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A new poll by Research and Polling Inc. of New Mexico shows wide public support for transferring management of Valles Caldera National Preserve to the National Park Service, making it the nation’s 19th National Preserve.
The poll, conducted Jan. 2-12, shows that New Mexico voters support NPS management by a wide margin, 64 percent to 13 percent. Sportsmen approve this approach by an even wider margin, 69 percent to 9 percent, the poll shows.
The survey was a statewide random sample of 407 voters with an oversample of 100 sportsmen (for a total sample size of 270 sportsmen). The margin of error was +/- 4.9 percent. The oversample of 100 sportsmen is not included in the statewide random sample results.
Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have spearheaded legislation in Congress (S. 285) that would establish the Valles Caldera National Preserve as a National Park Service Unit. Their bill is also supported by northern New Mexico U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.
“Broad-based voter support for the National Park Service initiative cuts across demographic, regional and political lines,” said Brian Sanderoff, President of Research and Polling Inc.
“Clearly, the people of New Mexico, including hunters and anglers, value what National Park Service management will mean for this special place,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, Executive Director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, one of the sponsors of the poll. “As a National Preserve, this plan will both protect the Valles Caldera while also ensuring that these lands can be accessed by average New Mexicans who want to hunt, fish, camp, hike, or bike here. It really provides the best of both worlds.”
“This poll shows that sportsmen want a change in the management of Valles Caldera National Preserve,” added Oscar Simpson, chairman of the New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
“We can only hope that Congress acts on this long overdue legislation and allows sportsmen to get out and enjoy the Caldera.”
Anglers and the businesses that depend on them will also benefit from new management at the preserve, said Toner Mitchell, New Mexico Public Lands Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “The Valles Caldera should be better known for its fishing, It’s time that more anglers be allowed to see and experience the beauty of Valles Caldera National Preserve.”
Overall, poll respondents had a more favorable opinion of the National Park Service than other land management and wildlife agencies/organizations. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of voters statewide have a “favorable” or “very favorable” opinion of the National Park Service, and 70 percent have a “favorable” or “very favorable” opinion of the U.S. Forest Service.
Very few voters have negative opinion of either the Park Service (4 percent) or the US Forest Service (6 percent).
The poll also asked about an alternative proposal to transfer Valles Caldera to the State Game Commission. Respondents rejected that idea by a margin of 51 percent to 21 percent. Sportsmen rejected that proposal at an even higher rate, with 58 percent opposed and 17 percent supportive.
Back in August, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Assistant Director R.J. Kirkpatrick led off with an unsubstantiated attack on the bill’s supporters.
“Today you’ll hear that there are numerous assertions that S.B. 285 is fully supported by sportsmen,” Kirkpatrick said. Not one of the bill’s supporters has made that assertion, although several have pointed out that the legislation has “widespread” support among New Mexico’s sportsmen, Kirkpatrick said last year.