Audit review should be finished in December; local office to hold workshops to help local businesses navigate application process

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FARMINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management's New Mexico state office announced it will audit special recreation permits in a routine inspection of the state office’s permitting process.

The audit will review approximately 20 permits issued between 2015 and 2017, according to an April 30 press release from the BLM state office. Periodic audits are conducted every few years. The audit includes a review of total customer payments received by special recreation permit holders for the use of public lands managed by the BLM.

BLM New Mexico Office spokesman Derrick Henry said the last audit was conducted in April 2010 and resulted in review of the record keeping in the permit process.

“(Permit audits) are one of the ways the BLM can ensure a fair, equitable and consistent business environment for permit holders,” the release states. “The audit is also intended to make sure that the American public receives fair market value from the use of its public lands when permits are required.”

Commercial operations on public lands — such as hunting and fishing guides and outfitters or guided tours — and recreation events — such as off-road vehicle or mountain bike races — require special recreation permits, the release states.

Henry said the 2010 audit found that permit holders earned between $0 and $680,000 in annual gross receipts. There are currently 277 special recreation permit holders throughout the state.

Permit application fees depend on the scale of the commercial operation, but BLM has an annual minimum fee of $110 for special recreation permits, according to information from Henry. The fee is adjusted every three years.

The audit, which will be conducted by phone or field visit, is expected to be completed by December, and a summary will be published when the audit is complete, the release states.

BLM Farmington Field Office spokesman Zach Stone said the local office issued 35 special recreation permits in 2014 and 47 permits in 2017. BLM staff expects to process more than 60 applications in 2018, and there are currently approximately 10 special recreation permits pending.

The increase in anticipated permit applications can likely be attributed to the City of Farmington’s Outside Recreation Industry Initiative, a regional effort to diversify the Four Corners economy and reduce economic dependence on the volatile oil and gas industry.

BLM FFO Manager Rick Fields said during an ORII community meeting and leadership panel on April 24 that the local office is working to make special recreation permits more accessible to businesses involved in the initiative, and Stone said the BLM Farmington Field Office is “an active participant in ORII.”

“As demand develops, the BLM will host a special recreation permit workshop to assist interested parties in obtaining permits,” Stone said in an email.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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