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Natural Resources Clippings

From Jemez Thunder, October 01, 1997

 U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced legislation on Sept. 24 that would authorize the federal government to purchase the 95,000 acre Baca Location No. 1 northeast of Jemez Springs. The nearly square parcel of land – almost 100 square miles in area – is located between the Santa Fe National Forest and Bandelier National Monument north of Highway 4 and is best known for the Valle Grande, the world’s largest extinct volcano.

Destined to become federal land? Stay tuned. Photo by Robert Borden/Jemez Thunder

Destined to become federal land? Stay tuned. Photo by Robert Ray Wood/Jemez Thunder

“Today we have a truly historic opportunity to preserve an extraordinary parcel of land,” Bingaman said. “The Baca Location No. 1 – famous in New Mexico as the Valle Grande – has been rightly compared to Rocky Mountain National Park or the Grand Canyon in terms of its natural splendor and significance to our country. When we complete this transaction, we’ll be allowing the public to access and enjoy these lands for the first time since 1860.” The land is currently managed by the Baca Land and Cattle Company of Los Alamos.

Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), however, expressed concern that adding the Valle Grande to the government’s already large land holdings in New Mexico might not be wise, particularly given how much money the government already owes for lands it has already acquired.

Bingaman’s legislation would authorize the federal government to purchase the Baca parcel from its owners through a willing seller/willing buyer agreement. The government would then develop a plan for the land’s use by the public, and for its preservation – including protection of the upper Alamo watershed above Bandelier National Monument. Federal appropriations will be required for the sale to move forward.

In writing the legislation, Bingaman has worked in close partnership with members of the Dunigan family, owners of the land since 1962. A spokeman for the Dunigan family said, “This legislation represents the fulfillment of the late James P Dunigan’s long-standing desire to protect the Baca Ranch for future generations. If Mr. Dunigan were alive today, he would be very pleased to see that his efforts are at last coming to fruition.” Dunigan was in discussions with the federal government to complete the land sale at the time of his premature death in 1980.

“The idea of public ownership of the Baca Ranch is certainly not a new one,” Bingaman said. “The last major push was made by the late former New Mexico Senator Clinton P. Anderson in the 1960s. I’d like to think that we’re picking up where he left off.”

“One factor that makes this such a tremendous opportunity is that the Dunigans have worked hard to preserve the quality of the land over the last several decades. With this legislation, we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to allow the federal government to continue this responsible stewardship, allow the public to take advantage of a fantastic recreation spot, and head off any attempts by future owners to develop it,” Bingaman said.

The Baca Ranch includes seven distinct valleys, including the Valle Grande, which is nearly six miles across at its widest point. The land contains a number of unique geologic features, including hot springs, sulphur pools and detectable

geothermal activity. It also contains the headwaters for the San Antonio and Jemez Rivers, which flow into the Rio Grande.

The Baca land was originally granted to the heirs of Don Luis Maria Cabeza de Vaca under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1860. Generations have used the land to raise sheep, cattle and horses, and as a timber supply. In addition, these lands have been used since the 1940s for numerous films about the American West. Various films sets remain on the property to this day and are a significant part of the history of the American film industry. Since the 1960s, the Dunigans have practiced selective timbering, limited grazing and hunting, and the use of prescribed fire to protect the land.

In addition to the Baca legislation, Bingaman has also introduced a bill to expand the boundaries of the adjacent Bandelier National Monument. Bingaman’s Bandelier bill would add over 900 acres of privately-held land to the national park, approximately 800 of which are owned by the Dunigan family interests. No statement has been made as to whether the U.S. Forest Service, which is responsible for the Jemez National Recreation Area, or the National Park Service, which administers Bandelier National Monument, would be given responsibility for the Baca Ranch if it were acquired.

Senator Domenici issued a statement on Sept. 24 which said, “I have been reviewing this issue and consulting with a variety of people over the past several months. To me it is obvious that there are other considerations to take into account, such as how will we pay for this when the federal government already owes so much for land acquisitions. I am also concerned about what to do about several million acres in New Mexico and throughout the West that have been deemed surplus. These lands remain in the hands of the federal government even though they are not needed. A solution to this problem could yield millions of dollars for the federal treasury. In the very near future, I expect to introduce legislation that addresses Valle Grande and other important issues.”

In a Sept. 28 editorial, the Albuquerque Journal sided with Domenici, estimating the cost of buying the Valle Grande at about $47 million. “Having the land sliced up and sold by the acre for commercial development would understandable be tragedy,” the Journal editorial said, but “The federal government has other more critical priorities and debts to address before committing to this luxury purchase.

