BLM and BIA to hold public input meetings
FARMINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington Field Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Regional Office will be working together to examine management of public, tribal and Indian lands in northwest New Mexico, including possible leasing areas around Chaco Canyon.
Among the goals is protecting cultural sites and vegetation and minimizing surface disruption, officials said.
The analysis will result in the publication of a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register, following a public-input/scoping period that will involve eight public meetings, according to an October 21 BLM announcement.
Officials from both agencies are encouraging members of the public and Navajo tribal members to participate in the public information-gathering meetings, where potential impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing and other environmental issues will be discussed.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with BIA, our sister agency, on this project,” said BLM District Manager Victoria Barr. “We wanted to make the effort to reach as many people in the community as possible, especially people who could be affected by (oil and gas industry) leasing,”
BLM and BIA officials have been coordinating to make sure the land areas being looked at in the study, which encompass approximately 3.2 million acres of Tribal, BLM and private land, are correctly identified.
“It’s taken some time for us to figure out the right (land) areas and identify the right chapter houses for the meetings,” said BLM Project Manager Mark Ames.
While the impact of oil and gas exploration near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park has garnered most of the attention, the collaborative group is hoping to find out how to better manage other lands in addition to Chaco, and is examining a variety of issues that can be impacted.
“One of the main issues is preserving cultural sites, but concerns are also for existing vegetation and minimizing surface disturbances,” said Ames, who added that oil and gas industry officials have provided positive feedback on the collaborative analysis efforts and have expressed interest in being a part of the public meetings.
“We have uniform interest in these meetings both from (Tribal members) as well as from oil and gas producers. This, to me, is (how to) do a scoping project correctly,” Ames said.
At the meetings there will be eight tables staffed by specialists from BIA and BLM, supplemented with hand-outs and posters as well as Navajo interpreters, so attendees can get a clear idea of the issues and can provide their comments.
“There will be 25 to 30 people helping with each meeting, and we’ll have plenty of data for participants, including a lot of visuals,” said Ames. “We want to give everyone the opportunity to comment, because it helps decision-makers make more informed decisions.”
Following the public input sessions, the BLM/BIA team will hold a formal consultation with the Navajo Nation on Dec.2 at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.
Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.
If You Go
Below is the schedule of public meetings, which will be conducted in both Navajo and English, with the exception of the Whitehorse Lake meeting, which will be conducted exclusively in Navajo.
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 10: Shiprock Chapter House, Highway. 64, Mile Post 23, Building 5548, Shiprock
3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 10: Huerfano Chapter House, 536 County Road 7150, Bloomfield
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 12: Counselor Chapter House, 6828 Highway 44, #14, Counselor.
3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 12: Nageezi Chapter House, 11554 Highway 44, Nageezi
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 14: Ojo Encino Chapter House, Mile Post 2.2, Navajo Route 474, Ojo Encino
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 15: Whitehorse Lake Chapter House, Mile Post 62.7, Navajo Route 9, Cuba
3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 17: Navajo Technical University, Lowerpoint Road, Highway 371, Crownpoint
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 2: Navajo Nation Museum, Highway 264 and Loop Road, Window Rock, Ariz.
Input to the BLM and BIA can be provided either in-person at one of the meetings, or can be mailed to BLM Farmington Field Office to the attention of Mark Ames, Project Manager, 6251 North College Blvd., Suite A., Farmington, NM, 87402; or faxed to 505-564-7608; or emailed to BLM_NM_FFO_Comments@blm.gov.
Input to the BIA can be sent to the attention of Harrilene Yazzi, BIA Regional National Environmental Policy Act Coordinator, P.O. Box 1060, Gallup, NM 87301; or call 505-863-8387; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.