ALBUQUERQUE – As Congress approaches another deadline on the federal budget, a new Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center analysis, entitled Death by a Thousand Cuts, exposes the challenges facing New Mexico’s national parks as a result of mounting funding cuts to the National Park Service.
“At Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a hiring freeze was implemented last year, even though multiple full-time positions were unfilled,” said Dominick Lawton, field associate with Environment New Mexico. “We don’t want a death by a thousand cuts for New Mexico’s national parks and monuments.”
“Not having the full capacity to do what’s capable at Chaco Canyon is a tragedy, both for New Mexicans and for this country,” said State Sen. Benny Shendo (D-22), whose district includes Chaco Culture National Historical Park. “These are remote areas to begin with, and to appreciate fully the extent of this historical place, it’s critical to have full funding and staff.”
New Mexico’s national parks provide a critical habitat for wildlife like Carlsbad Caverns’ famous bats, and places like Petroglyph National Monument and Bandelier National Monument offer countless recreational opportunities to New Mexicans. Visitors to Chaco Culture National Historical Park have been enjoying its ancient Puebloan ruins since 1925.
Parks closures during last fall’s government shutdown capped off the third straight year in which Congress cut funding to the National Park Service operating budget. Additional cuts from the March 2013 sequester make for a 13 percent reduction in funding for our parks in today’s dollars over this period.
Death by a Thousand Cuts gives concrete examples of how New Mexico’s national parks and monuments have been affected by the funding cuts:
- Parks like Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and national monuments like Aztec Ruins National Monument, Fort Union National Monument, and Petroglyph National Monument suffered serious staff cuts from the sequester.
- At Fort Union, hiring of all seasonal employees was eliminated altogether in 2013, and the hiring of a new Chief of Interpretation was seriously delayed.
- At Chaco Culture and Aztec Ruins, a hiring freeze was implemented despite the fact that numerous full-time positions at both sites were already unfilled.
“Let’s give our parks a fresh start in 2014,” added Lawton “If we continue on this path, our grandchildren could be forced to explore parking lots and fracking wells instead of river valleys and mountaintops.”
Environment New Mexico was joined by David J. Simon, former Director of New Mexico State Parks, for the release of their report.
“Annually, our national parks support more than a quarter-million jobs and more than $30 billion in private-sector spending while attracting nearly 300 million visitors,” said Simon. “They generate $10 in economic activity for every federal dollar invested yet account for only 1/15th of one percent of the federal budget. Local gateway communities in New Mexico and across America depend on the parks and we shouldn't let them suffer.”
While the budget deal passed in December may allow for some increase in the parks budget, it is up to Congressional spending committees to decide the actual funding levels this month.
“We encourage our congressional delegation to stand up for New Mexico’s national parks and monuments by ensuring they’re provided the full funding they desperately need during the upcoming budget negotiations,” Lawton concluded. “New Mexico park lovers are counting on it.”