Executive Director Jorge Silva-Bañuelos of the Valles Caldera Trust. Courtesy/VCT
By JORGE SILVA-BANUELOS News:
I am excited to be returning home after 10 years of living and working in Washington, D.C. For eight of those years, I rode my bike past the Capitol on my daily commute to Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s office. The sight made me feel privileged to be a public servant working in the halls of Congress.
Above all, I was fortunate that my job with Sen. Bingaman kept me connected to New Mexico and allowed me to work on matters related to public land management, including the Valles Caldera. During my travels around the state I visited with tribal leaders, ranchers, hunters, anglers, conservation groups, scientists, land grant heirs, acequia associations, petroleum engineers, archaeologists, and business leaders, to name a few. I came to understand that the state is vast and full of a diversity of cultures and perspectives where almost everyone is passionate when it comes to the preservation of our land and water.
My travels across New Mexico have affirmed that the Valles Caldera is one of the state’s most special places. When I visited with tribal leaders and other stakeholders about the Valles Caldera I gained a deeper understanding of its universal importance to New Mexicans and how much everyone cares about its future. The overriding theme during those discussions was the public’s desire for more access to explore the Preserve coupled with their deep concern that too many visitors may “love it to death.”
Mountain Bikers on the Preserve. Courtesy/VCT
Working at the Department of the Interior for the past two years, my bike commute took me past the White House each morning. It was a daily reminder of the challenges every government agency faces to balance the priorities of its mission with the diverse interests of the public. My commute is changing once again – I’ll need to trade in my two wheels for four – but I am certain that the view along the way will be the best yet.
What makes the Valles Caldera Trust unique among other federal agencies is that for more than a decade the staff has had the thankless job of trying to implement sometimes contradictory directions from the public, Congress and the Board of Trustees. Reconciling these three perspectives remains one of the highest priorities to chart a stable course for the future of the Preserve. As I step into this new role, I am confident that the staff can rise to the challenge of meeting the long-term interests of New Mexicans to make the Valles Caldera the premier destination in the state while protecting its natural and cultural resources for future generations.
I invite you to join me, the staff and the Board of Trustees in finding the common ground where we can accomplish that goal. We can begin this Friday night at the Board of Trustees public meeting in Los Alamos. The meeting will be from 6-9 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, 60 Entrada Dr. Please come share your thoughts, ideas and concerns with the Board, the staff and me. We can meet this challenge together to ensure members of the public can explore the Preserve, fall in love with it, and become strong advocates for its long-term preservation.