Preserve inches closer to becoming a national park

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No timeline on how long it could take to incorporate the Valles Caldera

By Jennifer Garcia

A public  hearing was held  during Tuesday night’s county council meeting regarding the Valles Caldera National Prerserve’s inclusion in the national park system.

Council didn’t seem to agree on the motion presented, so the original motion  was amended a handful of times before councilors voted, 7-0, to pass a motion that “supports the transfer of the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service to be managed as a preserve.” The motion also stated that, “during the interim, the council recommends Congress take action to modify the year 2000 enabling legislation to remove obstacles restricting the Valles Caldera Trust’s ability to effectively manage the preserve to meet the public’s access priorities …”

Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott spoke briefly to council prior to their discussion and vote. Council Chair Michael Wismer asked Lott how long it would take to make the Valles Caldera a national park.

“It’s at Congress’ discretion. The community can provide support, but the delegation will look at it and move it forward,” Lott responded.

He also told council that the move could be immediate, however he suspects that they’d include a transition period. “We need to get in there, assess it and set a temporary plan in place. The idea is to get it open to the public. You’re just asking to get beat up if you close it,” Lott said.

Residents from Los Alamos, as well as Albuquerque and Santa Fe attended the meeting Tuesday and spoke out regarding the Valles Caldera. Tom Jervis of Santa Fe thanked the council for considering the motion and taking an interest in the Valles. “It’s an important piece of property to those who have lived, or live, in this area,” he said.

Tom Riebe of Santa Fe told councilors he was born in Los Alamos. “I would say things are moving along nicely in Washington. It’s hard to say when it would happen. I trust the planning process the park service has would be timely. Thank you very much for considering this,” he said.

Oscar Simpson of Albuquerque, the campaign coordinator for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, also attended the meeting. “Last September I ran a petition drive at the gun show and got over 400 signatures, so there’s a lot of support of transitioning into the park service as a reserve,” he said. “We highly recommend you’d support your resolution as proposed.”

There was one resident, however, that did not support the motion as presented. “I’ve been involved with this contest for quite a while. I’d encourage the council to consider option 3, no action,” T.K. Thompson said. “You need to understand what is coming down the pike with the Manhattan Project National Park and how they will impact us and how they interrelate. The preserve will be there, it’s not going away. It’ll give you more options to make a wise decision,” Thompson said.

Following the public comment period, Councilor Nona Bowman said, “I think the public has spoken loud and clear. I’m appreciative of the public who attended the sessions. This will give the community the accessibility they wished to have.”