Statement by the President: Baca Ranch Signing (7/25/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                         (Fayetteville, Arkansas)

                        _                                       For
Immediate Release                             July 25, 2000

                        STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

     I am very pleased to sign into law S. 1892, the "Valles Caldera
Preservation Act."  This legislation is the culmination of a gratifying
cooperative effort with the Congress, led by Senator Bingaman, Senator
Dominici, Representative Udall, and Representative Heather Wilson of New
Mexico.  Its enactment will permit us to protect over 95,000 acres of
unique, irreplaceable land in northern New Mexico -- one of my top
conservation priorities -- for future generations to enjoy.

     Specifically, this Act authorizes the acquisition and preservation of
nearly 95,000 acres in the Valles Caldera, New Mexico.  It also permits the
sale of about 5,000 acres, containing the headwaters of the Santa Clara
Creek, to the Santa Clara Pueblo, to allow the Pueblo to protect its water
quality and resource values.  A separate title of the bill authorizes the
proceeds from the sale or exchange of certain Federal lands identified by
the Bureau of Land Management as surplus to be used to purchase and protect
other lands with exceptional natural resource values.

     The Valles Caldera is at the heart of the Jemez Mountains and is the
site of perhaps the greatest of New Mexico's volcanic features.  It also is
home to a wide range of scenic, wildlife, cultural, and ecological
resources, and provides incomparable scenic beauty and recreational
potential.  The importance of the preservation of the Valles Caldera lies
in the unique combination of all of these features in a relatively pristine
setting that is nevertheless close by, and accessible to, the people of New
Mexico.  It has remained intact as a single unit in private ownership since
the original land grant in 1860.  Known as Baca Ranch, it has been well
managed for several decades and is an example of a sustainable working

     The caldera is an enormous depression more than a half-mile deep and
15 miles wide that was created by a volcanic eruption over a million years
ago.  Secondary volcanic domes arise from
the caldera floor to elevations as high as 11,000 feet.  Its scenic quality
-- a large network of grassland and forested mountains, surrounded by the
caldera rim -- does not exist elsewhere in the Southwest.  It provides
habitat to a broad range of species, including one of the largest elk herds
in the continental United States, black bear, mountain lion, Mexican
spotted owl, goshawk, peregrine falcon, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
Its vegetation reflects a high level of ecological diversity, and includes
grasslands, ponderosa pine, spruce, Douglas fir, and aspen.

     The Jemez Wild and Scenic River, which originates in the Caldera, as
well as the San Antonio, Jaramillo, and La Jara Creeks, all have
outstanding fishery resources.  Baca Ranch also adjoins the Santa Fe
National Forest and Bandelier National Monument, and its protection will
enhance the values of those properties as well.

     The special designation of the ranch as the Valles Caldera National
Preserve will help ensure the protection of important scenic and natural
values.  Baca Ranch has been well managed by its current owners, who permit
selective grazing, timber harvest, fishing, and hunting -- all in a manner
that respects and preserves the underlying resource.  The bill creates a
unique management structure for this unique property.  A Board of Trustees,
with each member providing a particular expertise in the range of issues
raised by the management of this property, will make decisions about Baca
Ranch in a process that fully involves the American public -- the real
owners of the land.  It is my hope that a member of the Native American
community in New Mexico be included on this Board.  This legis-lation makes
clear that the managers of this property will make resource protection a
top priority, and that sustainable multiple uses and financial
self-sufficiency will be pursued to the extent consistent with protection
of these irreplaceable
resources.  The Baca Ranch is a working ranch today, and the goal is to
make it a model of sustainable practices, ensuring resource protection and
providing for public recreational uses.

     The purchase of the Valles Caldera is one of the most significant
Federal land acquisitions in recent history and is a prime example of what
we can achieve through my Lands Legacy Initiative.  The permanent funding
source for conservation that I am working with the Congress to provide will
guarantee that places like the Valles Caldera will not disappear, but will
be protected for all to enjoy.  The acquisition of this irreplaceable
resource has been a top conservation priority for my Administration and
many in the Congress.  This Act protects a magnificent natural resource for
New Mexicans and all Americans, and we can all be proud of this legacy that
we leave for generations to come.

                              WILLIAM J. CLINTON

    July 25, 2000.

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