Another large land owner in the Jemez area, the Servants of the Paraclete, has also been approached about selling some of its land to the federal government. Father Liam Hoare, Servant General of the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, said that the Trust for Public Lands has approached the Paracletes on this matter. Father Liam told the Thunder that no decision has been made. But, he said, “We would want the land to be preserved and conserved. Development with condos and such would be the antithesis of what we would want.

From Jemez Thunder, September 15, 1996


Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC) Camp near Ponderosa.

Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC) Camp near Ponderosa.

In March of 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of many social programs to provide unemployment relief during the Great Depression and to develop rural areas of the United States. The aerial photo above shows a CCC camp which existed near Ponderosa during the ‘30s at what is now the Paliza Group Campground.

Lew Caldwell of Ponderosa remembers it well. He was treated for poison ivy there when he was a boy, he said. In addition to a doctor’s office, the camp also had a blacksmith shop. The CCC camp built erosion control structures, fences and roads throughout the Jemez region.

Mr. Caldwell said that this was the main camp in the area, but that there were other smaller ones near the Valle Grande and Cuba. The CCC provided employment to over 3 million young, unmarried men across the United States during the nine years it was in existence.

By July of 1942, most young, unmarried men found employment in the army fighting World War II, and the era of the CCC came to a close. Most of the buildings in this photo no longer exist, but the roads are still there. During the Nicole Fire in June, Forest Service firefighters used this area as a base camp to battle the blaze farther north at Peralta Canyon.

The Paliza Group Campground is part of the Santa Fe National Forest, and may be reserved for parties and groups by calling 1-800-280-2267. Area “A” can accommodate 25-50 people, and the larger Area “B” can take 100-150. There is a minimum charge of $25 to reserve the space; over 25 people costs one dollar per person. Reservations should be made at least five days in advance.

By Ben Neary And Donna Jones, Journal Staff Writer, transcribed from Albuquerque Journal, April 13, 1989

Police arrested three environmental protesters who chained themselves to heavy equipment Tuesday to stop work on a new pumice mine on federal land in the Jemez Mountains about 15 miles west of Los Alamos.

The three — Jim Hobson, 31, of Albuquerque and Stella Reed, 28. and Gary Schiffmiller, 30, both of Santa Fe — pleaded no contest in Bernalillo to charges of criminal trespass.

Stella Reed of Santa Fe waits for law enforcement officials to arrive after locking herself to a backhoe with a heavy-duty bicycle lock. Photo by Murrae Haynes/Albuquerque Journal

Stella Reed of Santa Fe waits for law enforcement officials to arrive after locking herself to a backhoe with a heavy-duty bicycle lock. Photo by Murrae Haynes/Albuquerque Journal

Sandoval County Magistrate Bennie Lovato imposed a 90-day suspended sentence on the three, who are members of Earth First!, an environmental group.

Lovato ordered them to stay away from the mine area or “you will come in here and do the time in the county jail.” They said they would obey.

The three had locked themselves with bicycle locks around their necks to earthmoving and logging equipment to stop construction of a road to the mine site. After a few hours, they unlocked themselves voluntarily and left with State Police officers.

The three who were arrested and about 15 other protesters arrived at the scene about 6 a.m. They are opposed to a private company — Copar Pumice of Española – opening a mine on public land before the Forest Service rules on an appeal other environmentalists’ filed to block the project.

John Dickenson, Forest Service law enforcement officer for the Jemez District, said he arrived shortly after 9 a.m. and found protesters singing. “To the tune of ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky,‘ it was ‘bulldozers in the Jemez.’ ”

One of the organizers, Rich Ryan, said in Bernalillo that he could not say if the group would continue its protest.

“We’ll just play it by ear from here,” he said.

Earth First! uses its actions to dramatize how powerfully members feel about protecting the environment, Ryan said.

“It was necessary to act,” said Reed, a baker, after her court hearing. “When the free, wild earth is gone, we have no home. We are homeless.”

Said Schiffmiller, a carpenter, “We have to defend whatever land is left.” Hobson, a movie projectionist, said, “Stone-washed jeans are not a necessity.” Making the jeans is one of the uses of pumice.
One protester chained himself to a timber-cutting machine belonging to

Blackjack Timber of Jemez Springs. The company has a contract to clear a road to the mine site.

