Touring the Baca: Quick Facts
By Dennis Domrzalski
DECEMBER 14, 1998: Although you might think that the Valle Grande is the most incredible valley you have ever seen, and possibly the biggest, it's not the only valley on the Baca Ranch. Within the ranch's boundaries are six more valleys that will make you wish you had a spare $100 million or so.
The Baca Ranch is what is known as the Valles Caldera, which is a large depression 12 to 15 miles in diameter and circular in shape that was formed when the volcano erupted and then sank back into the big hole in the ground. The ranch's floor is nearly 3,000 feet below the Caldera's surrounding rim. The Baca has a mix of grasslands and forested mountains. During a typical summer, about 6,000 head of cattle roam the ranch. It is also home to 17 threatened or endangered species, 7,500 elk and 27 miles of trout streams.
There's lots of wildlife on the Baca because there aren't many people there. The wildlife includes: elk, mule deer, black bear, mountain lion, coyote, bobcat, beaver, raccoon, deer mouse, striped skunk, weasel, chipmunk, prairie dog, garter snakes, short-horned lizard, a variety of birds including golden and bald eagles, and rainbow and brown trout. These horses belong to ranch staffers.
Endangered and threatened species that live on the Baca include: Mexican Spotted Owl, Jemez Mountains Salamander, Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout. This is not an endangered species; it is a Red-tailed Hawk.
Grasslands 23,985 Ponderosa Pine 17,736 Spruce-Fir 12,084 Mixed Conifer 35,698 Aspen 1,164 Other 4,145
The Baca contains 27 miles of trout streams. The trout are reported to be huge. If it is purchased by the government, the Baca's streams would be opened to anglers.
The Baca was heavily logged in the '40s and '50s. At right is an unlogged area near ranch headquarters.
What's Going On Now?
The Dunigan family has given the government until the end of 1999 to buy the Baca Ranch. U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici has worked out a deal with the Clinton administration on how to manage the land if the government buys it. Domenici wants it operated like a working ranch and has said that he wants it to be self-sustaining. Domenici also wants the Baca Ranch to be run by a nine-member board of directors--New Mexicans with expertise in things like recreation, wildlife and grazing-- so that it won't be subject to normal rules and regulations that govern the operation of other federal lands. Domenici wants the ranch operated as a national preserve or a special unit within the National Forest Service. The $40 million that has been set aside so far has come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. That fund gets its money from royalties on the sale of oil and gas.
Everyone now is waiting for an appraisal of the ranch.
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