First Phase Of Vallecitos Forest Protection Completed

SANTA FE, N.M. The first phase of an effort to protect more than 11,000 acres of forested watershed lands in northern New Mexico has been successfully completed, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the New Mexico State Forestry Division announced today.

With the completion of Phase I, 2,213 acres of the Vallecitos High Country property will be safe from development, through a permanent conservation easement funded through the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program with the strong support of the New Mexico congressional delegation. Eventually, plans call for protection of 11,375 acres of the land in Rio Arriba County.

“This property is threatened by development because of its spectacular views and the abundant hunting and fishing opportunities, and we need to make sure it stays intact to ensure its importance as a natural resource area,” said TPL Project Manager Greg Hiner. “We could not have done this without the leadership of U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, as well as former Senator Pete Domenici.”

“Conserving the Vallecitos High Country property offers significant benefits to New Mexico, including watershed protection, improving wildlife habitat and protecting open space. When this project is completed the public will finally be able to enjoy all the area has to offer,” Bingaman said.

“I want to applaud the Trust for Public Land and the New Mexico State Forestry Division on the completion of Phase I of this crucial project,” said Udall. “Protecting our watershed from irresponsible development is absolutely essential to ensuring the continued vitality of our communities and our fragile ecosystem.”

The $1.195 million in federal money for the purchase came from congressional appropriations to the federal Forest Legacy Program, which protects working forests that provide habitat and protect water quality. A generous donation of easement value from the Vallecitos High Country landowner reduced the overall cost of the acquisition and allowed the project to move forward. Funding for the second phase of the property – another 3,100 acres under conservation easement – has been submitted to the Forest Legacy Program by the New Mexico State Forestry Division for consideration during the federal Fiscal Year 2010.

“The watershed and wildlife habitat being protected by this project is extremely valuable to communities downstream from this area,” said New Mexico State Forester Arthur “Butch” Blazer. “I feel the Forest Legacy program is the best way to protect this land because any potential development of this area would threaten the integrity of the watershed for those communities.”

The Vallecitos property is located just west of the Carson National Forest and includes more than 9,000 acres of mixed conifer, aspen, and spruce fir. It also includes several miles of riparian woodlands along the Rio Vallecitos, Jarosa Creek, and North Creek. Riparian woodlands are rare in the state and provide homes to trout, beaver, and birds.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped to protect more than 2.5 million acres nationwide. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and business to achieve its land for people mission.

For more information about the New Mexico State Forestry Division’s land conservation and management programs, visit