Map provided by Carol Cooperrider/Albuquerque Journal

Map provided by Carol Cooperrider/Albuquerque Journal

“What people have to realize about all the local miners and loggers is that we live here,” said Wayne Lewis, president of the timber company. He emphasized that locals are interested in seeing the forests properly managed for sustained timber production.

“We’re out here every day; it‘s not an occasional thing,” Lewis said. “If we cut all the trees and mine all the pumice, we’d be doing ourselves out of a living.”

Cindy Lewis, Wayne’s wife, said protesters didn’t participate in Forest meetings concerning the mine but chose to disrupt work after it started.

“We don’t have a paycheck coming unless we get our work done, which is apparently something these people don‘t have to worry about,” she said.

She said one of the protesters locked himself to the hydraulic arm of a logging machine and was in danger of being crushed as the arm slowly came down. “I was ready to send for a cutting torch,” Wayne Lewis said.

The protester finally unlocked himself and then locked himself again to a safer part of the machine.

Wayne Brown, plant manager for Copar Pumice Co., said the company started building a road into the area Monday. He said he doesn’t plan to do more in the next five days or so beyond putting in roads and getting samples.

Española businessman Richard Cook owns Copar. He wasn’t at the protest. Asked whether mining will continue in the area for long, he responded, “I think it depends on the market. Currently, there’s a good market for it. We don’t know if the market for stone-washed jeans will last.”

Mining in the area has been stalled since last fall, while Forest Service officials prepared their environmental assessment of the mining operation.

The Forest service filed notice Jan. 4 that it favored the mine. On Feb. 16, lawyer Grove Burnett filed a notice that the Sierra Club, New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air and Water, Save and Jemez and the Elk Mountain Action Party intended to appeal the ruling. The next day, The Forest Service approved Copar’s mining plan, meaning that the company could start mining at any time.

Burnett filed a 28-page document giving his reasons for the appeal early the month. Late last week, he filed a motion for a stay with the Forest Service, requesting the agency to block the mine until it hears the appeal.

Burnett claims the Forest Service performed an environmental assessment of the project that incorrectly found it wouldn’t have significant environmental impact. Burnett said Tuesday that if the Forest Service doesn’t respond to his request

for a stay by Thursday, he will seek a temporary restraining order in federal court. Fred Coe, spokesman for the Santa Fe National Forest, said Tuesday that his

office probably would respond to the request for a stay next week.

From Albuquerque Journal, October 03, 1988

Bore Hole Offers Peek at History, Potential of Core
By Byron Spice, Journal Science Writer

Christmas comes several times a day along the rim of the valley Caldera in the Jemez Mountains.

For geologists involved in boring a hole deep into the ancient, collapsed volcano, it comes in the form of rock cores, decoratively wrapped in metal pipe and delivered from a hard-hat Santa’s 75-foot-tall drill rig just up the hill.

A 75-foot-tall drill rig, the largest diamond-core drill rig in the Valles Caldera, an ancient, collapsed volcano in the United States, is used to bore a scientific hole deep into Jemez Mountains. Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal

A 75-foot-tall drill rig, the largest diamond-core drill rig in the Valles Caldera, an ancient, collapsed volcano in the United States, is used to bore a scientific hole deep into Jemez Mountains. Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal

The cores have been arriving in the scientists’ plastic-sheeted lean-to since late July, first in 10-foot lengths and now in 20-feet lengths. Each 2-inch-diameter cylinder of rock reveals more of the volcanic system’s secrets, which the mountains have been hoarding for hundreds of thousands of years.

The project is part of the Continental Scientific Drilling Program and is designed to increase understanding of volcanoes, geothermal energy systems and the way in which mineral deposits are formed. Researchers expect to complete the drilling in the next few weeks, by which time the bore hole may reach a depth of 7,000 feet.

“Holy smokes, look at the pyrite in there,” cried Jeff Hulen, a geologist with the University of Utah Research Institute, as the latest gift of rock core was dumped into a plastic trough one day last week. “Isn’t that beautiful stuff? Look at this vein,” he said, pointing to a long golden streak of pyrite spiralling around the core.

Only minutes earlier, the rock had been hoisted from a depth of almost 4,800 feet, where temperatures are greater than 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The core was still warm to the touch as Hulen and Jamie Gardner, a geologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, scanned it to find any obvious prizes.

Within minutes, the scientists focused on the bottom of the core, which they found was composed of “intrusive” rock – once molten rock that never reached the surface when the volcano erupted. Its presence surprised and pleased the researchers – “We’ve got an intrusive!” – because the drill long ago had passed through all the volcanic rock near the surface and was deep within sedimentary rock.

