BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

National Park Status for Ted Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch?

The first time I'd ever heard of hydraulic fracturing was on a reporting trip to Ted Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch in 2005. I was working for the Taos News at the time, and the big news of the day was a push by El Paso Natural Gas to drill the Valle Vidal Unit of Northern New Mexico's Carson National Forest for coalbed methane. To get an idea what coalbed methane development on the Valle Vidal would look like, I decided to check out what it looked like at Vermejo Park, whose 600,000 acres border the Valle Vidal.

Significant opposition from a large group of locals and Philmont Scout Ranch eventually scuttled El Paso's effort to drill the Valle Vidal. (Disclosure: I am a former Philmont seasonal staff member and spent much time in the Valle Vidal while on the job.) But development on Vermejo Park (and, presumably, fracking) continued, and it looked something like this:

Not bad for a coalbed methane field, I suppose. Whatever the impact, Vermejo Park in 2005 was certainly one of the most exquisitely beautiful ranches in Northern New Mexico.

Now, at the request of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the National Park Service just concluded a study recommending that the Vermejo Park Ranch become part of the National Park System along with historical areas of the San Luis Valley to the northwest of the ranch. The study and the summary report are here. The NPS is taking public comment on the proposal until March 20, but any decision about national park status for the ranch would have to be made by Congress.

Is Vermejo Park worthy of some sort of NPS-managed national preserve or national park? I look forward to reading some possible answers to that question in the comments when they're available this spring.