Taos Lands Preserved with Land Exchange (NM)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., 5/22/02–The Trust for Public Land (TPL), the Santo Domingo Pueblo, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today the successful completion of a complex land exchange that will preserve a portion of the breathtaking Taos Valley Overlook property while returning lands of cultural significance to Santo Domingo. The Santo Domingo Pueblo acquired 161 acres of the Taos Valley Overlook property with help from TPL, a national land conservation organization. The Pueblo then exchanged that property and additional private lands in Santa Fe County to the BLM, in exchange for 7,376 acres adjacent to the Pueblo.

“This is a great day for Santo Domingo,” said Pueblo Governor Ernie Lovato. “We have recovered lands with many significant cultural sites of great importance to our people, and now we can utilize those sites again and protect them for our future generations. We are pleased that, in the process, we have helped the BLM gain control of lands having scenic and recreational value for all New Mexicans. It has taken the Pueblo a very long time to regain these aboriginal lands, that were first used by our ancestors. Our prayers have been answered.”

Edwin Singleton, the BLM Albuquerque field manager who helped shepherd this exchange into reality, emphasized that while the collaborative effort was most important to the process, “Our main goal was to fulfill our Native American trust responsibility by getting lands that have aboriginal claims and traditional use back into Santo Domingo ownership while introducing important lands and resources into the public trust and preserving them for all to enjoy.”

“This is an excellent example of the power of partnerships,” said Deborah Frey Love, TPL’s New Mexico state director. “With this exchange, the tribe benefits from the return of their ancestral lands, the BLM benefits from the enhancement of land ownership consolidation, and the people of New Mexico benefit from the acquisition of a portion of the Taos Valley Overlook.”

The 2,581-acre Taos Valley Overlook property, located south of Taos within the Orilla Verde Recreation Area and along the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River Corridor, offers spectacular views of the Rio Grande Gorge and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. TPL negotiated an agreement to purchase the property from the owner, the Klauer Manufacturing Company. TPL helped Santo Domingo Pueblo purchase 161 acres of the Overlook property to facilitate the exchange with the BLM, ending a four-year long effort.

TPL recently extended its national Tribal Lands Program to New Mexico. The Santo Domingo exchange is TPL’s second successful tribal project completed in the state. In December 2001, TPL celebrated with San Felipe Pueblo successful completion of its first tribal project, a similar exchange with the BLM. That exchange returned nearly 10,000 acres of culturally significant lands to the San Felipe Pueblo and resulted in the BLM’s acquisition of approximately 270 acres of the Taos Valley Overlook property.

Completion of the Santo Domingo exchange helps to consolidate BLM land ownership in the Taos area. The exchange will also help reduce conflicts between public land users and private landowners, eliminate inappropriate development of private inholdings in specially designated areas, and increase the BLM’s management flexibility. The Taos Valley Overlook property provides critical habitat for the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, and the federally-listed, threatened Southwestern willow flycatcher.

Once the entire Taos Valley Overlook property is acquired by the BLM, it will be open to residents and visitors for activities such as hiking, picnicking, bird watching, fishing, rafting, kayaking, painting, and enjoying the views. To date TPL, in partnership with the Taos Land Trust, has preserved more than 2,204 acres of the total 2,581-acre property. The Taos Valley Overlook project exemplifies a successful public-private partnership among a federal land management agency (BLM), private landowners (the Klauer Manufacturing Company), a national land conservation organization (TPL), a local land trust (Taos Land Trust), two native pueblos (Santo Domingo Pueblo and San Felipe Pueblo), and many New Mexican communities that have supported this important conservation effort.

“We are so pleased that this land exchange between the Santo Domingo Pueblo and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management could be completed,” said Clare Swanger, executive director of the Taos Land Trust. “The Taos Valley Overlook project continues to inspire people and weare thrilled with the number of partners that have become involved in the property’s protection. This puts us close to completing full conservation of the property’s 2,580 acres.”

The exchange involved an equal-value land swap of approximately 7,376 acres of BLM-managed lands for approximately 645 acres in Taos and Santa Fe counties. The land acquired by the BLM includes private lands adjacent to the La Cienega Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in Santa Fe County in addition to the Taos Valley Overlook property in Taos County.