Dear Friend of the National Parks,

As we begin a new year, we have so many park protection victories to celebrate from 2021 and so much promise for what we can accomplish in 2022.

Chuck Sams has been confirmed and sworn in as the first Native American director of the National Park Service -- and the first director in nearly five years -- bringing fresh energy, perspective and insight to our parks. We continue working with allies to ensure that the newly restored Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments integrate Tribal voices and values in management decisions and are well-protected for the public. Bipartisan proposals for new national park sites and expansion of existing sites are moving smoothly through Congress. And so much more. None of this would happen without your support. Thank you!

New Protections for Sacred Chaco Canyon Landscape 
In November, the Biden administration took a momentous step toward protecting the extended landscape around Chaco Culture National Historical Park, proposing a 20-year moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands within a 10-mile buffer zone surrounding the park. This follows a years-long effort by Pueblo Nations and other Tribal communities, NPCA and other conservation groups and strong support from the New Mexico congressional delegation. This decision will take the pressure off as we continue seeking permanent solutions to protect the cultural sites and the communities and Tribes who live and practice traditional activities across this landscape. Please submit your comments online by April 6, 2022 or mail to: Bureau of Land Management, Farmington Field Office, Attn: Sarah Scott, 6251 College Blvd., Suite A, Farmington, NM 87402. In addition, BLM will host two in-person public meetings on February 23 in Farmington and a virtual meeting on February 24. Click here for full details.

Proposed Transmission Line Near Sand Creek Massacre Site
We are closely monitoring a transmission line proposal which threatens the cultural landscape and viewshed of Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. This park site preserves the location and story of the brutal massacre of 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people, mostly women and children, by U.S. soldiers in November 1864 along Sand Creek in southeast Colorado. Xcel Energy's proposed routes for the transmission lines could come as close as three miles from the park boundary with structures reaching 190 feet into the sky. This proposal flies in the face of the site's mission and would mar this historically important landscape. We will keep you informed with any opportunities for the public to participate in the process. To learn more, check out "Remembering the Sand Creek Massacre," a documentary from Ken Burns confronting that tragic day and its aftermath.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to Help Build Back and Strengthen National Parks and Communities
A historic piece of legislation that NPCA has been working on for many years, President Biden recently signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $1.7 billion over five years to the National Park Service. The bill also includes over $41 billion for other public and Tribal lands, waterways and wildlife. These critical investments will benefit the parks and public lands we love, help reduce carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and provide significant economic benefits to local communities. We are grateful for the bipartisan support that made this possible!

Proposed Arizona Park Expansions and Changes Move Forward
Three bills to benefit parks in Arizona are progressing smoothly through Congress. A modest expansion to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument will protect important archaeological sites, increasing opportunities to appreciate the full story of how people lived there. At Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, a boundary adjustment will correct a historic mistake and bring the visitor center within the monument boundaries, streamlining management and improving visitor services. Finally, re-designating Chiricahua National Monument as a national park will increase the recognition of this site that protects biological diversity, unique geologic features and a rich history of human occupation.

Department of Interior Releases Oil and Gas Report
At President Biden's request, the Department of the Interior has released a review of the nation's oil and gas leasing system, which identified significant shortcomings and proposed reforms, including a much-needed increase to the royalty rates charged for oil and gas drilled from U.S. public lands – which has not been updated since the 1920s. For years, the existing system has benefitted oil and gas corporations, while overlooking dangerous impacts to public lands, public health and climate from unbridled energy development. As well as protecting parks and other lands we care about through these reforms, it's just common sense that companies should be held accountable for restoration and fairly compensate the public for the commercial use of precious oil and gas resources. Now it's now up to Congress and the Department of Interior to implement the proposed reforms, and we will advocate to make sure they do.

Happy New Year!




Ernie Atencio 
Regional Director, Southwest 

P.S. Check out a recent episode of NPCA's "The Secret Lives of Parks" podcast to hear more about restoration of Bears Ears National Monument and how it could serve as a model for Tribal collaboration in our parks.

Photos, from top: Night sky at Chiricahua National Monument © Jack Suman | NPS; Pueblo Nonito, Chaco Canyon National Historical Park © NPS; A short rainbow on the horizon at Sand Creek © NPS; Devil's Den on the Natural Entrance Trail to Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Peter Jones | NPS; Casa Grande Ruins National Monument © NPS; Oil pump near Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park © Steve Keller | Dreamstime.com