The Valles Caldera National Preserve is a national treasure. It is acclaimed for its rolling meadows, wildlife, meandering streams and spectacular scenery.
The preserve, a collapsed volcano that is now a series of huge, grassy bowls ringed by the Jemez Mountains, belongs to all of us. It was created in 2000 when the federal government bought the former historic Baca Ranch and has been administered by the Valles Caldera Trust, which is charged with making it a financially self-sustaining operation by 2015.
But so far, few Americans have had the chance to enjoy its magnificence. The preserve has been somewhat protected from general public use, though in recent years limited tours and other uses have been offered.
On the table for public comment now are six plans for developing the preserve and their possible effects on the environment. After a 60-day comment period, the draft document may be revised based on the comments received. A final version will then be released and, after a 30-day no-action period, it will adopted.
Proposals range from offering even less public use than currently exists to several that would create a visitor center and allow various levels of access.
The Valles Caldera is a rare gem that deserves protection and preservation, but its owners — the citizens and taxpayers who paid for it — should be allowed to experience it in controlled and respectful ways.
Comments are being taken until Aug. 14. For more information about the preserve, to view the draft environmental impact statement or to comment go to www.vallescaldera.gov.
New Mexicans should take this opportunity to make their wishes known. Otherwise, they shouldn’t complain if they don’t like the plan that emerges.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.