Valles Caldera National Preserve

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Valles Caldera National Preserve
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Panorama of Valles Caldera, New Mexico (7271433464).jpg
Valles Caldera
A map of the United States showing the location of Valles Caldera National Preserve
A map of the United States showing the location of Valles Caldera National Preserve
Location Sandoval and Rio Arriba counties, New Mexico, United States
Nearest city Los Alamos, NM
Coordinates 35°54′00″N 106°31′59″W / 35.9°N 106.533°W / 35.9; -106.533Coordinates: 35°54′00″N 106°31′59″W / 35.9°N 106.533°W / 35.9; -106.533[1]
Area 89,216 acres (36,104 ha)
Established July 25, 2000
Governing body Valles Caldera Trust
Designated: 1975

The Valles Caldera National Preserve is a national preserve located in northeastern Sandoval County and southern Rio Arriba County, just west of Los Alamos. It protects a large portion of the Valles Caldera, an area of significant geological, ecological and cultural interest. It has a land area of 89,216 acres (139.400 sq mi; 361.04 km2) and is administered by the Valles Caldera Trust with offices in Jemez Springs.[2] In 2014 legislation attached to the Defense Authorization Act authorized the transfer of the preserve to the National Park Service and dissolution of the Valles Caldera Trust.[3]


The Valles Caldera Preservation Act of 2000 signed by President Clinton on July 25, 2000, created the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP).[4] The legislation provided for the federal purchase of this historical ranch nestled inside a volcanic caldera, with funds coming from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) derived from royalties the US government receives from offshore petroleum and natural gas drilling.[5] The Dunigan family sold the entire surface estate of 95,000 acres (380 km2) and seven-eighths of the geothermal mineral estate to the federal government for $101 million. As some sites of the Baca Ranch are sacred and of cultural significance to the Native Americans, 5,000 acres (20 km2) of the purchase were obtained by the Santa Clara Pueblo, which borders the property to the northeast. This include the headwaters of Santa Clara Creek that is sacred to the pueblo.[5][6] On the southwest corner of the land 300 acres (1.2 km2) were to be ceded to Bandelier National Monument.

The previous private owners of Baca Ranch had preserved a pristine piece of land with a mix range of timber and significant biodiversity. At the time of purchase, the ranch is home to 40 miles (64 km) of pristine trout streams, 66,118 acres (26,757 ha) of conifer forest, 17 endangered plant and animal species and 25,000 acres (10,000 ha) of grassland grazed by 8,000 elk, New Mexico's largest herd. The ranch is encircled by federal lands, including the Santa Fe National Forest, the Jemez National Recreation Area and the Bandelier National Monument.[5]

The Preservation Act of 2000 also created the Valles Caldera Trust, its experimental management organization consisting of nine board members with seven members appointed by the President of the United States.[7] The government Trust combines private-sector practices with federal land management protocol. Under the terms of the Act, the preserve must become self-sufficient financially by 2020. The experiment has been controversial, in 2010 the Trust admitted that it would be unable to achieve financial self-sufficiency, having raised only about $850,000 of the $3 million needed to manage the property each year.

Environmentalists had lobbied for the more inclusive protections of National Park status instead of the Trust model, but then-Senator Pete Domenici insisted on the experimental approach as a condition for his support for public purchase. US Senator Jeff Bingaman has introduced two bills in the Senate that would transfer the property to the National Park Service as a Preserve (the NPS manages 18 other Preserves around the United States). The 2011 bill is officially supported by the VCNP trustees and a majority of New Mexico's Congressional delegation.


  1. ^ "Valles Caldera National Preserve". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved December 22, 2014. 
  2. ^ (2007-10-10). "Table 6 - NFS Acreage by State, Congressional District and County". United States Forest Service. Retrieved on 2013-04-03.
  3. ^ "Rules Committee Print 113-58 House Amendment to the Text of S. 1847". House of Representatives. Archived from the original on December 21, 2014. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Public Law 106–248 - 106th Congress". Valles Caldera National Preserve. Retrieved on 2013-04-04.
  5. ^ a b c Environmental News Network Staff (2000-07-17). "New Mexico's Baca Ranch soon to be public land". Retrieved on 2013-04-03.
  6. ^ Anscheutz, Kurt F. and Merlan, Thomas (2007). "More than a scenic mountain landscape: Valles Caldera National Preserve land use history". U.S. Department of Agriculture Rocky Mountain Research Center, Fort Collins, CO
  7. ^ "About VCNP". Valles Caldera National Preserve Official Website. Retrieved on 2013-04-03.