Jeff Geissler, Associated Press
Chris Farthing of England takes a picture of the Chaco Canyon ruins while visiting Chaco Culture National Historical Park, N.M., Aug. 10, 2005.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Archaeologists from universities and organizations around the nation are calling on the U.S. Interior Department to protect the area around Chaco Culture National Historical Park from oil and gas development.

Nearly 30 archaeologists sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Tuesday to highlight their concerns. It comes a day after Interior Deputy Secretary Mike Connor and U.S. Sen. Tom Udall toured the area in northwestern New Mexico.

The archaeologists say communications and road systems that once linked the canyon to other sites as far away as southeast Utah are still being identified, but the construction of roads, pipelines and well pads are causing damage.

They're pushing for a master plan to ensure future development doesn't compromise the area, some of which is designated as a World Heritage site.