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The new field manager of the BLM Farmington Field Office says he wants to streamline procedures, increase transparency and improve partnerships with the oil and gas industry

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FARMINGTON — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Farmington Field Office has hired a new field manager.

This month, Richard "Rick" Fields began his new role as field manager, overseeing the office's roughly 100 employees who administer programs related to oil and gas development, recreation, livestock grazing and coal.

"No one resource trumps another," Fields said. "We are required by law to take care of all of them. We have to balance all these things together in a time of limited resources."

The office — which has about a 20 percent job vacancy rate due largely to the agency's aging workforce, Fields said — is currently hiring for positions such as petroleum engineering technician, natural resource specialist, tribal coordinator and a spokesperson. Before Fields' arrival, the Farmington Field Office lacked a field manager for about a year after previous manager Gary Torres took another BLM position in Washington, D.C.

Fields, 53, was previously assistant field manager at the BLM's Oklahoma Field Office in Tulsa. In his new role, he said he plans to address challenges such as streamlining procedures, transparency and outreach to the agency's tribal partners and public-interest groups.

He said he also wants to improve the office's partnership with the oil and gas industry.

"Like us, they're in a time of diminished resources," Fields said.

During the downturn, Fields said the office is looking to improve its turn-around time on operations and processes, such as issuing APDs, or Application to Drill permits, filed by the oil and gas industry. He added that the office also wants "to respond to the needs of the public better."

The office's fiscal year 2016 budget, which shares funding with the Taos Field Office, is $11.6 million.

One project the BLM has undertaken is updating the office's 2003 resource management plan for the northwest portion of the state, which includes private, federal and tribal lands and Chaco Culture National Historical Park. In recent years, an oil boomlet in the Mancos Shale and Gallup Sandstone formations in the San Juan Basin has led to increased oil and gas production — and controversy — over drilling near cultural resources at parks like Chaco.

Mark Ames, BLM project manager at the Farmington Field Office, said in an email that work on the Farmington Resource Management Plan Amendment currently involves considering alternatives.

"We are currently working on the alternatives, and will need to incorporate more information, and send them for review to the New Mexico State Office," Ames said. "The alternatives are calculated to address the resource issues that have been identified. ... The resource issues that will lead the alternative development were impacts to vegetation, impacts to culturally sensitive areas, impacts to humans in the environment and roads/rights of way."

The alternatives will be ready for public review in two or three months, and the final plan will be completed by 2018, Ames said.

BLM State Director Amy Lueders said in an emailed statement that Field's hire will benefit the office.

"We're thrilled to have Rick Fields at the helm of our Farmington Field Office," Lueders said. "Rick brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his new position and I have no doubt that he will be an asset to the staff, the communities the office serves, and the public's lands in the Farmington area."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

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