Friday, June 18, 2010

A Step Backward: the Valles Caldera National Park

I wonder what Stewart Udall would have thought. On May 27th, his son Tom, along with Jeff Bingaman, both Democratic Senators from New Mexico, introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that transfers title to the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve, located near Los Alamos National Laboratory, from the U.S. Forest Service to the National Park Service. This is big news because the intention of the original bill creating the Preserve, passed by Congress in 2000 and signed by President Clinton, was to maintain the formerly private property as a “working ranch.” Congress also created a nine-member Trust to manage the Preserve and charged it with the unprecedented mission of combining ecological stewardship with financial self-sufficiency. It was an audacious and visionary experiment in public lands management – and quite controversial. To many, myself included, it looked like an intriguing step forward in the effort to confront the fiscal, bureaucratic and procedural gridlock engulfing the federal estate. To others, however, it was a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Now, it looks like an experiment in danger of expiring prematurely...more

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