Agreement could generate more than 1,000 jobs and provide revenue to more than 60,000 Navajo allottees.
Farmington – Today, Governor Susana Martinez announced that the State of New Mexico has reached a major breakthrough with The Bureau of Indian Affairs-Federal Indian Management Office (FIMO) and San Juan College that will expedite land-lease agreements between Navajo allottees and energy companies – an effort that has been stalled for years due to federal budget cuts.
A Navajo allottee is an individual who was allotted non-reservation land directly by the United States government in 1896. This agreement could generate more than 1,000 jobs and provide revenue to over 60,000 allottees.
“Today, the Navajo allottees are mostly second- and third-generation owners who inherited the land from their parents and grandparents. With advances in horizontal drilling, their land value has greatly increased, and they have the potential to receive large royalties by leasing their resource-rich land to energy companies,” Governor Martinez said. “This is a major breakthrough that will create jobs and improve the lives and well-being of the landowners.”
Nearly 300 Navajo alottees have already signed leases with oil companies to develop their land for energy production, but the federal government has been unable to process their requests due to budget cuts. Under the agreement, the state and San Juan College will offer services to help allottees lease mineral rights.
The new agreement would lift the load off the federal government and move these agreements forward. It’s estimated that a single 160-acre parcel has the potential to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the owner.
“Under Governor Martinez’s innovative leadership in a new state and federal energy relationship, we have developed a collaborative and efficient way to help Navajo land owners receive compensation for mineral estate rights in the Gallup/Mancos shale,” New Mexico Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Secretary David Martin said. “By bringing in San Juan College to facilitate lease agreements, the potential exists to open up unleased parcels that could generate over 1,000 jobs and provide revenue for over 60,000 allottees. This type of agreement could be a model for other states seeking to develop allotted land.”
Since 2011, the land of Navajo allottees in Northwest New Mexico has increased in value because of horizontal drilling technology. However, due to significant budget cuts, the Federal Indian Minerals Office cannot facilitate development of this land through negotiated leases or lease sales. The agreement will allow San Juan College School of Energy to deliver relief both to the allottees and FIMO by providing technical work assistance associated with oil and gas activities.
“San Juan College’s School of Energy and the School of Business possess the technical capacity to assist in managing and developing Navajo Allotted minerals and due benefits,” said Dr. Toni Pendergrass, President of San Juan College. “We stand ready to begin the job of processing the backlog of nearly 300 allottees who already have signed and negotiated leases with the petroleum industry. This collaborative effort will greatly enhance our ties to energy development in New Mexico, but also allow Navajo landowners to greatly benefit from lucrative lease agreements.”
FIMO Director Christopher Carusona thanked the State of New Mexico for developing an agreement that will assist the federal government. It is estimated that there are total of 60,000 Navajo allottees in the country; 30,000 of them currently live in the state.
“Governor Martinez has shown incredible leadership in addressing a pressing need to process an increasing number of lease agreement due to the expanding oil industry in New Mexico,” Carusona said. “With 30,000-plus allottees in New Mexico of Navajo origin owning 900,000-plus acres of land, these services will quickly improve the quality of life for the Navajo allottees who seek lease agreements.”
Money from lease sales on allottee land will greatly benefit the lives and well-being of the land owners. “We strongly support this historic agreement,” said New Mexico Department of Indian Affairs Secretary Arthur Allison. “Under the leadership of Governor Martinez, this agreement will significantly benefit the individual Navajo allottee landowners, many living in impoverished areas.”