BLM and BIA extend comment period for resource planning
FARMINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington Field Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Regional Office have announced a 60-day extension to a public scoping period that is part of the agencies' resource management planning effort for northwest New Mexico.
Seven public information gathering meetings were held at various chapter houses throughout the Navajo Nation in November and December, with the latest one Friday in Window Rock, Ariz. The meetings are an effort to obtain comments from the public and tribal members about potential impacts associated with oil and gas exploration on the Navajo Nation.
The scoping period was originally set to end Dec. 20 but has been extended to Feb. 20, according to a BLM press release. An additional two scoping meetings will also be scheduled. Their dates, times and locations have yet to be announced.
"We’ve decided to extend the time for comments by 60 days in order to be proactive," Zach Stone, a spokesman for BLM's Farmington Field Office, told The Daily Times. "We haven’t received any formal request to extend the scoping period; we just wanted to give everyone extra time to get comments in."
Stone said the additional meetings will likely be held in Farmington and Shiprock and will be conducted in both Navajo and English.
Stone said the meetings have solicited useful comments, and the new format has been well received.
The BLM and BIA changed the meeting format after an incident at the first scoping meeting Nov 10 in Shiprock. During the meeting, Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie insisted the meeting include an open discussion forum, saying that is how Navajos conduct their meetings.
Richard Fields, field manager for the BLM's Farmington Field Office, refused at the time to incorporate an open forum. The meeting ended abruptly as BLM and BIA officials packed up their materials and left the chapter house.
The agencies later decided to include a public forum at subsequent meetings.
Residents who want to provide comments during the scoping period can submit them at the meetings, through the mail or via email. Stone said most of the comments his office has received so far have come in via email.
All of the comments will be incorporated into an environmental impact statement, and a notice of intent will be published in the Federal Register.
Comments can be mailed to the BLM Farmington Field Office, Attention Mark Ames, Project Manager, 6251 N. College Blvd., Suite A, Farmington, NM 87401.
They can be emailed to BLM_NM_FFO_Comments@blm.gov or sent by fax to 505-564-7608.
Comments can also be submitted to the BIA via mail to Harrilene Yazzie, BIA Regional National Environmental Policy Act coordinator, P.O. Box 1060, Gallup, NM 87301, or by calling 505-863-8287 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.