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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                       (The Hamptons, New York)
For Immediate Release                                      July 31, 1998
           Agreement to Protect New Mexico's Scenic Baca Ranch

The President is pleased to announce agreement in principle with Senators Domenici and Bingaman to permanently protect the Baca Ranch in northern New Mexico, an extraordinary landscape and one of America's true natural treasures.

At the heart of the Jemez Mountains region west of Santa Fe, the scenic 95,000-acre ranch sustains one of the country's largest wild elk herds and contains the world-renowned Valles Caldera, the collapsed crater of an ancient volcano. As a working ranch, it is a superb model of private land stewardship. The Dunigan family, which owns the Baca, is offering it for public acquisition so it can be preserved and enjoyed for all time.

The agreement reached today with Senators Domenici and Bingaman calls for legislation to authorize federal acquisition of the ranch and commits the parties to work together to secure the necessary appropriations following an appraisal and negotiation of a purchase agreement. The ranch would be transferred to the U.S. Forest Service and managed by a trust comprised of individuals appointed by the President. It would continue to be operated as a working ranch, demonstrating sustainable conservation and land use practices, while providing new recreational opportunities to the public consistent with these practices.

The Senators also agreed to work with the President to secure release by the Congress of $20 million for the Baca from 1998 Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriations, and an additional $20 million toward the Baca purchase requested by the President for fiscal year 1999. Apart from funds for the Baca, the President again calls on the Congress to release the remaining $342 million in 1998 Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriations to protect other natural and historic sites across the country.

This agreement continues the President's efforts to protect and restore America's natural treasures, including Florida's Everglades, California's ancient redwoods, and Yellowstone National Park. Acting now to save the Baca Ranch assures future generations a chance to share in our nation's irreplaceable natural endowment.