Trust turns down $25,000 for Valles Caldera preserve access
Preserve is legislatively mandated to be cow museum
Santa Fe, NM - A financial offer from the environmental group WildEarth Guardians to open the Valles Caldera National Preserve to people instead of cattle has been rejected.
The Santa Fe organization said Wednesday it offered $25,000 so the Valles Caldera Trust could make money while protecting the preserve's scientific, scenic, geologic, watershed and wildlife values.
But members of the trust turned down the offer.
The trust might have had no option, even if it wanted to accept the money and stop grazing on the 88,900-acre preserve west of Los Alamos, said Marty Peale, Valles Caldera Coalition coordinator.
"The way the law is written, they have to accommodate livestock if it doesn't damage the resources," Peale said. "So far as we know, the ecosystem has been improving at the level of use they've been allowing."
WildEarth Guardians said the preserve's cattle operations have lost money every year. The group proposed the preserve make money by expanding recreation, eco-tourism, education programs and restoration projects.
When Congress purchased the former Baca Ranch in 2000 and formed the preserve, it mandated that the preserve remain a working ranch and become financially self-sustaining by 2015.
The trust has offered hunting, fishing, hiking, equestrian, mountain biking, van tours and other activities for a fee.
This year, the trust opened up the livestock program to bids and recently chose a Dexter couple who will pay $6,000 to graze 500 steers on the preserve this summer.
Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Tribune - Reprinted with permission