Earlier this month, the Valles Caldera National Preserve unveiled a new business model that aims to bring the Preserve to profitability by 2015. Below is a roundup of some reaction in the media to the Preserve’s ideas.
In letter to the editors of the Albuquerque Journal, entitled “Preserve Caldera For Benefit of All,” Janie Miller of Santa Fe opines:
A K-Bob’s restaurant, fishing ponds or a luxury Encantado — like Santa Fe’s Auberge resort — are not the financial answer to the preserve’s future. The board needs to listen to its own scientists; or better yet spend a day walking along the Rio San Antonio or listening to the elk bugle to better understand this precious landscape that they have been given the privilege to manage.
Karen I. Butler of Jemez Pueblo lays out some alternative ideas for the future of the Preserve in an editorial published both in the Jemez Thunder and the Albuquerque Journal, entitled “Don’t Glam Already Beautiful Valles Caldera.” Her ideas include “wildfire risk reduction through draft-horse restorative forestry,” an “equine facilitated learning program,” and a “zipline ecotourism venture.” She stresses that:
The ruggedly beautiful Valles Caldera has historically attracted nature lovers, most of whom are more interested in the picturesque landscape than the sight of yet another luxury hotel. These discerning individuals are thrilled by the likelihood that they will encounter native wildlife, and hopeful that the serenity of such a place will result in an inner sense of connection to the Earth that will be instilled in their children.
The annual “State of the Rockies Project” report card, produced by Colorado College, is covered by Karen Peterson of the Journal. According to Peterson’s article, “Report Shows New Mexicans Faring OK in Economy” the report card implores the Valles Caldera Trust to place more emphasis on recreation over cattle grazing, stressing economic reasons:
The Valles Caldera National Preserve comes in for special mention in the report card’s chapter on wildlife management, and these reached the same conclusion as many New Mexicans already have: The Valles Caldera does and will continue to get the lion’s share of its revenue from recreation, not cattle ranching, and any efforts to increase revenues from grazing, for example by upping the head of livestock allowed on the preserve, are in direct conflict with the preferences of recreational users.
Says the report card: “It is noteworthy that the (Valles Caldera) trust recoups nearly $6,000 for every elk hunted on the preserve and almost $40 per day for every fisherman, while the revenue from a steer is only $30 a year — yet livestock grazing remains the controversial focus and emphasis of the Preserve’s Board of Trustees.”
Rick Louderbough of Albuquerque states in a letter to the Journal entitled “I Won’t Be Able To Enjoy Valles Caldera,” that he would like more access to the Preserve for himself and his RV:
As I approach geezer status, I want more than ever to explore the beauty of New Mexico where I’ve lived in for 56 years. Sadly a visit to Valles Caldera has been ruled out by my own government. Its beauty will only be available to horse riders, luxury hotel guests, and “glampers.” I used to ride horses, don’t anymore, can’t afford luxury hotels, and glamping I think is similar to what I do in my 21-foot RV now, but without the servants and the gourmet food.
Taking these disparate opinions into account, the editors of the Journal conclude that no possibilities should be ruled out when considering how to proceed within the unique legislative framework that governs the Valles Caldera National Preserve, including building a lodge on the Preserve where rooms would cost between $550 and $730 per night. From “Keep All Options Alive To Save Valles Caldera:”
No sooner were many of these possibilities raised than they were yanked off the table. Native American objections have made green burials a nonstarter. Two advocacy groups would like to do the same with the lodging proposals, which they see as commercialization.
Anyone who has visited Yellowstone or Yosemite knows better than that. The handsome, rough-hewn lodges are part of the appeal of our great national parks. As long as rooms are offered at a range of prices and the architecture is appropriate, lodges provide access and comfort to people who can’t hoist a 45-pound pack and trek in on foot.
From its inception, the Valles Caldera has been viewed as an experiment in public land management. If the experiment is to succeed, creative ideas must be welcomed at the table — not rejected out-of-hand.