Headlines > News > Spaceport Authority Seeks to Strike Balance Between Preservation of Historic Trail and Economic Progress

Spaceport Authority Seeks to Strike Balance Between Preservation of Historic Trail and Economic Progress

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Jun 21, 2007 4:44 pm
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Spaceport America Press Release:
(Published in Las Cruces Sun-News Sunday, June 17, 2007)

This Thursday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is expected to name El Camino Real National Historic Trail to the list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Places.” On behalf of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, we wholeheartedly welcome the designation and the attention.

In a Las Cruces Sun-News story last week, however, the spokeswoman for the Trust said the group was considering the designation because of possible threats from Spaceport America. The Trust, from day one, has exhibited concern about the impact of the Spaceport on the Trail. In response, we have opened a substantive dialogue because we believe in the importance of the Trail, and we intend to share a beautiful valley. We have promised to work collaboratively to protect and preserve the Trail, and to assist with public education, marketing and promotion as well.

We believe, through collaboration and transparent communication, we can strike a balance between historic preservation and economic progress.

New Mexico Spaceport Authority has persevered over the last year to create personal bridges, communication channels and trust between Spaceport America and the supporters of El Camino Real, particularly the Las Cruces-based Trail advocacy group, CARTA, as well as the National Trust.

I have asked the Trust to publicly recognize that the New Mexico Spaceport Authority has been acting in good faith and is taking the right steps to protect and preserve the Trail. I would also like the Trust to acknowledge that the partnership we have created around El Camino Real and Spaceport America is precisely the sort of coalition of private land owners, local government, non-profit and state and federal officials that will be required to protect and preserve El Camino Real as it traverses private farmland and developments, and public villages and cities on its route from El Paso to the San Juan Pueblo north of Santa Fe. Protecting the trail will be a challenge in diplomacy because of the patchwork of owners on and around this important historical resource, and the sensitivity toward the federal government or a federally based non-profit telling local land owners and the city government what it can and cannot do with this land. In fact, both the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, co-managers of the Trail, have written me letters to clarify a very important point. They have stated unequivocally that these federal agencies have absolutely no authority to dictate what the State does on State land. They remember well the Sagebrush Rebellion, and no one among us wants to reawaken the emotional battle between the federal government and states and private property owners.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of partnership, the Spaceport Authority has made some very specific and significant agreements that are in the best interest of the Trail. These include: moving the Spaceport runway almost three miles from the Trail, not making any new crossings of the Trail, attempting to limit development in a 20-mile radius of the Spaceport, designing the site and buildings to blend into the desert landscape, burying utility lines, and bringing visitors to the site in hydrogen-powered buses, not single-occupancy vehicles. We have also formed an advisory group (of which the Trust is a member), and we meet each month (beginning last month) to talk about the nuts and bolts of design and planning and collaboration and partnership. All of these actions have been noted in the draft Environmental Impact Statement, to be released later this year, in connection with the operator’s license we are seeking from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority wants to make sure we move forward to honor El Camino Real, not only in the valley it shares with Spaceport America, but throughout the rest of the State. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority supports the Trust and the important designation of El Camino Real it will make this week. But we also ask the Trust to take our hand, sit down at the table as partners, and join the strong team we have formed in New Mexico to save the Trail for future generations.

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