The Valles Caldera Trust is proposing a 10,000-square-foot visitor center near the current entrance to the Valles Caldera National Preserve off N.M. 4, and a shuttle system that would reduce the need for personal vehicles.
The trust on Monday issued a final environmental impact statement that reviewed six alternatives for visitor access and resource protection in the 89,000-acre preserve in the Jemez Mountains near Los Alamos. The public has 30 days to comment on the plan.
The visitor center would include a lobby, theater, exhibit halls, classrooms, gift shop and observation decks. The preferred alternative also includes shuttle service for visitors to reach hiking trails, fishing spots and picnic areas proposed in the preserve.
More than 125 individuals, agencies and groups commented on the draft environmental document in June. The access plan is supposed to expand public access to the preserve and protect fish, wildlife and cultural resources. Staff also aimed to minimize the carbon footprint of visitors to the preserve and maximize income to the preserve by continuing to offer fee-based tours and activities.
The Valles Caldera National Preserve, formerly a working cattle ranch, was purchased by Congress in 2000. A board of trustees appointed by the United States president oversees management of the preserve through the Valles Caldera Trust. The preserve was an "experiment" in land management to see if public lands could support themselves through fees and grants rather than relying on congressional appropriations. Many original supporters believe the experiment failed and are pushing for legislation now to bring the preserve under management by the National Park Service or the U.S. Forest Service.
The public access plan is a step toward developing visitor amenities while protecting natural resources.
All public comments, responses to comments, changes and additions to the draft Valles Caldera environmental impact statement are documented in the appendices of the final statement. All are available online at http://ow.ly/f4fp0.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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