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Valles Caldera has new director

SANTA FE, N.M. — The board of the Valles Caldera Trust, which runs the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Jemez Mountains, today named Jorge Silva-Bañuelos as executive director.

Silva-Bañuelos was selected from a field of 24 applicants to fill the position vacated when Dennis Trujillo retired in January.

“Jorge has extensive experience in natural resource policy, management and leadership of government agencies,” said Kent Salazar, board chairman for the trust said in a news release. “His experience working with a broad citizen constituency on public lands issues will also be a great asset to the Trust.”

A native New Mexican, Silva-Bañuelos has lived and worked in Washington, D.C. for the last 10 years. For eight years, he worked for U.S. Sen Jeff Bingaman, including as a staffer for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where he handled New Mexico public land, natural resource and conservation policy. During his time with Bingaman, Silva-Bañuelos also worked on designation of both the Río Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments, according to the news release. He also oversaw policy matters related to the Valles Caldera, and worked to secure funding for the preserve, the release says.

“The Valles Caldera has the potential to become a premier tourist destination and a major economic driver for northern New Mexico,” said Silva-Bañuelos. “I will work closely with the board, surrounding tribes and other local communities to promote a vision that increases public access, protects the natural and cultural resources of the Preserve and stimulates job growth in the nearby communities.”

Pending legislation supported by New Mexico’s congressional delegation would shift management of the national preserve to the National Parks Service.

During the last two years Silva-Bañuelos has worked as a policy adviser for the assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior. He holds a B.A. in International Relations and Spanish from the University of San Diego.

Silva-Bañuelos and his wife, Ellen Castrone, an art historian from Boulder, Colorado who currently works at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, “are thrilled to be returning to the West,” the news release says. For Silva-Bañuelos “it is a return to the mountains and valleys he hiked while growing up in New Mexico,” the release states.

Tim Haarmann will continue to be Interim Executive Director until Silva-Bañuelos moves back from Washington, D.C.

Silva-Bañuelos will start the job in early July.