The Carlsbad Field Office is revising its Resource Management Plan as well. We are conducting an inventory of Lands with Wilderness Characteristics in that area, and we have also submitted proposals for the BLM to designate four Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), each of which will be evaluated in the draft plan, which we anticipate coming out this year. The four ACECs would protect the desert rivers south of Carlsbad (the Black, Pecos and Delaware rivers), a large grassland northwest of Carlsbad managed to protect habitat for birds of prey, a small area encompassing some heron nesting sites, and two salt playa areas that provide important bird habitat.
The BLM held four public workshops for Lands with Wilderness Characteristics in the summer of 2014, which we attended. We will be updating our membership about any public meetings that will occur with the publication of the draft and will host comment-writing workshops at that time.
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The Farmington Field Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently undergoing an amendment to its Resource Management Plan, which will focus on completing an inventory for Lands with Wilderness Characteristics, and planning for oil and gas development within the Mancos Shale play.
We are completing our own inventory of wilderness characteristics, which we will submit to the BLM for its consideration. We have also submitted scoping comments, attended all BLM public meetings and even hosted our own public meeting, which was attended by more than 100 people and 20 BLM employees, in Albuquerque last May. We are focusing our efforts in Farmington on ensuring the BLM does a comprehensive inventory for wilderness characteristics and that it considers protecting those areas. We are also committed to ensuring that BLM land within the viewshed of Chaco Culture National Historical Park is not marred by gas development. So far, the BLM has delayed making those areas available for leasing, although we will continue to watch this throughout the amendment process.
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The Las Cruces District Office is currently revising its Resource Management Plan for Otero, Sierra and Doña Ana counties. These counties hold some of the lands that New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) has been working on for many years, including the newly designated Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and Otero Mesa.
The BLM published a draft plan in 2013, but it had not completed the required inventory of Lands with Wilderness Characteristics and had not planned for future oil and gas development. The Las Cruces office agreed to prepare a supplement to the draft, in which it would complete analysis of both those topics, and to pause the plan revision process until then. BLM has also made a commitment, at our request, not to lease any new areas within Otero and Sierra counties for oil and gas operations until after the revision process is complete. This was a significant victory for Otero Mesa.
In the meantime, NM Wild has inventoried almost half a million acres of lands within those counties and found them to contain wilderness characteristics. We have submitted that data to the BLM and anticipate that the agency will consider it at the appropriate time in the revision process. We will advocate for those areas being managed for minimal or no impact in the plan.
Additionally, we look forward to working with the BLM on the upcoming process to create a management plan for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
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