The last four years have been a nightmare for our public lands, our waters, our…
The Valle Vidal is a lush mountain basin located in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in northern New Mexico. Donated to the American People in 1982, the Valle Vidal is managed by the Carson National Forest primarily for it’s wildlife, as well as it’s outstanding scenic and recreational opportunities. The Valle Vidal is a veritable Rocky Mountain paradise, with abundant populations of regional wildlife, including mule deer, black bear, mountain lion, bald eagles, and native Rio Grande cutthroat trout. In addition, the vast alpine meadows of the Valle Vidal provide critical habitat for the largest herd of elk in New Mexico. The Valle Vidal is a special place to New Mexicans and people from around the world, who come to marvel at its alpine majesty, enjoy outdoor recreation and sporting opportunities, and to view the Valle’s prized elk herd. 3,000 Boy Scouts from adjacent Philmont Scout Ranch participate in a High Adventure program in the Valle Vidal each year.
The Valle Vidal comprises the headwaters of numerous streams and tributaries of both the Rio Grande and Canadian Rivers. Both McCrystal Creek and North Ponil Creek have been recently recommended for Wild and Scenic Rivers protection. As a source of fresh water, wildlife, firewood, and grazing lands, the Valle Vidal serves as an important resource for the ranching and agricultural communities of northern New Mexico. In order to understand and appreciate the Valle Vidal’s rich history, we must go back more than 10,000 years, to the first inhabitants of the area, the Folsom people. The remains of the Folsom people were first discovered in nearby Folsom, NM. They were hunter gatherer people who hunted a now extinct species of Bison with distinctive stone arrowheads and spear points. About 400 A.D., these cultures began domesticating corn, beans, and squash, with the earliest evidence of the Anasazi Culture that spread throughout the Southwest exhibited in the area. The early Pueblo Cultures developed about 1,100 years ago, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and upper Rio Grande Valley.
By the 1500’s, the Valle Vidal was settled by the peaceful Jicarilla Apache, who lived in semi-permament villages, and followed the migrating bison and antelope herds. Raiding groups of Utes and Comanches forced the Jicarilla to seek the safety of Taos and Pecos Pueblos. The Jicarilla were eventually moved to the San Juan Mountains, to the east. Although the Spanish claimed New Mexico as early as the 1540’s, it wasn’t until the 19th century that adventurers and colonists of any number moved in. When Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican Government gave away large tracts of land of the territory, known as land grants. In 1841 Mexican Governor Manuel Armijo gave approximately 2 million acres in northern New Mexico to Carlos Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda. Beaubien was a successful trader from the Hudson Bay Company who settled in Taos. Miranda was the Secretary of the Provincial Government in Santa Fe. She optioned the Mexican Governor to grant her and Bedaubing what is known as the Beaubien-Miranda Land Grant. The area later became known as the Maxwell Grant. Lucien Maxwell, a fur trapper who served as a guide with Kit Carson on General John Fremont’s Western Expedition, married Beaubien’s daughter, Luz. After Beaubien’s death in 1864, Lucien and Luz inherited a share and bought out the other heirs. By 1865, they were the sole owners of 1,714,765 acres , a territory about the size of Rhode Island, in the heart of some of New Mexico’s most beautiful country. Maxwell lived in an immense home in Cimarron. He put settlers on the land to supply US Government forces in the Westward Expansion. At one time, Maxwell had over 500 people working the land, with thousands of acres under cultivation, and thousands more for sheep and cattle. Maxwell’s fortunes declined, and he sold the Grant in 1866, to the Maxwell Land Grant and
Railway Company. With the sale of the Grant, there began a turbulent and period, related to unclear title of lands. Settlers and squatters alike resisted the new landlords in violent and bloody conflicts for over 15 years. The infamous Colfax County War raged on until 1887, when the US Government ruled in favor of the the company, 46 years after the original grant to Beaubien and Miranda.
William Bartlett, a wealthy grain speculator from Chicago purchased land from the company in 1902, known as Vermejo Park. From 1926 to 1973, the area served as a sportsman’s ranch and a playground for Hollywood’s rich and famous. The invitation fee was $5,000, and the area was frequented by the likes of Douglass Fairbanks, Herbert Hoover, FW Kellogg, Thomas Warner, and Cecil B. DeMille. In 1973, the area was sold to the Vermejo Park Corporation, a subsidiary of the Pennzoil Company. After exploring the area for fossil fuel deposits over the next decade, the Pennzoil Company decided to give a portion of Vermejo Park to the American People.