Alamocita CreekIn New Mexico, the CDNST has been properly located in all but three locations in the state. One area in need of final location is a 52-mile section between Pie Town, NM and El Malpais National Conservation Area.
The nature and purpose of the CDNST are to provide for high-quality scenic, primitive hiking, and horseback riding opportunities and to conserve the natural, historic, and cultural resources along the CDNST corridor. In New Mexico, the CDNST has been properly located in all but three locations in the state. One area in need of final location is a 52-mile section between Pie Town, NM and El Malpais National Conservation Area. The BLM portion of the Trail in this area is a unit of the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). In this section the trail is located, on an interim basis, on the shoulders of county and state highways. This situation is not consistent with a primitive hiking and horseback riding experience, and also presents a safety issue for those using the trail.
The Pie Town to El Malpais segment may be properly located to a primitive, high-quality, and scenic location on USFS and BLM land through the Sawtooth Mountains and across Alamocita Creek with the acquisition of private land and easements for approximately three miles across two land owners. Both Landowners are willing sellers: one of an easement, the second (owner of the Alamocita Creek property) of fee title only. The Almacita Creek property is situated in a manner which is impossible to bypass: to successfully locate the CDNST, the trail must pass through this property. This property also contains perennial surface water, the only reliable naturally occurring water source in the vicinity. Upon completion of this section of trail, the creek and cottonwood gallery it supports will become a major identified landmark and camping location for trail users, and its inclusion in the NLCS will assure that wildlife will retain unimpeded access to this water source.
The effort to acquire this property has been a joint effort between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS), Trust for Public Land (TPL), and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC).
Question and Answer
What are the primary purposes for this acquisition?
- To secure necessary public access in order to safeguard a “continuous” CDNST as mandated by Congress.
- Effect completion of the CDNST in conformity with the provisions of the trail’s Comprehensive Plan, specifically providing a high quality primitive hiking and horseback riding experience.
- Provide for public safety by removing 52 miles of trail from public highways.
Where is the BLM seeking to acquire easements or land along the CDNST?
A: BLM is pursuing easements or fee title along the BLM sections of this trail. Because trail location is focused on public lands to the greatest extent possible, the need to cross non-federal lands is minimized. The shortest crossing of private lands is sought in all cases.
Is BLM New Mexico pursuing easements or fee title for the CDNST?
A: BLM is seeking willing sellers. Whether the landowner is willing to sell an easement or fee title, BLM will follow the wishes of the landowner. There is advantage to purchasing fee title in that it would help to better protect the viewshed, cultural resources, watershed, wildlife and other trail resources as well as provide opportunities along the trail such as camping and hunting.
What will the CDNST – Alamocita Creek acquisition accomplish for the CDNST?
A: It will relocate 52 miles of trail from temporary alignments along the shoulders of highways. The land acquisition will place 90% of the trail in this area into a primitive high quality experience for the hiker and horseback rider. The acquisition will correct the poor conditions currently experienced on the shoulders of highways and alleviate safety issues presented by the highway location. The acquisition of this property will also secure a natural perennial surface water source for the trail, and provide a desirable camping area among cottonwood trees. This would be the only reliable natural water source on this section of the trail.
Is the subject property currently for sale?
A: Yes. The Trust for Public Lands has a purchase agreement in place for the property, the landowners having accepted an offer of the appraised value.
What is the size of the property?
A: The property is 5,867 acres
What is the value of the property?
A: The property appraised at $2,700,000.
Will the Trust for Public Lands be able to complete the acquisition?
A: The TPL and BLM had arranged for the property to be purchased by the Pueblo of Acoma (who hold a reservation nearby). The Pueblo of Acoma would then exchange the majority of this parcel to the BLM for BLM lands surrounded by a previous Acoma acquisition. As of December, 2013, it is uncertain if the Acoma continue to be interested in completing the exchange, and so other opportunities are being sought.
Why not buy an easement alone, or only buy a portion of the property?
A: The land owners will only sell the entire parcel. They do not want to fragment the parcel with an easement or partial sale because they believe they will be unable to sell the remainder of the property if they do so.
