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Interior Dept official visits Chaves County

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A deputy director of the U.S. Department of the Interior is visiting the area for a few days to tour Chaves County.

Tim Williams, deputy director of the Office of External Affairs, said he was not authorized to talk with news media, but he was introduced at the Wednesday meeting of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners meeting by Chair Robert Corn.

“He is one of the few guys that comes out of Washington and comes out and looks at the landscape and tries to understand whenever we are visiting with him back in Washington what we are talking about,” Corn said. “He was one of the folks who gave us a little visit at the White House, Commissioner (Will) Cavin and I, a couple of weeks ago, and we got to meet with him and asked him to come out and he took us up on our invitation.”

After the meeting, Corn explained that Williams, some county staff and a commissioner or two will take private tours of some of the county together, including public lands that have been proposed to be designated as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) and Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWCs) by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which is part of the Interior Department.

The visit comes at a time when the county is one of several suing the Interior Department and the BLM over how it engages in land and resource planning. One of the major allegations of the lawsuit is that the agencies are not abiding by federal regulations that require them to coordinate with counties in the planning process, not just inform them of what is occurring and seek their input.

Some county commissioners also have voiced concerns with the BLM’s revision of the Carlsbad Resource Management Plan, which covers portions of Chaves County. The recently released draft plan, which is now open for public comment, has recommended that some BLM parcels in the county be designated as ACECs and LWCs, which would limit their availability for livestock grazing, public access or business activities.