More Than 2,200 Acres Added to Protected Elk Springs Area (NM)

Sandoval County, NM, 2/9/2009: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today the protection of the 2,240-acre Elk Springs property as part of the 9,485-acre Elk Springs Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) south of Cuba, New Mexico. The Elk Springs ACEC is a crucial winter range for big game in the area.

“Elk Springs is a remarkable resource just an hour northwest of Albuquerque,” said Jenny Parks, state director for The Trust for Public Land. “This property is an important area for the enhancement of big game populations and habitat and we are pleased to have helped conserve this significant tract of land for the public.”

“This acquisition helps complete the ACEC and provides the public a great new opportunity to enjoy their public lands,” said Linda Rundell, BLM State Director. “Because it provides an important source of forage for deer and elk, Elk Springs will serve as an alternative to the private hay fields around the community of Cuba. The BLM can therefore continue to provide important wildlife habitat and continue its work with rural communities to protect critical components of their economic base.”

Funds for purchase of the property, valued at $1.6 million, came from the Federal Land Transactions Facilitation Act (FLTFA). FLTFA allows receipts from lands sold by the BLM (which were identified for disposal in land use plans) to be used to acquire private in-holdings within National Parks, National Forests, and BLM conservation areas.

New Mexico Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman sponsored the original law that established the FLTFA program. Sen. Bingaman is currently Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which oversees the BLM and FLTFA process. Both Senators as well as newly-elected Senator Tom Udall supported the Elk Springs acquisition over the past year.

“This is exactly the kind of land exchange we had in mind when we wrote this law. Elk Springs provides very important habitat, and protecting it means looking out for the large populations of deer and elk herds that winter there,” Bingaman said. “I congratulate The Trust for Public Land and BLM for working together to make this happen.”

“With this acquisition, another piece of our beautiful state will enjoy both public use and ecological protection,” said U.S. Senator Tom Udall. “This addition to the Elk Springs Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) is a great example of public-private cooperation benefiting our public lands and rural communities.”

“I’m glad to see the Elk Springs purchase become a reality,” said Senator Domenici. The BLM, TPL and Read family have worked diligently to protect this important parcel of land that is so important for wildlife habitat. The acquisition of the Read family parcel will make it available to the public and go a long way toward expanding the good work BLM is doing at Elk Springs.”

The Elk Springs ACEC is bounded by steep cliffs and rocky slopes of the Nacimiento Mountains which form the western boundary of the Santa Fe National Forest. Mesa tops boast steep rocky sides; the rimrock is cut by narrow drainages and valleys with elevation ranging up to 8,000 feet. Pi?on-juniper woodlands and sagebrush dominate the valleys within the ACEC. Key forage species for wildlife and livestock include mountain mahogany, Gambel’s oak, four-wing saltbush, big sagebrush, western wheatgrass, mutton bluegrass, alkali sacaton and Indian ricegrass.

In a joint effort, TPL and BLM worked with the Read family to acquire the 2,240-acre property, the largest private parcel within the ACEC, to provide protection for crucial wintering habitat of the Jemez Mountain elk and deer herds.

“TPL thanks the New Mexico congressional delegation and the BLM for helping to protect this special place,” added Parks. “We also acknowledge that today’s announcement would not have been possible without the Read family’s interest in protecting this critical resource land and opening it up to the public.”

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has protected more than 2.5 million acres across the country and in New Mexico, TPL has helped protect over 140,000 acres.

The BLM manages more land-258 million surface acres-than any other Federal agency. Most of this public land is in 12 western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1.8 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface federal mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, and cultural resources on the public lands.