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The Valles Caldera National Preserve is at a crossroads. Everyone involved with this 89,000 acre piece of public land now realizes that the legislation that set the Preserve up in 2000 is not working and will not work. The legislation needs to change and proposals will come forward soon to get this land opened and fully protected for all the American people who own it together.
The VCNP is an island of quiet, wild and beautiful land full of wildlife, historic structures, prehistory, significance to Pueblo people and the headwaters of two streams. It’s mysterious and hidden. With the Santa Fe National Forest surrounding it full of loud off-road vehicles leaving gashes on the land and cows in all the forests, streams and meadows, places like the Valles and Bandelier become refuges, places where we can go for quiet and to see land recovering from incessant human abuse.
Many people see all that grass in the Valles Caldera and think of a cow pasture. Yet this land is far too valuable to look at as a “ranch” or as grazing land alone. Ranchers in northern New Mexico have 3.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land open to them where they are paid by the Forest Service to graze their cows.
That land includes all wilderness areas, low country, everything outside Bandelier and the VCNP. The national forest land is tired and depleted from centuries of grazing and probably never will be allowed to recover given calcified politics.
Is it asking too much to have the VCNP be a refuge from constant human extraction and abuse? How about we set the place aside now for science, for educating our kids, for restoring our spirits, for a refuge for plants and animals, as a refuge from noise? Can we look at the land from bigger perspective than a playground or cow pasture?
Can we see its beauty and respect it for what it is, full of life and stories? Can we look at the land as a rare wild place in a rapidly urbanizing world that our children will value for its wildness far more than we do? This is our chance.