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Valles Caldera looking to future

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The management experiment at Valles Caldera National Preserve is coming to an end as the National Park Service prepares to take over the 140-square-mile property in northern New Mexico.

The transition is among dozens of public land measures squeezed into the half-trillion-dollar defense bill signed by President Barack Obama on Friday, but details about how things will change at the preserve remain unclear.

The Park Service is taking on Valles Caldera and numerous other properties at a time when the agency is struggling with more than $11 billion in deferred maintenance at existing parks and monuments and is looking to boost entrance fees at parks across the nation to generate more revenue in advance of the agency's centennial.

Can the agency afford what amounts to its largest expansion in nearly four decades?

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn says no. The Oklahoma Republican said Friday on the Senate floor that expanding the park system was "a disastrous idea" and that the nation's existing parks were falling apart.

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