WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) welcomed the acquisition of the Sulphur Springs property into the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The property contains unique volcanic features such as steaming mud-pots, volcanic fumaroles, and sulphuric-acid hot springs that are rarely found across the world.
“Valles Caldera is an awe-inspiring example of our treasured public lands and an iconic part of New Mexico’s unique landscape,” Udall said. “I am grateful for this years-long effort and the many dedicated people who made it possible to integrate the Sulphur Springs property into the wider preserve so that all Americans can appreciate our planet’s rich geologic history. My father, Stewart Udall, helped create LWCF to connect our children with the outdoors and maintain stewardship of our public lands. I fought to permanently reauthorize LWCF last year, and I will continue fighting to ensure this vital program receives permanent funding to preserve our access to places like Valles Caldera for generations to come.”
“I’m so proud to welcome this addition to the National Preserve that will allow visitors to explore and learn more about the unique volcanic geological features you can only find in Valles Caldera,” said Heinrich. “I’m pleased that we are protecting these invaluable resources from harmful development. Public access to Sulphur Springs will help cement Valles Caldera’s reputation as ‘New Mexico’s Yellowstone.’ The potential for new educational and recreational opportunities at this site is a great example of why it was so important to transition the Preserve’s management to the National Park Service five years ago. It is also further evidence of the indispensable value of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which also helped the federal government acquire and open up Valles Caldera to the public in the first place. I’m deeply grateful for Valles Caldera’s Park Service leadership, the Heritage Partnership Trust, and all the non-profit partners who worked hard to make this happen.”
The National Park Service finalized the purchased the 40-acre property with funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the National Park Trust, Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust, Cornell Douglas Foundation, an anonymous donor, and Mrs. Frances H. Kennedy, whose contribution was in honor of her late husband, former National Park Service Director Roger G. Kennedy (1993-1997).
According to the National Park Service, public access and visitation to the site will remain limited while the Park Service conducts formal surveys of the property’s natural and cultural resources, restores the site from previous mining activity, eliminates safety hazards, and develops visitor-related infrastructure. Sulphur Springs was originally patented in 1898 as a mining claim by New Mexico businessman and politician, Maríano Otero, who mined sulfur at the site from 1902 to 1904. The Otero family then developed the site as a health resort spa, which operated through much of the twentieth century until it burned down in the 1970s. The property then passed to several private owners. In the late 1980s, Los Alamos National Laboratory established an experimental geothermal well on the site, and a small number of residents occupied the property into the early 2000s.
In 2016, the property was purchased by the Heritage Partnership Trust in a deal facilitated by the National Parks Conservation Association.