This intrusive rock suggested that a previously undiscovered finger of rock might extend from the chamber of molten rock, or magma, that lies three or four miles beneath the caldera. The magma chamber already may have solidified into granite, but its heat continues to feed the area’s many hot springs.

“This is detective work at its finest,” said Gardner, who is co-principle investigator with Hulen of the drilling project.

The bore hole is along the western rim of the Valles Caldera, near a tiny settlement known as Sulfur Springs. It is the third and deepest hole drilled in the giant depression as part of the Continental Scientific Drilling Program, which is sponsored by the Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation.

It will cost $1.2 million just to drill the hole, known officially as VC-2B. About scientists from around the world are involved. Total expenditures could reach $4 million to $5 million during the course of the five-year project, Gardner said.

Geologists increasingly are turning to drilling projects such as this to provide new dimensions to their science. Rather than relying on the two-dimensional clues of surface features to predict underground structure, geologists can use rock cores and bore holes to obtain the third dimension of depth and the fourth dimension of time. By the time VC-2B bottoms out, researchers will have gotten a glimpse at rock dating back 1.6 billion years.

The 14-mile-wide caldera itself dates back 1.1 million years, when a huge volcano erupted so rapidly that it left a void beneath it, resulting in its collapse. The most recent eruption in the caldera system was 130,000 years ago.

It’s one of the three youngest caldera systems in the country and is well preserved. “What we learn here will have applications to other geothermal areas around the world,” Gardner said.

Under the supervision of Sandia National Laboratories, the drilling rig is using diamond-studded bits to cut a continuous core of rock. The continuous core is important because it not only shows scientists what rock types exist and at what levels, but preserves the rock’s structure as well, Gardner said.

The drilling rig is the largest diamond-core rig in the country and was imported from Australia fro the project, said Peter Lysne, head Sandia’s geoscience drilling office. Sandia has high hopes for using the advanced drilling technology for exploratory oil and gas executives at the drilling site last Friday.

Driller Mike LaOrange operates the drill rig used to bore into the Valles Caldera. Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal

Driller Mike LaOrange operates the drill rig used to bore into the Valles Caldera. Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal

The caldera is the source of the Bandelier tuff that covers much of the Jemez Mountains to a depth of 1,000 feet. But the volcanic system extends much deeper than that, with hot, pressurized geothermal fluids – mainly water – seeping through tiny cracks in the underlying sedimentary rocks.

Steel liners are being installed as the hole is drilled. Next year, researchers will perforate the lining at various intervals to sample the fluids, which may contain chlorine, arsenic, boron, silica or other dissolved material, depending on depth and rock type.

Energy companies are interested in tapping these geothermal fluids, letting them flash to steam to power electrical generators. Some of what is learned in the current project may aid in geothermal power development.

However, those hot fluids also dissolve minerals and concentrate them in ore deposits. Those deposits have proven to be of interest in older calderas that have cooled to the point where mining is practical. Scientists hope the drilling project will allow them to observe how these ore bodies are deposited.

For instance, rock cores from a depth of 1,152 feet revealed for instance, ruby silver, a sub-ore-grade mineral often found near bodies of silver ore, Hulen said. That might be evidence of an ore body in the process of forming, or the ruby silver may have migrated in the geothermal fluids from a lower ore body.

Geologist Jeffery Hulen examines a rock core for mineralization, rock type and other features immediately after it has been raised from a depth of about 4,800 feet. Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal

Geologist Jeffery Hulen examines a rock core for mineralization, rock type and other features immediately after it has been raised from a depth of about 4,800 feet. Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal

Likewise, deeper cores have been composed of a jasperoid rock, which suggests the presence of gold deposits, Gardner said.

The drilling is scheduled to end once the bore hole penetrates several hundred feet of Precambrian rock. Previous geothermal drilling has shown this layer of rock to be composed of granite or granitic gneiss through which little fluid circulates.



From Los Alamos Mini Review, January 01, 1982



Fenton Hill during drilling of well EE-3. This 20-acre site in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico contains both the pioneering Hot Dry Rock Research (Phase I) System and the follow on Engineering (Phase II) System. The Research System, behind the red drilling rig, has operated successfully for more than a year at heat- extraction rates up to 5 million watts with no detectable environmental effect. The Engineering System, under construction, will investigate the economic feasibility of generating electricity for commercial use.