Does the BLM have authority to purchase a larger section of land than is required for citing the CDNST and protection of associated setting or viewshed?
A: Yes. The National Trails System Act (Sec. 7(f)(2)) states “In acquiring lands or interests therein for a National Scenic or Historic Trail, the appropriate Secretary may, with consent of a landowner, acquire whole tracts notwithstanding that parts of such tracts may lie outside the area of trail acquisition.” This part of the Act was written to provide for this very circumstance, where willing sellers are only willing if the entire tract is purchased.
Why not wait for the current owner to sell and then approach a new owner for purchase of an easement or smaller parcel?
A: There is no indication that the situation would be more favorable with a different owner. In fact, the opposite is true. The current landowner was in recent negotiations with a prospective buyer of adjoining parcels, and this prospective buyer expressed clear sentiment of a desire to not have the CDNST routed in the area.
Why acquire this property and not alternative land?
A: This property creates a bottle neck area along the trail for this region. On the west side of the subject tract landowners are unwilling to provide easements. Properties are for sale there, but significantly larger tracts than the subject property. To the east of the subject property would require a bypass resulting in an indirect trail routing with an awkward 14 mile detour. Such a detour would lead to trespass problems and poor relations with neighbors. This bypass would require easement or land acquisition from as many as 20 different landowners, exponentially increasing the complexity in securing the CDNST corridor.
Would there be other public benefits through this acquisition?
A: Yes. A county road crosses The Alamocita Creek property, and the property separates the county road from public lands on the adjacent Cibola National Forest. This acquisition would provide for access to these Forest Service lands where it currently does not exist. The property also has riparian resources with a cottonwood gallery and perennial water providing a diversity of wildlife habitat. Prehistoric cultural resources are also known to be located on the property.
Is this land manageable by BLM?
A: Yes. The BLM would have access to the property via a county road. In addition, BLM manages land north of this parcel, 2,120 acres of which are managed for the CDNST. If the subject property becomes public land, it will assist the BLM in accessing and managing these other lands. The Alamocita Creek parcel is a valuable parcel with riparian resources and potential for improved wildlife habitat under BLM management.
Is the Alamocita Creek property isolated from other public lands?
A: No. The property is contiguous with the Cibola National Forest, sharing a 7 mile long boundary. Acquisition would consolidate federal land ownership.
Why is the Forest Service not purchasing this property?
A: This National Trail is a congressionally designated unit of BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System. BLM has the authority and mandate to work with other partners in developing this National Scenic Trail. The property is located outside the boundary of the USFS. Modification of the USFS boundary would require an act of Congress. The political climate is not favorable to FS boundary modifications.
What is the status of the other private land the CDNST must cross in this area?
A: The owner of the other private land is currently working with the BLM to sell an easement along the edge of the property. The trail routing has been identified, and BLM will be surveying the route, in preparation of the transaction, in the spring of 2014.
Once acquired, how will the CDNST be built?
Since its designation in 1978, volunteers, youth corps, agency trail crews, and private contractors, have been used to build the CDNST. Partners will employ these same practices and programs to lay out, construct, and most importantly, maintain after construction, the new CDNST route. Funding for this effort will come from a variety of sources including Federal, State and private funding. This will help increase jobs as well as opportunities for citizen stewardship, and engaging the next generation of conservation leaders into the stewardship of our public lands.
What are the benefits of a Trail through this area?
Connecting the CDNST through this area will help connect and complete the Trail in and around the communities of Grants and Pie Town, NM. With the Trail’s completion, it will become a scenic hiking destination for the people of New Mexico, as well as from all over the world. This will help increase the economic benefits of the CDNST in the area, and hope to be an asset to the communities of Grants and Pie Town.
Can I contribute financially to help support this effort?
Yes. At this time the partners (Trust for Public Land and Continental Divide Trail Coalition) involved in this project welcome financial support that enables us to continue to work on these projects. Contributions may be made directly to each organization, via the contacts below. If you would like to contribute to the purchase of these lands, please contact TPL or CDTC directly for more information.