5,000 Acres on Horse Springs Ranch Protected (NM)

SANTA FE, NM, 5/16/2006: Five thousand acres at the heart of Catron’s 16,000-acre Horse Springs Ranch have been permanently protected by a conservation easement, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and partners announced today. The easement was arranged by TPL and funded by the state-administered, federally-funded Forest Legacy Program and a grant from the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish. The easement will allow rancher Jay Platt and his family to continue to work the land, but will shield it from subdivision or development forever.

“This transaction is one component of our nationwide Working Lands program,” said TPL-New Mexico State Director Jenny Parks. “It’s beneficial in a number of ways – it preserves a way of life, it promotes smart growth, and it provides a vital wildlife corridor between two federally-owned land tracts. We were delighted to partner with both the state and the federal government to protect this property.”

“The more time I spent on this ranch, riding and working, the more I came to care about it,” said rancher Platt. “Some of the things that made this ranch desirable to the Forest Legacy Program – the wildlife, the water, the forests – are the things that make me love ranching it, and make me proud to one day pass it on to my sons.”

Federal funding through the Forest Legacy Program is highly competitive, and focuses on the highest impact properties. States and territories submit lands for protection, which are then ranked against other projects on the basis of standardized national criteria.

“Horse Springs Ranch was selected for funding for a number of reasons,” said state Forest Legacy Program administrator Bob Sivinski. “The property includes crucial surface water in the form of Alamocito Creek and a vital wildlife corridor between Apache National Forest to the west and the Bureau of Land Management’s Horse Mountain area of critical environmental concern to the east. That waterway is also home to elk and other wildlife and extensive riparian forests.”

The Forest Legacy program provided $2.7 million to fund the easement, and New Mexico’s State Department of Game & Fish completed the funding with a grant of $900,000.

Senator Jeff Bingaman noted, “We’re protecting open space, but we’re also protecting the rural character of the region for future generations. That’s why we worked so hard to ensure this funding.”

“We’re so proud we could work with the Trust for Public Land to protect this beautiful place,” said Senator Pete Domenici. “As New Mexico grows, it’s important that it grow strategically, without losing the qualities that make this state such a wonderful place to live and work.”

Open spaces like Horse Springs Ranch are disappearing at an astonishing rate nationwide. Between 1982 and 1987, more than 21.8 million acres of open land nationwide were lost to development – about 3 acres per minute. That rate is accelerating dramatically. In the period between 1982 and 1987, 426,000 acres were lost. Ten years later, in the period between 1992 and 1997, 795,000 were lost. These lands no longer function as forests and rangelands either economically or ecologically.

Joanna Prukop, Cabinet Secretary for the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department said, “New Mexico has some of the most remarkable natural lands in the country but they’ll only be that way tomorrow if we’re mindful of stewardship today. Thankfully, we have a governor who wholeheartedly supports conserving our state’s open spaces and natural beauty. So our department, Governor Richardson, and Game & Fish are happy to support these efforts.”

The project was also supported non-materially by government and non-profit groups, including the US Forest Service – Apache National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the New Mexico State Land Office, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL’s Working Lands Initiative protects farms, ranches, and forests that support land-based livelihoods and rural ways of life. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected 2 million acres nationwide. For information, please visit us on the web at www.tpl.org.