A little more than 10 years ago the Valle Vidal Protection Act was signed into law by then-President Bush. The act permanently protected the Valle Vidal unit of the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico from oil and gas development.
Now, the Carson National Forest is revising their forest management plan. This is a once-in-a-generation revision. It is a process that includes hundreds of public meetings, opportunities for public input and comment and will ultimately decide how this public resource is managed for the next 20+ years. And you have the opportunity to participate.
The Valle Vidal has never been part of any management plan for the Carson. Now is the time to include it into the overall management plan for the forest.
I was fortunate enough to be part of the team that worked to protect the Valle a decade ago. Now, we are pushing for the Valle Vidal to be designated as a special Geographic Area in the new Carson plan. You can find our full proposal here.
The proposal seeks to create a cohesive vision for the Valle that encompasses the restoration work that is underway, the area’s wild, roadless lands, its unique biological and recreation values, and the fact that it is a working landscape. The proposal reflects the core values that were endorsed by the Coalition for the Valle Vidal that came together to pass the Valle Vidal Protection Act. The proposal also largely reflects many of the concepts included in the multiple use area guides that currently directs management in the area. We would like to see the Carson National Forest recognize the unique biological and social values of the Valle Vidal by adopting our proposed plan direction in the forest plan.
You can support the proposal by taking immediate action here. You can also write your own letter to the Forest Service expressing your support for the Valle Vidal Geographic Area proposal.
Carson National Forest All Units
208 Cruz Alta Road , Taos, NM, 87571
Finally, the Carson National Forest will be hosting a range of public meetings during the 2017 forest plan revision. Join in on the following open house public meetings:
Carson NF Supervisor’s Office, 208 Cruz Alta Rd., Taos, NM 87571
Wednesday, February 15th, 12:00-2:00 PM, Wednesday, March 15th, 12:00—2:00 PM, Wednesday, April 19th, 12:00—2:00 PM
What is the Valle Vidal?
The Valle Vidal is wonderfully unique, beautiful landscape famous for its aquatic resources, scenic mountain-grassland vistas, extensive rolling grass-covered meadows, and abundant wildlife. The Valle cradles myriad aquatic resource values. Wetlands exist throughout the area. Indeed, two of the Wetland Jewels as proposed by Amigos Bravos during the scoping phase of forest plan revision process are located here. These wetland complexes found in the Valle Vidal serve as important headwaters for many streams. The streams in the Valle Vidal are crucial habitat for a rare pure strain of Rio Grande cutthroat trout. All surface waters in the Valle Vidal were designated as Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRWs) in 2005. These are specially designated waters within the state that have exceptional recreational or ecological significance that are given the highest level of protection against degradation. There are several eligible wild and scenic rivers in the area.
The Valle Vidal is beloved by many diverse stakeholders. For my kids and me, it is our favorite camping and backpacking area. The hunting, fishing, hiking and camping opportunities that the Valle Vidal provides are critical for supporting a regional recreational economy. The rich grassland resources of the Valle provide forage for the cattle of the members of the Valle Vidal Grazing Association. Every summer thousands of young people learn outdoor skills and land stewardship ethics in the Valle Vidal through programs run by the Boys Scouts of America. Many individuals and wildlife and conservation organizations have devoted tens of thousands of hours of labor towards restoration efforts in the Valle Vidal.
The Valle is important habitat for many species, including 60 species of mammals, 200 species of birds, 33 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 15 kinds of fish,” including Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s 2016 Fisheries Management Plan identifies several native fish that are of conservation concern that are a priority for restoration actions. The Valle Vidal Unit is home to twenty species that are Federally listed, proposed for listing, and potential species of conservation concern. Bison occasionally wander into the area from Vermejo Park Ranch to the east.
While the Valle Vidal is a beautiful, ecologically diverse place, it has also been abused by a history of intensive management from mining, logging, and road building. For example, even though all of the streams in the unit are ONRWs, many don’t meet existing water quality standards. A history of logging and mining has left behind a network of closed roads that are no longer needed, many of which are impairing water quality. Wildlife and cattle grazing has adversely impacted watershed condition and wetland function. Fortunately, there is significant interest and investment in restoring the area’s important aquatic resources. Several non-profits, private corporations, and government agencies have been partnering with the Forest Service to restore streams and wetlands across the Valle Vidal to improve watershed condition.
The 1986 Carson National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan does not include management direction that is customized for the Valle. Rather, the 1986 Forest Plan asserts that a separate environmental analysis would be needed for Valle Vidal to establish a management framework. Subsequent efforts to amend the Carson Forest Plan and incorporate specific management direction for the Valle were attempted in 1986 and 1992, but the Southwestern Regional Forester directed the Carson National Forest to discontinue the effort in 1993. The Valle Vidal has since been managed under a Multiple Use Area Guide, which governs its management until further direction can take place. The current forest plan revision process finally offers an opportunity to establish management direction for the Valle Vidal.
Please send in your comments to support the proposal to make the Valle Vidal a special Geographic Area within the Carson National Forest. Thanks!