Valles Caldera possible transfer questioned

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The head of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department and members of the state Game Commission don’t like the idea of turning over management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the National Park Service.
They met with representatives from U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s office on Friday to discuss pending federal legislation concerning the 89,000-acre preserve in northern New Mexico.
Udall and retired Sen. Jeff Bingaman first proposed the transfer in 2010 in hopes of getting more consistent funding to preserve the area.
The federal government bought the former cattle ranch just west of Los Alamos in 2000. It’s a popular spot for hiking and fishing.
Department of Game and Fish representatives, including Director Jim Lane and State Game Commissioners, met Friday with representatives of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall to discuss the Department’s concerns with proposed legislation that would transfer management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the National Park Service.
The discussion was prompted by a June 3 letter from Department of Game and Fish Director Jim Lane to Sen. Tom Udall and Sen. Martin Heinrich stating the Department’s opposition to the Senate’s bill (S. 285), currently before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The State Game Commission unanimously voted May 23 to oppose the bill, which commissioners said included language that could negatively affect wildlife management and sport hunting, fishing and trapping on the 89,000-acre preserve.
“This was a positive step toward addressing the concerns of our agency and the sportsmen and women who care about wildlife, fishing and hunting on one of New Mexico’s most precious pieces of public land,” Lane said. “We are optimistic that Senator Udall will work with us to find a better plan for the preserve.”
In his letter to the senator, Lane expressed concerns that transfer of the property to the National Park Service “will result in increasing conflict over management authority, a poorly managed elk population, lost hunting opportunity and increased conflicts with adjacent landowners.”
He cited vague language in the bill regarding wildlife management authority and fishing and hunting opportunities, and his concerns that the National Park Service objective is resource preservation at the expense of conservation and recreation.