who are harmed by industry operations. This invitation follows vocal opposition by the President and Speaker against Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s decision to pause leasing for oil & gas extraction within a 10 mile buffer of Chaco for the next 20 years.

Haaland’s decision was praised by tribes, communities, and organizations who have fought for years to protect health, culture, land, air and water where they live and at a site of such spiritual significance for many Indigenous people of the region. Absent in President Nygren and Speaker Curley’s public remarks so far have been the acknowledgement of extensive evidence of harm caused by the fracking industry and stories of fear and concern from Navajo Nation members of continued threats from extractive operations.

“We support our eastern Diné relatives who have long raised concerns over the unchecked fossil fuel extraction in the Greater Chaco region”, said Robyn Jackson, executive director of Diné C.A.R.E., “Those Diné leaders that accept our invitation to a fracking tour in the eastern agency will gain a better understanding of the real health harms that fracking creates. We are hopeful that our Diné leaders will accept our offer for increased cooperation with Diné community advocates that have been working toward the long-term, holistic, well-being of our communities, and a future that is built on more sustainable and renewable economic development.”

The letters details the work of Kendra Pinto, a Diné who is a certified thermographer with Earthworks, who over the last two years has conducted multiple investigations and findings of harm from oil & gas pollution in the Four Corners region. It also expresses a desire for a safe and uncontaminated environment that can benefit all communities and the collective physical, cultural and spiritual health of those living in the region. 

Ride-along tours, such as the invitation offers, provide leaders and residents with an opportunity to use an optical gas imaging camera to see in real-time pollution that cannot otherwise be seen with the naked eye. It also provides community members invaluable time with their elected leaders to describe the horrors of living next to heavy, dirty industrial extraction.

“Our home and ancestral lands are now surrounded by oil and gas development with at least 5 active well sites within a mile of my home,” said Kendra Pinto, Earthworks Four Corners Indigenous Community Field Advocate and certified Thermographer. “When over 91% of the public lands in the Greater Chaco region have been leased for the benefit of a few at the consequence of outcries of harm from many, we must engage in more dialogue about what is best for the Nation of our people. It is truly concerning when the lives of those impacted are minimized. It is past time for our leadership to visit the area and experience firsthand the true nature of checkerboarded extraction. ” 

For more information

READ Letter to President Nygren, VP Montoya & Speaker Curley