BLM and BIA move forward with planning process to responsibly develop energy resources on the Navajo Nation
FARMINGTON, N.M. – The Bureau of Land Management Farmington Field Office, in coordination with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Regional Office, has prepared a joint Draft Resource Management Plan Amendment (RMPA) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze resource management issues for lands in San Juan, Rio Arriba, McKinley, and Sandoval counties, including lands surrounding the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
“The Draft Resource Management Plan will help guide BIA’s stewardship and development of energy resources on Indian trust lands and assists tribal governments in managing, developing and protecting important cultural sites, surface acres of trust lands, and subsurface trust mineral estates,” said BIA Deputy Director for Field Operations Jim James. “Further, the Draft RMPA/EIS will help us optimize the conservation and use of trust resources to produce revenues and jobs for families in the area.”
“Our paramount objective in developing this Draft Resource Management Plan has been to work closely with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to ensure that we minimize and avoid impacts to Navajo communities in the area, as well as the cultural and natural resources important to them. Together, the BLM and BIA are working to enhance the quality of life, facilitate economic opportunity, and protect and improve the trust assets of the Navajo Nation and individual Indian allottees,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “This includes managing the fluid and other mineral estates for the Navajo Nation and Navajo Indian allottees, while developing alternatives that protect cultural and natural resources.”
The revised and consolidated Draft RMPA/EIS provides a unified document that resource managers can use for land use management purposes. This planning effort will update management decisions such as oil and gas development, lands and realty, and vegetation. In addition, the document will facilitate BLM and BIA environmental analysis and permitting of Indian and Tribal mineral development. It encompasses approximately 4,189,460 acres of land, including roughly 675,400 acres of Navajo Trust surface, 1,316,200 acres of BLM-managed land, and 210,100 acres of individual Indian allotments across 17 Navajo Nation Chapters.
The BLM and BIA are currently considering several separate alternatives to resolve land use issues and resource management challenges through its multiple use and sustained yield mandate. The decisions made will determine how public, Navajo Tribal Trust land, and Navajo Indian allotments and resources within the planning area will be managed for the next 10 to 15 years. For these reasons, an RMPA/EIS is required at this time. The BIA does not have an existing RMP. Development of this RMPA/EIS will support the BIA’s future land management decisions.
Alternatives considered in the EIS evaluate various closures and other development restrictions designed to align with and exceed the distance needed to limit noise disturbance around Chaco. The restriction zones, which under various alternatives range from zero to 15 miles around the Park, are also designed to reduce potential impacts on the cultural resources important to Tribes in the Park as certain aspects of the visual and auditory environment can be significant for ceremonies or other activities conducted at these locations. A complete list of the alternatives is available online.
In January 2020, the Navajo Nation Council withdrew their support of a ten-mile buffer zone surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park (CCNHP). The Navajo Nation Council instead approved language supporting a five-mile Federal buffer surrounding CCNHP that would provide additional protections to sacred cultural sites, while still allowing allottees to develop their mineral estates beyond the five-mile buffer area. The BLM and the BIA request comments from the public on the EIS and its alternatives as well as comments on whether a five-mile Federal buffer around CCNHP should be considered.
The public is invited to participate in the planning process by providing comments during a 90-day public comment and review period, which begins Feb. 28, 2020 with the publication of the Notice of Availability of the Draft RMPA/EIS in the Federal Register. The comment period will end on May 28, 2020.
Copies of the Draft RMPA/EIS are available from the BLM and the BIA at the following locations:
- BLM Farmington Field Office, 6251 College Blvd, Suite A, Farmington, NM
- BIA Southwest Regional Office, 1001 Indian School Road NW, Albuquerque, NM
- BIA Navajo Regional Office, 301 West Hill, Gallup, NM
- BIA Eastern Navajo Agency Office, 222 Chaco Blvd, Crownpoint, NM
- Navajo Nation Library, Hwy. 264 Loop Road, Window Rock, AZ
- Farmington Public Library, 2101 Farmington Ave, Farmington, NM
- BLM New Mexico State Office, 301 Dinosaur Trail, Santa Fe, NM
- Pueblo Pintado Chapter House, Navajo Route 9 HCR 79, Cuba, NM 87013
- Whitehorse Lake Chapter House, Cuba, NM
- Torreon Chapter House, Cuba, NM
- Ojo Encino Chapter House, HCR 79, Ojo Encino, NM 87013
- Counselor Chapter House 6828 Highway 44, Counselor, NM 87018
- Nageezi Chapter House, 1153 US-550, Nageezi, NM 87037
- Lake Valley Chapter House, 7750 NM 371, Crownpoint, NM 87313
- Huerfano Chapter House 536 County Road 7150, Bloomfield, NM 87413
- Upper Fruitland Chapter House, Fruitland, NM
- San Juan Chapter House, Lower Waterflow, NM
- Hogback Chapter House, Shiprock, NM
- Burnham Chapter House, Newcomb, NM
- White Rock Chapter House, Crownpoint, NM
- Becenti Chapter House, Crownpoint, NM
- Whitehorse Lake Chapter House, Cuba, NM
- Torreon Chapter House, Cuba, NM
The Draft RMPA/EIS and supporting information are available online at: https://go.usa.gov/xdrjD. Comments can be submitted via the web address, or by mail to:
- BLM Farmington Field Office, Attn.: Jillian Aragon, Project Manager, 6251 College Blvd, Suite A, Farmington, NM 87402
- BIA Navajo Regional Office, Attn.: Robert Begay, Project Manager, P.O. Box 1060, Gallup, NM 87301
The BLM and BIA will host a series of public meetings to provide information and answer questions about the Draft RMPA/EIS. These meetings will be announced at least 15 days in advance through public notices, media releases, and/or mailings. For more information on the planning process, please contact Jillian Aragon, Project Manager, Farmington Field Office at 505-564-7722.-BIA- As the oldest bureau in the U.S. Department of the Interior, established in 1824, the BIA is within the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, along with the Bureau of Indian Education. The BIA provides services (directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts) to approximately 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. With just under 5,000 employees, the BIA carries out its core mission for 573 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives in the U.S. through four offices: the Office of Indian Services, which operates BIA's general assistance, disaster relief, Indian child welfare, tribal government, Indian Self-Determination, and reservation roads programs; the Office of Justice Services: operates or funds law enforcement, tribal courts, and detention facilities on Federal Indian lands; the Office of Trust Services: works directly with tribes and individual American Indians and Alaska Natives in the management of their trust lands, assets, and resources; and Office of Field Operations: oversees 12 regional offices and 83 agencies which carry out the BIA mission at the tribal level.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $111 billion in economic output across the country in fiscal year 2019—more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 498,000 jobs.