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VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE, N.M. (AP) — Visitors line the highway, most peering through binoculars, as they strain to get a better look at dozens of brown specks in the distance.
The specks — members of Valles Caldera National Preserve's infamous elk herd — are munching in green pastures that stretch for miles. They are surrounded by mountain peaks blanketed with ponderosa pine, spruce and fir trees.
The expansive preserve is a sight to behold, but caretakers say Valles Caldera's forests, grasslands and wetlands are not as healthy as they look. Nearly a decade of research has provided them with statistics to say so, and now they have developed a 10-year plan to get the preserve back into shape by using everything from prescribed fire and thinning to weed control and wetland restoration.
The trust has created a special web page that allows the public to review the restoration and management plan and related documents. The public has until Sept. 29 to comment on the plan.
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