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Highlights

In creating the Valles Caldera National Preserve from a unique parcel of land in north-central New Mexico, and by creating the Valles Caldera Trust as a wholly owned government corporation to manage the preserve, the Valles Caldera Preservation Act of 2000 established a 20-year public-private experiment to operate the preserve without continued federal funding. The Trust is charged with achieving a number of goals, including becoming financially self-sustaining by the end of fiscal year 2015. This report, GAO's second and last mandated by the Preservation Act, examines (1) the Trust's progress since 2000; (2) the extent to which the Trust has fulfilled certain of its obligations as a government corporation; and (3) the challenges the Trust faces to achieve the Preservation Act's goals. GAO analyzed documents, financial records, and other Trust information and interviewed current and former members of the Trust's Board and staff, as well as representatives of local interest groups and stakeholders.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Valles Caldera Trust To help further the Trust's efforts toward becoming a financially self-sustaining government corporation, the Trust's Chairman of the Board and Executive Director should work with the relevant congressional committees to seek legislative remedies, as appropriate, for the legal challenges confronting the Trust.
Closed - Implemented
In November 2009, the Trust sent a letter to Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall describing the legal challenges faced by the Trust that were identified in this GAO report. This letter also described potential changes that could be made to the Valles Caldera Preservation Act to clarify the Trust's legal authorities and alleviate the challenges confronting the Trust. In addition, Trust officials told GAO that the Trust has continued to reach out to Congress, most recently in September 2012, to provide updates on Trust activities, including issues related to some of the legal challenges we cited in our 2009 report such as the purchasing of private liability insurance. As of February 2013, New Mexico's Senators have reintroduced legislation that would transfer ownership of the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the National Park Service. This would, in effect, eliminate the legal challenges we cited, as well as the goal of self-sufficiency for the Trust.

Full Report