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Funding Urged for NM Nat'l. Parks for Future Generations

New Mexico's 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve has an estimated $6,244,757 in deferred maintenance. (newmexico.org)
New Mexico's 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve has an estimated $6,244,757 in deferred maintenance. (newmexico.org)
June 24, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Conservation advocates say future generations will get the short shrift if Congress does not act to maintain and repair national parks across the U.S.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee took up the issue of deferred park maintenance last week. And Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico noted his state has 16 park sites with $121 million in deferred maintenance.

He said even volunteers who might want to help can't because there's no funding for staff to oversee their work.

"Today, outdoor recreation is the single largest driver of activity on our public lands, but our assignment of staff is stuck decades in the past, and we've seen this in many places in New Mexico," Heinrich stated.

Nearly 2 million people visited national parks in New Mexico in 2016, adding an estimated $108 million to local economies.

A poll by The Pew Charitable Trusts shows more than 75% of Americans want Congress to pass legislation that would fund about half of the $12 billion in current maintenance, through existing government revenues from onshore and offshore energy development.

New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns, where the main passenger elevators remain broken and unavailable to the public, has $40 million in deferred maintenance.

Phil Francis, who chairs The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, watched the backlog grow.

"The good news is that finally, if passed, and if there's mandatory funding, it will be the first time that we've been able to make a major detent in addressing that deferred-maintenance program," he stated.

Francis says he went to work in 1972 as a seasonal park ranger and stayed for four decades.

"So, I spent 41 years helping to protect them, and now six years as a volunteer for The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks,” he related. “We have 1,700 former Park Service employees as members, and we're going to do all we can to make sure our parks are protected and preserved for future generations."

The National Park Service manages more than 400 sites across the U.S. Repairs are needed for unsafe roads, eroding trails, outdated campgrounds, broken bathrooms and other infrastructure.


Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM