PRESIDENT CLINTON: PRESERVING NEW MEXICO'S IRREPLACEABLE VALLES CALDERA July 25, 2000
President Clinton today signed legislation to permanently protect the stunning Baca Ranch in northern New Mexico and designate it the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Later today, the U.S. Forest Service is expected to formally accept title to the 90,000-acre preserve, which contains the world-renowned Valles Caldera -- the collapsed crater of an ancient volcano. Federal acquisition of this natural treasure was made possible with $101 million in conservation funding secured by the President through his Lands Legacy initiative. Under an innovative arrangement, the new preserve will be managed in a way that allows for sustainable resource use while ensuring public access and full protection of the ranch's extraordinary natural assets. The legislation signed today also allows transfer of 5,000 acres of the ranch to the Santa Clara Pueblo to protect the headwaters of Santa Clara Creek, the pueblo's water supply.
An Extraordinary Natural Treasure. At the heart of the Jemez Mountain region west of Santa Fe, the new Valles Caldera National Preserve contains a stunning and unique mix of grasslands, forested mountains, and geologic features found nowhere else in the American Southwest. The land sustains one of the country's largest wild elk herds and provides habitat for a wide range of other wildlife, including 17 threatened or endangered species, and such animals as the black bear, mountain lion, goshawk, peregrine falcon and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The new preserve also encompasses most of the Valles Caldera, a massive crater more than a half-mile deep and 15 miles wide that was created by a huge volcanic eruption more than a million years ago. Secondary volcanic domes arise from the caldera floor, including Redondo Peak, which climbs to more than 11,000 feet. Hot springs occur in the west-central part of the caldera and reflect the relative nearness of molten rock to the surface. Geologists have used Valles Caldera as a model for unraveling the history of many other volcanic eruptions around the world.
A Unique Stewardship Arrangement. As a working ranch, owned by the Dunigan family, the Baca has been widely regarded as a model of private land stewardship. Under the bipartisan legislation signed today by the President, the Valles Caldera National Preserve will be managed by a nine-member Valles Caldera Trust. Trustees, appointed by the President, will include the supervisor of Sante Fe National Forest and the superintendent of Bandalier National Monument, both of which are adjacent to Baca. The seven other Trustees will include experts in such areas as wildlife conservation, sustainable resource use, and cultural and historic preservation. Under the legislation, management principles require resource protection; allow for sustainable resource use, including logging and grazing; and call for the ranch to be as financially self-sustaining as possible, consistent with other management requirements.
Preserving America's Lands Legacy. Protection of Baca Ranch has been one of the President's top conservation priorities and was made possible with funding secured through his Lands Legacy initiative. In his State of the Union address, the President called for permanent conservation funding to preserve other natural treasures and to support state and local efforts to protect urban parks, threatened farmland and other critical lands. The President today applauded bipartisan efforts in Congress that would move closer to achieving that goal. At the same time, he called on Congress to drop anti-environmental riders aimed at crippling wildlife protections, surrendering public lands to private interests, and hampering common-sense efforts to combat global warming.
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