SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The head of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department and members of the state Game Commission don't like the idea of turning over management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the National Park Service.
They met with representatives from U.S. Sen. Tom Udall's office on Friday to discuss pending federal legislation concerning the 89,000-acre preserve in northern New Mexico.
"This was a positive step toward addressing the concerns of our agency and the sportsmen and women who care about wildlife, fishing and hunting on one of New Mexico's most precious pieces of public land," said Jim Lane, director of the Game and Fish Department. "We are optimistic that Senator Udall will work with us to find a better plan for the preserve."
Udall and retired Sen. Jeff Bingaman, both New Mexico Democrats, proposed the transfer in 2010 in hopes of getting more consistent funding to preserve and improve the area and increase recreation.
The preserve is home to vast grasslands, the remnants of one of North America's few super volcanoes and one of New Mexico's most famous elk herds. The federal government bought the property from land grant heirs in 2000 with the goal of operating it as a working ranch while developing recreational opportunities for the public.
State game and fish representatives say the proposed legislation could negatively affect wildlife management as well as hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities on the preserve.
The Game Commission voted in late May not to support the bill and Lane sent a letter to Udall and Sen. Martin Heinrich in early June, stating the department opposition.
Lane said he's concerned that the National Park Service's objective is resource preservation at the expense of conservation and recreation.
The Game Commission plans to discuss the legislation and take public comment at its Aug. 22 meeting in Grants.
The legislation is pending before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.