HERE AT NAVAJO COUNCIL SPRING SESSION, DAY 1. THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS PRESENTED THEIR REPORT AND NOW COUNCIL DELEGATES ARE MAKING COMMENTS AND ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT THEIR REPORT.
NAVAJO AREA BIA EASTERN NAVAJO AGENCY DIRECTOR LESTER TSOSIE
Lot of drilling has been done and lot of development using that document/Resource Management Plan for also issuing permits and addressing concerns and mitigating concerns. But more drilling because of use of Fracking, which allows drilling and horizontally. Bureau of Land Management had several meetings out there and we asked how impacts being mitigated for Navajo people living out there. And so BLM plans to revise Resource Management Plan. I attended meeting at Counselor, NM, chapter where community getting educated about fracking, water use. I asked BLM how educating community people and they invited us to meetings for translation. BLM Dave Evans asking BIA how to get word out to Navajo communities. i think they understand how to engage communities. But if recommendations from Council, those will also be included. We are also working with National Parks because there are some leasing in park area. If Navajo people want document translated into Navajo, BLM and BIA has ability and staff to do that.
NAVAJO AREA BIA DIRECTOR SHARON PINTO
There has been a lot of comments and questions on proposed Rangeland Improvement Act.
Delegate Tsosie talked about BLM and another delegate mentioned federal Buy Back Land Program for tribes to purchase land, which is part of Cobell Settlement. And a part of that settlement is also scholarships under Land Buy Back Program. And the Navajo Nation is part of that Land Buy Back Program. And there was a call for nominations to the Native American College Fund for this Land Buy BAck Program’s scholarship program. And I was disappointed that there was no Navajo presence on this Land Buy Back Program’s scholarship program.
I was surprised to find a lot of Navajo engineers working for the BIA
Little Singer School model was from FEMA model and USGS said not part of their model. And USGS is who BIA usually go thru. 95 percent of planning for school finished but schools wants additional educational space which has forced BIA back to planning board. Many of you probably experience that school construction and renovation plans get changed by new school boards/staff and so have to modify original plan, which involves additional cost and space.
On the BIA’s March meeting with President Shelly, his staff, Salt River Project, BIA needed information from the Navajo Nation’s side on the Environmental Impact Statement for Navajo Generating Station which must be finished before Navajo
Generating Station lease renewal can be completed.
On the proposed Rangeland Improvement Act, it is a proposal and that is where it is at. There are lot of pros and cons in the Act. We looked at it. Comments from community very critical and important aspect. Last week, I had group of elders from Shonto, Ariz., visit me. Oldest was 92-years-old man and he was very alert and articulated history of rangeland management and the responsiblity of land management and conservation. Each group members were elders of more than 80 years and each could speak well. They talked about loss of connection with rangeland management.
It was enlightening for me and my staff. It re-instilled principles of BIA trust responsiblity with Navajo culture and future of grandkids and future grandkids and livestock. So what is our responsibility to the future? WE need to reflect on that.
We had discussion more than year ago on what is BIA going to do and how is BIA going to help with reducing livestock and reduce permit from 100 units to 20 units. We have done a lot. And the shifting of responsibility has happened. And the Collier administration’s livestock reduction still pained the 92-year-old man.
So we must make a decision based on understanding that there about 300,000 Navajo people and there are 10,000 permits out there and only 2,000 permits have animals so we are saying that it is those 2,000 that are depleting the water sources and damaging land. but there are also noxious weeds and climate change. how are we understanding climate change.
look at rangeland improvment act and look at current grazing Act and various regs. there are no other tribes that regulate land with five sets of laws. What is broken about those regs and laws compared to rangeland improvement act. just by looking at all that, i think it wud be enforcement. you have all these laws but there is no teeth behind them. How will we enforce? Who will enforce lack of permit payment? Who will enforce law that requires permit to have livestock? what happens if person has livestock and no permit? There are Navajo Nation grazing officials that try to enforce current Grazing Act even if the person violating Grazing Act is relative.
We shud agree on enforcement measures. But those enforcements have to be done. And Delegate Katherine Benally took forefront on having public meetings to get input. I went to all of them and more than hundred people at each meeting. Some were for it and some opposed. Those that supported fee understood that they were investing in their livestock and rangeland.
BIA will to help. We’ve provided scientific research/data on condition of land, vegetation, carrying capacity of land.