Deal includes San Juan, Cibola, McKinley, Socorro county land

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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation and the New Mexico State Land Office have finalized a land exchange for areas that include part of San Juan County.

The entities announced the transfer in separate press releases after documents were signed on Nov. 16 by Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn.

According to the state land office release, the office will convey 45,562 acres of trust land in Cibola, McKinley and San Juan counties in exchange for the tribe conveying 41,083 acres in Cibola and Socorro counties.

The release states the exchange took nearly three decades to complete.

"For more than 27 years the land office has attempted to exchange these lands, which are interspersed with Navajo Nation lands. While previous administrations' efforts came to naught, the diligence of current SLO (state land office) staff has seen this finally come to fruition," Dunn said in the release.

The acres included in the exchange are in the Eastern Agency, which is comprised of private, county, state and allotted lands.

Begaye commended the transfer because he said it will help tribal members obtain rights of way for water, electricity and gas services.

"The Nation, as a whole, will benefit from the conveyed 45,562 acres. The area where the lands are location was under multiple jurisdiction, which caused us to face obstacles in road construction and running power lines," Begaye said in the release.

The release explains further that the state will lease the land back to the tribe, and the tribe retains all mineral and water rights on the land.

The exchange comes after a similar transfer was authorized last November for approximately 37,700 acres in the Eastern Agency.

That exchange was signed by Begaye on Nov. 6, 2017, after it was approved by members of the Navajo Nation Council's Resources and Development Committee.

Documentation attached to the committee resolution shows that the acres obtained by the Navajo Nation in the exchange in San Juan County are in Huerfano, Nageezi, Lybrook, Counselor, Lake Valley and Chaco Canyon.

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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