Valles Caldera National Preserve
|Valles Caldera National Preserve|
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
|Location||Sandoval and Rio Arriba counties, New Mexico, United States|
|Nearest city||Los Alamos, NM|
|Area||89,216 acres (36,104 ha)|
|Established||July 25, 2000|
|Governing body||Valles Caldera Trust|
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. 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.
The Valles Caldera Preservation Act of 2000 signed by President Clinton on July 25, 2000, created the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP). The legislation provided for the federal purchase of the land, previously the privately held Baca ranch. The surface estate of 95,000 acres (380 km2) and seven-eighths of the geothermal mineral estate were purchased by the federal government for $101 million. Funds for the purchase were obtained through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) from federal government royalties received from offshore petroleum and natural gas drilling. Some areas of the Baca Ranch are of cultural significance to Native Americans. Accordingly, 5,000 acres (20 km2) of the purchase were obtained by the Santa Clara Pueblo, which borders the property to the northeast. These include the headwaters of Santa Clara Creek, considered sacred by the Pueblo. On the southwest corner of the land 300 acres (1.2 km2) were to be ceded to Bandelier National Monument.
The Baca Ranch had possessed a mixed range of tree species and significant biodiversity. At the time of the purchase, the ranch was 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 preserve is encircled by federal lands, including the Santa Fe National Forest, the Jemez National Recreation Area and the Bandelier National Monument.
The Preservation Act of 2000 also created the Valles Caldera Trust, an experimental management organization consisting of nine board members including seven appointed by the President of the United States. The Trust combines private-sector practices with federal land management protocol. Under the terms of the Preservation Act, the preserve was to 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 introduced Senate bills 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 was officially supported by the VCNP trustees and a majority of New Mexico's Congressional delegation.
- "Valles Caldera National Preserve". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- (2007-10-10). "Table 6 - NFS Acreage by State, Congressional District and County". United States Forest Service. Retrieved on 2013-04-03.
- "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.
- "Public Law 106–248 - 106th Congress". Valles Caldera National Preserve. Retrieved on 2013-04-04.
- Environmental News Network Staff (2000-07-17). "New Mexico's Baca Ranch soon to be public land". CNN.
- 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
- "About VCNP". Valles Caldera National Preserve Official Website. Retrieved on 2013-04-03.