Tribe's forestry department began process 11 months ago

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SHIPROCK — With more than 700,000 acres of forestland across the Navajo Nation, the tribal department that oversees that territory is developing a plan to guide the land's management and use of its resources.

The tribe's forestry department started the process of developing the Navajo Forestlands Integrated Resource Management Plan 11 months ago.

On Thursday, a member of the consulting firm helping the department provided information about the plan to tribal members at the Sen. John Pinto Library at Diné College's south campus here.

Melissa Antol, community coordinator for Revolution Advisors, said the purpose of the meeting was to provide an update about the plan and to receive input from residents about three options under draft.

The Navajo Nation has 705,878 acres of forestlands covering Carrizo Mountain, Navajo Mountain, Mount Powell, Defiance Plateau and Chuska Mountain, which is known as Ch'ooshagi in the Navajo language.

Antol said the plan is not being developed to execute any projects. Rather, the document would provide guidance to the department for how resources should be managed in the future.

"Instead of just looking at the forest, it looks at all the natural, cultural and economic resources that comprise the entire forestland area," Antol said.

The process of compiling the plan also is bringing together the tribe's resource departments to establish shared goals for holistic management, she said.

During the meeting, tribal members listened to a presentation about three options under consideration for the plan.

The first option centered on land stewardship and improving the health of the forest.

The second option focused on implementing active resource management projects and increasing the enforcement of current regulations that benefit the forests.

The third option addresses the needs of the people through infrastructure, employment and community development.

Faron Nez lives near the base of Chuska Mountain in Cove, Arizona. Nez said he is concerned about illegal dumping and the lack of enforcement for wood-cutting regulations.

"We need more officers out in the field. Right now, people are doing whatever they want," Nez said.

Valinda Shirley, a resident of Rock Point, Arizona, listened to Nez, then commented about funding for monitoring activities.

"Without funding, how are you able to regulate and have compliance?" Shirley asked.

Other comments centered on concerns about feral horses, water quality, public education, protection of cultural sites and regulations for residential areas.

Thursday's meeting was the third community meeting for this portion of the plan development process. The next step is to review the feedback collected from Thursday's meeting and from previous meetings in Crownpoint and Window Rock, Arizona, Antol said.

The feedback will help the forestry department determine which option to follow, a step scheduled to occur in May.

Information and presentations from previous public meetings are available for review on the project's website at navajoirmp.wixsite.com/irmp.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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