Comments will be accepted until November 5 regarding the draft of a long-awaited plan appraising how much land left in the massive Permian Basin in New Mexico will eventually be open for drilling.
The Carlsbad office of the Bureau of Land Management has released the document, entitled the Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.
As it now stands, nearly 75 percent of Permian Basin land on the New Mexico side has either been leased and planned for drilling or is actually being drilled.
The area in question consists of 2.1 million surface acres, and 2.9 million subsurface acres in both Eddy and Lea counties.
The BLM has suggested that up to 85,000 acres in the area should be closed to future drilling. But environmentalists are pushing for a much larger total area of just under 550,000 acres that would then be open for hiking, fishing, and hunting.
Environmentalists have also pointed out that the grasslands of the area is the home to a diversity of birds and desert riparian zones.
The question of how much land will be open to drilling and how much will be preserved, according to the High Country News, has fluctuated. The publication claims that the Carlsbad BLM field office “originally intended to protect certain areas for wildlife, scenic, or cultural values that are not included in the new version.”
The plan, once finalized, will determine both drilling and conservation policy in the New Mexico part of the Permian Basin for the next two decades.
BLM officials have been hosting a series of community meetings throughout eastern New Mexico this month designed to solicit public input.
Altogether, the Permian Basin is more than 250 miles wide and 300 miles long. According to the analysis group IHS Markit, the basin today contains at least 60 billion barrels of recoverable oil.
By Garry Boulard
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