Carlsbad, NM - A new report, The Best of America Under Threat from Underfunding released today by Environment New Mexico shows that visitorship to Carlsbad Caverns National Park is on the rise. But even as the park draws more and more visitors, it could face budget cuts in the coming year- leaving it with fewer resources for maintenance, upkeep and stewardship.
“Last year, visitors poured into Carlsbad Caverns to explore the caves and experience the bats’ exodus at dusk,” said Sanders Moore of Environment New Mexico. “Yet just as its popularity grows, the park is under threat from underfunding.”
Carlsbad Caverns relies on its operating budget to hire park rangers, for programs like guided tours of the caves and to maintain general facilities and trails. The proposed National Park Service budget for the coming fiscal year calls for cutting Carlsbad’s operating budget by $63,000 or 1%. With over 32,000more people going to the park in 2009, budget cuts will make it harder for park stewards to keep up with increased usage.
Advocates pointed out that Carlsbad Caverns is already feeling the effects of an over-strapped park system. “Now is the time Carlsbad should be best protected,” said Moore. “Instead, the park could be facing painful cuts, which could force delayed maintenance or hiring fewer rangers.”
The threats facing Carlsbad Caverns are also being seen around the country. Environment New Mexico’s report reveals that nationwide, two-thirds of national parks, including parks in nearly every state, saw visitorship climb. However, almost three-quarters of parks that saw this increase in visitors last year could face a budget cut in the coming year.
“Just like Carlsbad, parks throughout America are becoming more popular destinations. Parks still offer affordable family vacations and are ideal places for people of all ages to explore the great outdoors,” said Moore. “We need to give our parks the resources to ensure they are just as majestic in 2999 as they were in 2009.
Environment New Mexico urges the Obama administration to prioritize national park preservation in their America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Advocates also call on Senators Bingaman and Udall to secure funding for the National Parks Service.
“The Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative aims to protect America’s greatest places and reconnect Americans with the outdoors. Here in New Mexico, we see that happening everyday as more and more families come to explore Carlsbad Caverns and our other natural landscapes. We thank Senators Bingaman and Udall for their commitment to Carlsbad and our other parks, but now is the time to persuade their colleagues to fulfill the promise of America’s national parks,” said Moore. “We urge our leaders to fully fund the National Park Service and permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund so we can enjoy what is truly the best of New Mexico for generations to come.”