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Domenici lodges funding request for Valles

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By The Staff

Sen. Pete Domenici, R.-N.M., today formally requested $10 million in federal funds to continue support for the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The senator serves on a subcommittee that will soon begin developing the FY2009 Interior Appropriations Bill that funds the U.S. Forest Service and the Valles Caldera.In a letter submitted to subcommittee chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Domenici requested the funding for the Valles Caldera, an 89,000-acre ranch located near Los Alamos in the Jemez Mountains. The request includes $3.5 million for general operation of the preserve, and $6.5 million for road and facilities maintenance improvements.“This request is reasonable and, in my view, necessary as we continue to propel the Valles Caldera to be able to accept more visitors,” Domenici said. “I vehemently disagree with the budget request and view of the Forest Service that the Caldera can and should be treated in its budget like other pieces of federal property. The trust that manages the Valles Caldera is making progress on its mission to become more self sufficient, and my FY2009 funding request would allow that work to continue in earnest.”In February, Undersecretary for Agriculture Mark Rey defended eliminating Valles Caldera funding for FY2009 and termed previous congressional earmarks for the former Baca Ranch – including $3.69 million provided in FY2008 – as “excessive.”Rey suggested to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the Valles Caldera could be funded under the general funding allotment for USFS Region 3, but Domenici said there is nothing in the Forest Service budget request indicating that funding for the Valles Caldera will be accommodated.Domenici also submitted a request for $1.1 million for the National Park Service’s Vanishing Treasures initiative, which is used to protect and stabilize ruins in national parks around the country. The program was funded at $600,000 in FY2008. Seven park units in New Mexico, including nearby Bandelier National Monument as well as Chaco Culture National Historic Park, El Malpais National Monument, and El Morro National Monument and Aztec Ruins National Monument, are currently participating in the “Vanishing Treasures” initiative.“Over the years, New Mexico programs have received $1.6 million for Vanishing Treasures activities, and I’ve seen firsthand some of the work this funding accomplishes. We should continue to support this program to save vital aspects of our ancient past,” Domenici said.Domenici has also requested $267 million in Bureau of Land Management funding for the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. The administration’s FY2009 budget recommended $195 million for PILT, which is $34 million lower than the $228.9 million supplied by Congress for FY2008.“I fully support increasing funding for PILT,” Domenici said. New Mexico counties rely on this funding, which they deserve for not being able to directly benefit from federal holdings within their borders.”All New Mexico counties, with the exception of Curry County, receive PILT payments. The state generally receives the highest annual level of PILT funding – $22.7 million in 2007.