Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 23, 2020

It’s Time to Speak Out: Save Chaco Canyon

This post calls for action by citizens of the United States.  I acknowledge that others stand with me on the preservation of wild and natural lands, everywhere.

I’ve written more than a dozen times about a remarkable place in the American southwest: Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

Chaco Mesa MV Pueblo Bonito Brad Nixon 006-3-2 (640x442)

This wild, remote portion of the U.S. is in danger. You can do something to protect it.

Chaco Canyon Brad Nixon 2948 (640x589)

Casa Chiquita, Chaco Canyon

Chaco Culture National Historic Park serves as the most visible centerpiece of this part of the high desert in northwestern New Mexico (see map, below).

There, Native Americans built some of the most impressive communal structures in the western world, in about 1200 A.D. At the same time, London and Paris were cities of approximately the same size.

Chaco Canyon Pueblo Bonito Brad Nixon 4214 (640x399)

The cities built by the culture along Chaco Wash are the most visible evidence of human habitation that reaches back approximately 10,000 years.

Chaco Canyon Brad Nixon 2994 (640x504)

To reach the National Park, one drives 16 miles on an unpaved road through arid, high desert.

Chaco Brad Nixon 4327 (640x480)

That land is part of the Navajo Nation. More than 170,000 people live there. About 75% of them live without access to the Internet, and have no direct way to influence decisions that are being made about places that are sacred.

And, make no mistake. This also my sacred land.

Chaco sign Marcy Vincent 4215 (640x480)

It’s there, a UNESCO World Heritage site, that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management intends to issue licenses to drill for oil.

Chaco Canyon Pueblo Bonito Brad Nixon 4188 (640x429)

Don’t let them do it.

You can stand — as I have — under the desert sky, in a place untouched by development. You can hear the wind blow. You can see the hares, deer, bobcat and and mountain lions that call the place home. Or you can let it become the site of oil drilling, fracking, the sound of machinery drowning out the profound silence of the high desert.

Chaco Canyon Brad Nixon 4119 (640x420)

One of the limitations of our online culture is that I cannot show you “silence.”

There, though, is where you hear it. Listen. Breathe.

Now is the time.

In just a few days — May 28, 2020 — the Department of the Interior will close its public comments on its proposal to open that land for drilling.

Call your legislator and ask that they cancel this plan. If you don’t know your legislator’s email, a place to start is the government’s website: Click here:

Send your legislator an email. Give them a phone call. These contacts matter. Whether your legislator is in Massachusetts or Oregon, if you express your concern, they’ll pay attention. Call. Write. They pay attention to their constituents.

You can send a message directly to the Secretary of the Interior. The Natural Resources Defense Council will take active measures to oppose drilling in sacred, Native lands like Chaco Canyon. Add your voice here:

The wind blows. The high desert sky is clear, a hard blue above.

The subtle silence of the desert endures. For now.

Please act now. Let us save this place. For once and for all.

Chaco Canyon Brad Nixon 4041 (640x376)

Here is Chaco Canyon, in the high desert of New Mexico. Remote, yet a part of all of us:

Screen Shot 2020-05-22 at 12.14.54 PM

© Brad Nixon, 2020. Map copyright Google.


  1. So, my friend, I have contacted Ted Lieu and also signed the included petition. I’ve never been to Chaco Canyon but if you and Marcy love it I know it is a priceless location. Maybe someday, if it is saved from industry, I will visit. My fingers are crossed. I will let you know if I hear from Ted Lieu.
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Brad.
    Dana Graner

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Dana. We also count on Rep. Lieu here in California to be a voice of reason.
      You’ve seen your share of wild lands in California and west, and know how quickly a wild place can be turned into something else. Let us all sing out.

      Liked by 1 person

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