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Bouquets & brickbats
Bouquet: Valles Caldera
New Mexicans who get around the state know the Valles Caldera is God's country beautiful, fragrant, serene. Until lately, however, the gates of this earthly paradise were effectively closed to most of them.
Until 2000, when the lush, 90,000-acre, dormant volcanic crater in the Jemez Mountains was sold to the public for $101 million, it was a private ranch. And until last month, the expanse now the Valles Caldera National Preserve was managed, critics said, as "a taxpayer-purchased playground for the rich." Access was strictly limited and was granted to folks who could afford a $45, guided hike.