Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Preserve Will Soon Lift Curtain.(Final)

Byline: Adam Rankin

* Valles Caldera's board plans to allow limited hiking, fishing and grazing this summer

SANTA FE -- High on the rim of Valles Caldera National Preserve is one of the most beautiful roadside views of federal public land in New Mexico -- and for nearly three years most people could only enjoy the view from the outside.

On the inside, the preserve is 89,000 acres of rolling hillside, prized trout water, ambling elk and miles of forest trail essentially off limits to a public eager to use it.

Since Congress purchased the preserve in the summer of 2000, entry to the wilderness gem, located just 40 miles north of Santa Fe, has been restricted to guided and costly tours, as much as $35 for an afternoon hike.

But all that is changing. The preserve's board of directors plans to open the area this summer for limited hiking, fishing and grazing.

"The public wants to get out there," concedes Gary Ziehe, the preserve's executive director.

But the Valles Caldera Trust, governed by a nine-member board of trustees, has been trying to balance a need to serve the public, who want access to the preserve's treasures, with a need to manage the impact from such activities. …

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