Ag Department floats a far-ranging proposal

By Cindy Yurth
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Jan. 23, 2014

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It's an open secret that the Navajo Nation's rangelands are a mess.

Encroaching development, population pressure, climate change and lax enforcement of animal limits have combined to create wastelands where elders remember knee-high grass in the 1950s.

In 1950, according to assessments done by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, it took an average of 22 acres to support one sheep for a year on the Navajo Nation; today it's 60, and as high as 100 in some areas. Navajo geologist Hiza Redsteer's recent eye-opening study of sand dune advancement in Western Agency was obsolete before it was published; the dunes had already moved several feet from where she had measured them.

“Let's just tell it as it is," reads the Navajo Nation Agriculture Department's PowerPoint presentation on the proposed Navajo Rangeland Improvement Act of 2014, which it hopes to introduce in the next legislative session. “The current system is just not getting the job done."

Still, admits Leo Watchman, director of the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture, any change to the status quo is “a tough sell."

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