Valles Caldera Management Losing Money on Illegal Grazing in the Preserve

Managers at the Valles Caldera National Preserve established a legal grazing program for cattle in a fenced area away from streams in the Valles de los Posos. They charge about $20 a month for a cow or a cow/calf pair. This fee compares favorably to grazing fees charged on high quality private lands.

In recent summers, Jemez Pueblo has used this legal grazing program and has paid the needed fees. This summer the legal pastures were vacant as the National Park Service planned a prescribed fire in the area to revitalize the grasses and restore wildlife habitat. However, our rainy summer most likely will prevent the prescribed fire from happening unless sufficient drying occurs.

Meanwhile ranchers from US Forest Service land north of the Valles Caldera have been allowing or encouraging cattle to graze illegally in the Valle San Antonio, Valle Toledo, and Sulphur Canyon. Careful observers have counted between 130 and 160 trespass cattle in the Preserve all summer. In past summers the National Park Service called ranchers to remove their cattle. This summer the ranchers were able to graze without any requirement that they remove their cattle.

The National Park Service lost $16,000 in grazing fees from the northern ranchers who could be charged for grazing land that belongs to the American people at the Caldera. Instead, they grazed illegally for free.

The NPS has regulations (Superintendent’s Compendium) at the Valles Caldera where owners of cattle grazing outside the legal pasture will be charged $10 per day. But again, the NPS has not fined the ranchers whose cattle trespass since 2014. They could have netted $48,000 in fines for the full summer of grazing this year, where record high numbers of trespass cattle have entered the Preserve. Of course if the NPS had fined the northern ranchers for trespass (the NPS knows who owns the trespass cattle) the trespass would probably have stopped.

Caldera Action continues our efforts to find out why the National Park Service is allowing illegal grazing at the Caldera with no action taken to stop this abuse of our Preserve. Streams, wetlands, elk and endangered species habitat have sustained damage from the cattle again this summer.

Wilderness in the Valles Caldera?

Do you see wilderness quality lands in the Valles Caldera?  If so the National Park Service wants to hear from you. Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, wild public lands of 5000 acres or more can be designated “wilderness” and protected from all mechanical transportation. People would have to walk or ride a horse in a designated wilderness and the area would be managed to promote solitude and wild qualities.

If you feel there are areas of the Preserve worthy of this protection, please e-mail them.

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