NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A historic ranch near Jemez Springs will be part of the Santa Fe National Forest. The Forest Service announced it is acquiring 2,012 acres of land known as ‘The Valley of the Spirit Ranch.’ Officials say the move will protect the area’s natural and cultural resources and it will expand access to a part of the forest that is hard to reach. It’s one of the biggest land acquisitions in the forest’s history.
According to a news release from the Forest Service, the acquisition was possible by the Great American Outdoors Act, which included the permanent reauthorization and full funding of the Land Water Conservation Fund. The conservation fund provides money to federal, state, and local governments to purchase land, water, and wetlands for the benefit of the public.
The news release states that the Valley of the Spirit land property is within the congressionally designated Jemez National Recreation Area and has access from NM Highway 4. The property has several hiking trails and an undeveloped hot spring and one of the largest peregrine falcon nesting areas on the Santa Fe National Forest, according to the news release.
The land is also part of the Jemez River watershed, an important ecosystem that supports wildlife habitat and provides clean water to downstream communities, including Jemez Springs, Pueblo of Jemez, San Ysidro, and Zia Pueblo, according to the news release.
Lastly, the Forest Service says threatened and endangered species rely on the habitat within the VAlley of the Spirit property including the Mexican spotted owl, the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, the Rio Grande chub, and the Rio Grande sucker.