Big Bend Conservancy
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Budget boost proposed for national parksCultural resources could benefit from extra fundsBY GEOFF FOLSOMgfolsom@oaoa.comAfter years of getting by on cost of living increases, Guadalupe Mountains National Park Superintendent John Lujan was taken aback by news of proposed budget increases for national parks.“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “We are humbled by this increase. I know budgets are tight. To get this kind of increase, not only here, but across the Intermountain Region, is phenomenal.”Guadalupe Mountains is allotted a $506,000 increase in Fiscal Year 2008 in President Bush’s $2.4 billion budget. Lujan said the Guadalupe Mountains got around $2.3 million in the last budget.The park would like to use the additional money on cultural resources management. Lujan said this includes landscapes and buildings.“We do have significant natural resources in the park, but we do have a cultural resource component,” he said.This includes work on the Frijole Ranch House, a home built in 1876 that now serves as a history museum. Lujan said Williams Ranch could also get help. It offers a panoramic west-facing view.Some of the park’s hundreds of archeological sites could also get help, Lujan said.“This is just going to give us a lot of flexibility,” he said. “The park has never had a budget increase like this.”Although not of the same magnitude as Guadalupe Mountains, other area parks are getting a boost.The proposed budget gives Big Bend National Park an additional $496,000 to the $5.5 million fiscal year 2006 budget.Big Bend Public Information Officer David Elkowitz said the money would primarily be used for upkeep.“This gives us the ability to do a little more retaining and hiring employees and serving the public,” he said. “It would be a significant increase to the park.”The budget also includes a $1,000 increase for the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River, which is operated by Big Bend. That will push the river’s budget to around $190,000.Fort Davis National Historic Site is slated for a $74,000 increase, up from $1.1 million. Park Superintendent Chuck Hunt said the money would primarily be used to fix roofs and plaster at the site’s buildings. Many were built during its use as a frontier military post between 1854 and 1891.“A lot of maintenance goes into maintaining structures this old,” Hunt said.
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