El Malpais National Conservation Area

The Wilderness Land Trust Protects Elk, Antelope and Bat Habitat near the West Malpais Wilderness Area, in the El Malpais National Conservation Area

The Wilderness Land Trust Protects Elk, Antelope and Bat Habitat near the West Malpais Wilderness Area, in the El Malpais National Conservation Area

Aug. 18, 2015

After traversing a rough, volcanic landscape, we surprised a large cow elk and later saw two elk sauntering together on the range, off into the New Mexico sky. On our spring site visit, we caught wildflowers amidst the volcanic high desert junipers and pines on this special 80 acres we have now protected in the El Malpais National Conservation Area—an amazing wild place.  The Trust will now work to transfer the property to the US Bureau of Land Management for permanent protection.  The National Park Service also manages the nearby El Malpais National Monument.


The recently acquired property is located in the El Malpais National Conservation Area, near the West Malpais Wilderness Area, and could have provided a remote home site, but will now stay wild.  It’s a rugged area of over 231,230 acres that supports an amazing variety of forested landscape and provides a haven for wildlife. Hunters and hikers alike enjoy the broad vistas and wide open skies.


"The Bureau of Land Management and the Rio Puerco Field Office would like to thank The Wilderness Land Trust for acquiring these lands so BLM could purchase it on behalf of the American Public in order to protect its beauty and resources in perpetuity," said John Brenna, BLM Field Manager.


This is the second property the Trust has protected in the area of the West Malpais Wilderness—the Trust also protected the 320-acre Hoya de Cibola property inside the, at the time, proposed Wilderness, containing a collapsed lava tube used by University of New Mexico students to study the rare microfauna that exist in this unique environment. Both properties host Ponderosa pines. Cerro Chateau, one of the highest features in the area, reaches 8,427 feet in elevation. Thirteen species of bats use the unique lava caves.


“Private uses inconsistent with wilderness would ruin an unbroken expanse of range where antelope and elk still roam, Mexican free-tailed bats fly between lava caves, surrounded by high desert vistas with gorgeous views of the surrounding volcanic ridges,” said Aimee Rutledge, Vice President of the Land Trust.




El Malpais National Conservation Area/West Malpais Wilderness

http://www.blm.gov, http://www.wilderness.net/

The El Malpais National Conservation Area (NCA) was established in 1987 to protect nationally-significant geological, archaeological, ecological, cultural, scenic, scientific, and wilderness resources surrounding the Grants Lava Flows.  El Malpais translates to "the badlands" in Spanish.  The NCA includes dramatic sandstone cliffs, canyons, the La Ventana Natural Arch, the Chain of Craters Back Country Byway, and the Narrows Picnic Area.  There are many opportunities for photography, hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing within this unique NCA.


For more than 10,000 years people have interacted with the El Malpais landscape.  Historic and prehistoric sites provide connections to past times.  More than mere artifacts, these cultural resources are kept alive by the spiritual and physical presence of contemporary Indian groups, including the Puebloan peoples of Acoma, Laguna, Zuni, and the Ramah Navajo.  These tribes continue their ancestral uses of El Malpais including gathering plant materials, paying respect, and renewing ties.


The United States Congress designated the West Malpais Wilderness in 1987 and it now has a total of 39,540 acres. All of this wilderness is located in New Mexico and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.


In this region of New Mexico countless volcanic eruptions sent rivers of molten rock and flying cinders over what is now a bleak valley of three million years' worth of hardened lava. Native American settlers probably witnessed the last of the eruptions. Their former home is now a land of craters and lava tubes, cinder cones and spatter cones, ice caves and pressure ridges, and a surprising amount of vegetation. Even on terrain that one would presume to be barren, wind-deposited debris has thickened enough to support grasses, cacti, aspen, pine, juniper, and fir.


Preserved as El Malpais National Monument (managed by the National Park Service) and Conservation Area (managed by the Bureau of Land Management), two Wildernesses lie within the boundaries of BLM land: Cebolla and West Malpais. The latter Wilderness is home to Hole-In-The-Wall, the largest islandlike depression in these lava fields. Over the years, moisture and soil collected on some of the oldest lava to form this 6,000-acre park of ponderosa pine.


Be prepared for heat and high winds. Some hikers escape a fierce dry wind cutting across the lava beds by dropping into the shadowy pleasantness of a convenient lava tube (formed by molten lava cooling faster on the surface while a hot river of lava continued to flow underneath, thus leaving a cave).  You may see antelope here, and during summer a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats migrates between some of the caves. Bring several flashlights and protective clothing to explore the miles of lava tubes, but stay out of the bat caves. No groundwater exists in the entire area, so pack plenty.


The National Wilderness Preservation System

Wilderness is a refuge for animals, plants, clean water, clean air and a foundation for 21st century conservation. It may hold the key to future conservation and the tools for adapting to global climate change. However, the system is still filled with holes, 180,000 acres of private lands that fracture the whole. Across the country there are plans to develop mines, retreats, logging operations and resorts deep within wilderness holdings, fragmenting a resource that cannot afford to be lost.  The Trust’s continuing mission to eliminate these pockets of inholdings and create a seamless wilderness system is vital, echoing the spirit and intent of the original Wilderness Act. The Wilderness Land Trust is the only national organization dedicated solely to buying these lands and adding them to the National Wilderness Preservation System.


The Wilderness Land Trust

The Wilderness Land Trust (WLT) is a small, highly specialized nonprofit organization established to buy and protect wilderness land. Since it was founded in 1992, the non-profit organization has preserved 419 parcels comprised of more than 42,000 acres of wilderness inholdings in 92 designated and proposed wilderness areas. The Wilderness Land Trust, a 501(c)(3) organization, has offices in California and Colorado. WLT is an accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and is a 1% for the Planet Non-Profit Partner. For more information visit our website www.wildernesslandtrust.org.


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