ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Underground pockets of boiling water and steam in a northern New Mexico national preserve that represent the heart of an ancient collapsed volcano could get extra federal protection under a new effort by the National Park Service aimed at limiting or preventing tapping the geothermal energy from neighboring land.
Federal officials said last week that the Valles Caldera National Preserve would become the 17th U.S. park unit with designated thermal features if approved. A monthlong public comment period will end Jan. 26.
Yellowstone, Crater Lake and Hawaii Volcanoes already are on the list of parks with federally protected geothermal features.
Dubbed the "Yellowstone of the Southwest," Valles Calderas is home to vast grasslands, the remnants of one of North America's few super volcanoes and one of New Mexico's most famous elk herds. The bear-claw shaped ring of mountain peaks that form the caldera also is culturally significant to neighboring Native American tribes.
Its visible geothermal features are nowhere near as striking as Yellowstone's geysers and consist mainly of above-ground, pungent smelling sulphur springs.