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Val Kilmer's Former River Ranch Receiving a Conservation Makeover

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When Val Kilmer’s 6,000 acre eco-ranch in New Mexico was sold to a Texas oil executive last year, there were some concerns over the fate of the property. Those worries were heightened this summer after bulldozers and excavators descended upon the property and sparked rumors throughout the community of construction run amuck.

In a statement to reporters, however, Benjamin A. Strickling III said that the conjecture surrounding his plans for the Pecos River Ranch does not align with reality. In fact, Strickling’s environmental intentions appear to be exceeding anything Kilmer had planned for the property.

“Since purchasing the Pecos River Ranch we hear from time to time rumors about airstrips under construction to buildings and tearing down bridges and the like,” the statement begins. “These rumors have no merit. To hear recently about building a dam on the Pecos River is consistent with previous silliness. Simply put, we are building a trout fishing ranch second to none,” the statement says. “To make this happen, we’ve undertaken programs to enhance the river and to attract the wildlife that once roamed these lands in abundance.”

Since purchasing the property in October, Strickling says he’s thinned 1,200 acres of overgrown woodland to regenerate the native, shrinking meadows, reseeded natural grasses, and partnered with the Santa Fe Conservation Trust to “preserve a significant portion of the ranch.”

A large 11,296 square-foot ranch house is being built on the property – but that’s not much different from the 11,573 square foot behemoth Kilmer already had in place. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory specialist added Strickling’s construction crews are also engaged in “a small amount of bank stabilization, reinstalling stream crossings to ensure they have less water quality impact and some fish habitat restoration.” The oil exec is also repairing and/or rebuilding roads leading to the river to reduce erosion and sediment load carried to the river.

While there’s certainly plenty of development at work here, remember that Kilmer himself had big plans for what he considered “wasted land.” From our pervious article:

Kilmer’s original business plan was to develop high-priced homes, constructed with indigenous materials (adobe, wood, and stone for natural insulation and heat), and featuring solar panels and a wind turbine system. Each house would be required by its “members” to have its own government-certified organic garden; its fruits would go to a co-op.

“It says something that almost 100 percent of the people who come here just feel good,” he said in a 2006 interview.”There’s a right-ness to developing a community that interacts with the local one. I have to develop it because otherwise it’s really wasting the land.”

So, it’s good to see that Strickling is making an effort to reinstate native species, shore up crumbling infrastructure, and partner with conservation orgs to preserve and enhance the area. Sounds like a win/win for both tourism in Santa Fe and conservation of the environment.

Check out a news report of construction at the Pecos River Ranch below.

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