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The Department of Agriculture cut the Valles Caldera National Preserve out of its Forest Service budget request to Congress this week, and New Mexico senators are puzzled and dismayed about it.As the preserve’s executive director and key trustees visited in Washington Wednesday, staff members said the senators would be working to regain the funds for next fiscal year, which starts in October.A spokesperson from the office of Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said the senator had not received any information from the Office of Management and Budget or the Forest Service to explain the Valles Caldera funding recommendation.In response to a query, his office replied, “Without federal funding, the Trust would face difficulties operating, including laying off most staff.”Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., was also surprised and very concerned.“The Bush Administration has been requesting too little every year, but Congress has been bumping up the number (to about $3.7 million this year).
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