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Public can review BLM draft plan

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The public can now review and comment on a draft plan by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management more than six years in the making that has long been of concern to local officials.

The Carlsbad Resource Management Plan developed primarily by the Carlsbad regional office of the BLM concerns more than 2 million surface acres of public land in Eddy, Lea and the bootheel portion of Chaves counties and is meant to determine how the federal agency will manage access, vegetation and wildlife, minerals, grazing and other resources. This plan will replace one completed in 1988.

The public can review the draft plan at BLM offices in Santa Fe, Hobbs, Carlsbad or Roswell or on the BLM website, blm.gov. People have until Nov. 5 to submit comments online, by email or mail. The physical address is 620 E. Greene St., Carlsbad, 88220. The email is found on the website.

Chaves County is one of many Western states participating in a lawsuit against the BLM regarding its planning processes. Among the allegations is that the agency has not met federal requirements for “coordination” with counties in the development of the plan, instead treating counties the same as other interested parties.

The Chaves County Board of Commissioners has held several meetings with BLM officials regarding the Carlsbad plan during the past couple of years, at times publicly voicing frustration with not being more involved and not receiving more information about what is being intended or why certain decisions are being made.

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County Manager Stanton Riggs said that county leaders intend to hold additional meetings about the plan and to be involved in future coordination meetings with BLM managers.

“The plan that came out today (Friday) is a little different than what we have been reviewing,” Riggs noted.

A particular area of concern is with parcels being labeled as Lands with Wilderness Characteristics or Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, designations intended to preserve vegetation and wildlife but which could be used to restrict vehicle access, grazing, business, and oil and gas activities on those parcels.

“We have not seen any evidence as to why this ACEC, in Chaves County, is needed,” said Riggs. “The same is true for the LWC. The land is either ‘wilderness’ or it is not. The federal law does not mention LWC.”