National Park Service Takes Over Valles Caldera

New Mexican preserve will be dedicated on October 10
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New Mexican preserve will be dedicated on October 10
Valles Caldera

East Fork of the Jemez River at Valles Caldera (Ron Cogswell/Flickr)

The Valles Caldera Trust, 89,000 acres of wilderness in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, officially changed hands today as the National Park Service took over administration of the once-private land.

The government purchased the Valles Caldera Trust in 2000. Since then, it has been managed by the trust instead of by federal land management authorities in an attempt to conserve resources and with the hope that the preserve would pay for itself with its public ranch and open access to the public.

But after these efforts failed, Congress decided in 2014 to shift management from the trust to NPS.

While a visit to the trust would previously cost visitors a pretty penny—$10 per person, per activity, per day—now it will only cost $20 per vehicle for the entire week.

Fees will also be reduced for hunting, and fishing areas will be expanded to incorporate more streams and attract more fishermen.

Spearheading these improvement efforts will be Jorge Silva-Bañuelos, a native New Mexican who had served as the head of the Valles Caldera Trust and was named the park’s new superintendent by NPS in mid-September.

Silva-Bañuelos says he is most focused on opening up the park to as many visitors as possible, but it’s going to take some work.

“One of our biggest challenges is infrastructure,” he said.

Currently, the park has narrow dirt roads and few parking areas that make the area hard to navigate.

However, Silva-Bañuelos says he looks forward to working with NPS to protect the land and better share it with the American people.

The preserve will be dedicated on Oct. 10.