A Short History of Caldera Action
Citizen Efforts to Protect the Valles Caldera National Preserve
Caldera Action was born when the Valles Caldera Coalition folded in 2007. The VCC was a coalition of organizations that had fought for the purchase of the Baca Ranch starting in 1998. With our successful campaign the Coalition continued to oversee activities of the Valles Caldera Trust until 2007.
When funding for the Valles Caldera Coalition dried up, a group of passionate people formed Caldera Action one night at the Randal Davey Audubon Center in Santa Fe. We wanted a new course from the old coalition (see mission and vision statement). We are an organization dedicated purely to protecting the Valles Caldera and its nearby surrounding country. We are the only organization with this focus though we work with allied organizations to meet our goals on behalf of the American people.
The yawning expanse of the Valles Caldera National Preserve in north central New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains has drawn generations to its streams, grasslands and wild forests. This outstanding remnant of a recent cataclysmic volcanic event has been cloaked in peace that belies its geologic and tumultuous human history.
The public is intensely interested in this fragile landscape which was purchased by the federal government in 2000 from willing private owners. In 2000 when the Sierra Club and others lobbied Congress to put up funds to buy the VCNP, resistance from some conservative interests forced a compromise where the Valles Caldera would be operated by a government corporation (sort of like the Post Office) rather than being managed by an agency like the US Forest Service or National Park Service.
Though still under the Forest Service budget umbrella, the VCNP was operated by a nine member, presidentially appointed Trust which supervised the Preserve staff. This “experiment in land management” had a multitude of intractable problems which have inspired continued citizen activism to revise the 2000 legislation which created the Valles Caldera Trust.
An organization called Caldera Action has, since 2007, led efforts to watchdog the Trust and seek protection and preservation of the Valles Caldera while simultaneously working with the New Mexico Congressional delegation to pass a bill which transferred the VCNP to the National Park Service as a “preserve” (not a national park) in December 2014.
The National Park Service manages 18 other national preserves across the United States and the Preserve concept will allow the NPS to give the Valles Caldera the high level of protection and interpretation for which the NPS is well known, while allowing some traditional uses like fishing and hunting.
In 2009, Senator Bingaman introduced an excellent bill for Park Service management into the US Senate. His bill passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee which he chaired and awaited action by the full Senate, which was nearly paralyzed by partisan wrangling. At the end of the Congressional session in December 2010, the Valles Caldera bill was included in a big Omnibus Public Lands bill which came up for a vote in the last hours of the “lame duck” session. The bill never passed before congress adjourned.
In the 112th Congress, Senator Bingaman again introduced the same bill but because of partisan politics on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the bill never passed out of committee. Nor did the 60 other bills related to public lands all across the country.
On February 13, 2012 Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall reintroduced the bill to transfer management to the National Park Service as Senate Bill 285. The bill passed the committee and was included in the Defense Authorization Act in the Senate. This large collection of good and bad public lands bills were attached to the funding bill for the Defense Department.
Back in the Saddle
Now that the National Park Service has assumed management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, Caldera Action will continue to monitor management decisions and be both helpful and critical if that is needed. We will continue to "watchdog" the Preserve on behalf of conservation minded members of the American public.
Thank you. Onward!