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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation has purchased 1,250 acres of private land located in the southwest portion of the reservation.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer signed a purchase agreement on Jan. 20 for the land in Indian Wells, Arizona, according to a press release from their office.

Indian Wells is approximately 40 miles north of Holbrook, Arizona.

The Navajo Division of Transportation, which participated in negotiations, explained on Jan. 21 that the purchase was for two sections of land – composed of 640 acres and 610 acres.

Located on the 610 acres is the Brimhall Sand and Rock gravel pit, while the 640 acre parcel is undeveloped, according to the division.

The press release from the president's office states the purchase agreement was an effort between the office and the tribe's land department, transportation division, the Division of Natural Resources and the Department of Justice.

They negotiated with the land owner, Paul J. Babbitt Jr., to finalize the purchase. The price was not listed in the release and the president's office did not respond to follow-up questions submitted on Jan. 21.

The release explained that the tribe used its land acquisition fund for the purchase and that tribal law allows the Division of Natural Resources executive director to approve land purchases that cost less than $5 million.

"With this purchase, the Navajo Nation is in the driver seat to produce sand and gravel resources that can be used for road improvement projects in our communities at a lesser cost than having road materials transported into the Navajo Nation from outside companies," Nez said in the release.

He added that it costs the tribe between $2 million to $3 million to pave one mile of road because of high pricing to transport material from companies located off the reservation.

The Brimhall Sand and Rock gravel pit is operated by the BSR Corporation from Taylor, Arizona, whose owners declined further comment in an email on Jan. 21.

The company's website lists the location as part of its aggregate product and describes it as a basalt quarry.

Garret Silversmith, executive director for the Navajo Division of Transportation, said materials from the gravel pit will be used for roads, bridges and other projects. 

The president's office press release states that the former lease between Babbitt and Brimhall Sand and Rock will now become a lease between the tribe and the company to continue operations.

Babbitt said in the release that he has been visiting Indian Wells for more than 50 years and he commended the development of the area.

"Today, we're celebrating real progress. You can all take great pride for the opportunities that will be developed for the community and surrounding areas," Babbitt said.

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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