FARMINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management wants to amend its resource management plan in northwest New Mexico to better accommodate a potential oil boom in the Mancos Shale and Gallup Sandstone formations.
The bureau is hosting a series of scoping meetings in northwest New Mexico, and the first one was Wednesday night at San Juan College. The scoping period for amendments to the plan ends May 28.
"This meeting is about listening," said Gary Torres, manager of the BLM Farmington Field Office.
BLM's resource management plan was last amended in 2003. But with expectations the area will increase oil production, the office is now trying to amend the plan to be more inclusive of land south of U.S. Highway 550.
"There's an interest there that wasn't there 15 years ago," Torres said.
Recently, energy companies WPX Energy and LOGOS Resources announced plans to invest a combined $260 million for oil production and exploration in the San Juan Basin.
The BLM Farmington Field Office is responsible for about $500 million in oil and gas royalties from lands that span more than 4.2 million acres in northwestern New Mexico. Torres said an amended plan would guide future use of the land for industrial, recreational and cultural uses.
"We really need to have this discussion," he said.
The land use plan would include Chaco Culture National Park, private, federal and tribal lands.
The bureau plans to host public meetings in Aztec and Cuba through the end of the week.
At San Juan College, a series of tables were set up on Wednesday to disburse information about current land uses and how the bureau manages the land.
Larry Rodgers, director of the Eastern Navajo Land Commission, said communities on the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation want to be more educated about the changes they are already seeing. He said people are seeing trucks driving all night, new roads, fences being cut and livestock getting hit on the roads. And that, Rodgers said, makes communities cautious about future plans to manage the land.
Torres said he plans to host special meetings for chapters during the scoping period. He added that the southern portion of the area the Farmington field office manages is largely undeveloped, which is why there's a need for amendments to the current plan.
Another concern people have raised centers around Chaco Culture National Park.
"The big thing is, we would like to see Chaco and the preservation of the park considered in part with any development plans the BLM should come up with," said Tom Pittenger, spokesman for the Park Rangers for Our Parks organization out of Dolores, Colo.
He said the plan needs to include measures that protect the air quality of the area since the park has a nighttime observatory.
He noted that BLM has withdrawn some leasing options near the park, and he hopes that type of regard for the park continues.
"Balance is a word we use a lot. There has to be a balance of development and preservation of the area," Pittenger said.
New Mexico Wildlife Federation representatives hope the plan will incorporate provisions to protect wildlife in northwest New Mexico.
"We would truly like to see a master plan that takes into consideration the big game migration corridors. We have some the biggest elk and deer herds from Colorado and the Jemez Mountains," said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the federation, in a phone interview before Wednesday's meeting.
He added that if the resource management plan is created irresponsibly, it could negatively affect recreational outdoor activities. Hunting and fishing is a $600 million industry for New Mexico and supports about 8,000 jobs statewide, he noted.
"We need make sure our water sheds are protected," he said, "We're not anti-development. We just want to make sure (the plan) is done in a responsible way."
He added that groups should work together to find solutions to the plan.
"New Mexico has two great assets. They are culture and land. Let's sustain that well into the future," he said.
Torres said the process for amending a plan takes about three years, and common practice is for BLM to revise its land use plans about every 20 years.
IF YOU GO
The Bureau of Land Management's Farmington Field Office plans to host two more meetings on its amended resources management plan.
One is from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the Aztec Senior-Community Center, 101 S. Park Ave., Aztec.
The other meeting is from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Lybrook Elementary/Middle School Gymnasium, 9935 U.S. Highway 550, Cuba
The bureau will continue taking input for the amended resources management plan through May 28. People may submit their comments by mail to Mancos-Gallup RMP Amendment Comments, C/O Lindsey Eoff, Bureau of Land Management, Farmington Field Office, 6251 N. College Blvd. Suite A, Farmington, NM 87420, or by email to BLM_NM_FFO_RMP@blm.govErny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.