Buffalo Tract could be a horse tract

horse_bufftractMarty Clifton is a Placitas resident and horse owner who has worked for years to establish a horse sanctuary in the Placitas area. He lobbied legislators in 2012 to seek an appropriation to purchase a 3,144-acre tract of BLM land on the north side of Placitas, known as the Buffalo Tract, for a recreational park and horse sanctuary.

The letter below was published in the August issue of the Sandoval Signpost by Marty Clifton and is re-posted here with permission of the author.

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Placitas needs to develop a consensus plan for the BLM Buffalo Tract in order to avoid gravel mining and preserve the fragile ecosystem there. At the same time we should consider the possibility for a horse sanctuary on a portion of the land.

An important element of the 2012 draft BLM Resource Management Plan (RMP) plan was the BLM’s indication that it still considered the 3,400 acre Buffalo Tract to be eligible for natural resource development, per the BLM’s Federal Charter to manage its lands according to it’s Federal “multi-use” mandate. The northernmost 800 acres were scoped for potential gravel mining.

In 2012, Senator John Sapien submitted legislation which was approved by the New Mexico State Legislature to purchase the Bureau of Land Management’s 3,400 acre “Buffalo Track” under the Federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act (the R&PP Act). The legislation provided $45,000 for the purchase. Under the R&PP Act, states or their affiliates (municipalities, counties, or other state affiliates) can lease or purchase BLM land to establish parks or other recreational or public purposes. The purchase price under the R&PP Act is $10 per acre.

This is exactly the procedure that the BLM used to evaluate the City of Albuquerque’s eventual acquisition of the Albuquerque/Placitas Open Space of 560 acres in the 1960’s. That acquisition resulted in Placitas having an extremely useful and valuable recreation area, which, for the most part, has also resulted in 50 years of community care and protection of this fragile and important environmental resource.

Governor Susana Martinez vetoed the legislation, citing lack of community consensus on the establishment of a state park (and potential horse sanctuary) using the Buffalo Tract, as well as financial issues.

It is still possible to acquire the Buffalo Track under the Federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act. This could be done by the State, or State Affiliates such as Sandoval County, City of Albuquerque, Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, San Antonio de Las Placitas Land Grant, or Placitas area Municipal Water Districts

One additional option for the disposition of the BLM Buffalo Track is the possibility that the land could be converted to a National Conservation Area (an NCA). Created by an Act of Congress, the National Conservation Area management would remain under the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management

A National Conservation Area (NCA) already exists in New Mexico. It is near Ruidoso and Fort Stanton and is called the Snowy River Cave NCA. It is a 24,000-acre naturalist area, permitting limited automobile travel on primitive roads, camping, a small RV park, and equestrian, hiking and bicycle activities.

One of the ideas listed by New Mexico First for the Free-roaming Horse Task Force is the acquisition of the BLM Buffalo Tract or another unidentified property for purposes of providing a horse sanctuary.

The obvious next step is for Placitas community members to gather together to begin to discuss a plan for the acquisition and management of the BLM Buffalo Tract.

–  Marty Clifton, Placitas