By Tom Ribe
The Valles Caldera National Preserve is beginning its Sierra Club-supported transition from experimental National Trust to the National Park Service following the December passage of Senate Bill 285.
The transition will largely be complete next July, and the Park Service will manage the Valles Caldera as a preserve, with a budget close to what Congress has been appropriating to the trust. Over the last 15 years, the Valles Caldera staff has developed an outstanding science program that will continue. This research and monitoring program attracted over $3 million in outside research at VCNP last year and has increased our understanding of climate change in the southern Rockies.
Some of the research is focused on an ecological restoration project that encompasses much of the preserve and a large area of the Santa Fe National Forest in the Jemez River watershed. Known as the “Southwest Jemez Mountains Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project,” the U.S. Forest Service and Valles Caldera staff are working on treating more than 156,000 acres that had been overgrazed, logged, and fire-suppressed since around 1880. The restoration work involves mechanical thinning of small-diameter trees, prescribed fire, obliterating old roads and restoring streams and riparian areas. The work also includes Jemez Pueblo land and the pueblo’s forestry crews. Nationally, this project is one of eight, treating 1.5 million acres of ecologically degraded lands in nine states.
There will be extensive volunteer opportunities to remove fences, help field researchers, and assist with watershed restoration projects.
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Featured photo by Magnus Manske