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The Latest: Park Service takes the reins at Valles Caldera

The failed experiment in privatized land management has come to an end.


Fifteen years ago, the federal government undertook a major experiment in public-lands management, paying $101 million for the privately owned Baca Ranch in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains and creating the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve. The property would be run as a working ranch by a board of trustees, with a goal of financial self-sufficiency by 2020. Conflict later arose over whether it should be managed primarily for livestock production or for wildlife and recreation (“Trouble on the Valles Caldera,” HCN, 11/28/05). But the preserve never came close to breaking even, and supporters thought the National Park Service, which has more resources, should take over management.

On Oct. 1, the Park Service announced it would assume management of Valles Caldera, thereby ending a failed experiment in privatizing land management. New Superintendent Jorge Silva-Banuelos, the trust’s former executive director, promises increased access to tourists, hunters and fishermen. On Oct. 10, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell dedicated Valles Caldera — one of the country’s newest national parks.