October 29, 2009

Bingaman & Udall: Senate Sends President Bill that Funds N.M. Public Lands


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall voted for final approval of a spending measure that funds important public lands initiatives in New Mexico.

The FY10 Interior Appropriations Bill will now be sent to the White House for signature.

The fiscal year 2010 Interior Appropriations Bill contains an amendment Bingaman wrote and Udall cosponsored aimed at ensuring there that is adequate federal funding available to help fight wildfires. The measure, known as the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act, creates a separate account to pay for fighting large, complex wildland fires. This move would prevent the Forest Service from raiding other accounts to pay for such expensive fires, preventing shortfalls in other Forest Service programs.

“Our wildfire funding practices have been broken for a decade, and that has had a negative impact on the Forest Service, communities, businesses, and natural resources,” said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “The success of this legislation ultimately depends on the support of the White House and Congress, but we have charted a new and clear course to that success, and that is a significantly accomplishment.”

“With more severe drought conditions in New Mexico and increasing catastrophic wildfire danger, we have a responsibility to take the necessary precautions,” said Udall. “With our amendment, we are helping ensure that New Mexico is prepared for these threats.”

The bill also provides $10 million for the Forest Landscape Restoration Act, a program authored by Bingaman and supported by Udall to select and fund landscape-scale forest restoration projects.

The legislation also contains funding the senators sought for the following lands projects:

  • $3.5 million -Valles Caldera National Preserve for operations
  • $3 million -- Land Acquisition of riparian areas in the Gila National Forest
  • $3 million -- Land Acquisition for La Cienega Area of Critical Environmental Concern (Santa Fe County)
  • $1.5 million - Lesser Prairie Chicken Area of Critical Environmental Concern (Chaves County)
  • $500,000 - Land Acquisition within Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (Socorro County)
  • $2.2 million - Navajo Technical College for operations
  • $1 million – Land Acquisition for Petroglyph National Monument

The spending bill also funds other agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey, and sets aside funding the following projects:

  • $300,000 – City of Portales for wastewater treatment plant improvements
  • $300,000 – City of Carlsbad for a water reuse project
  • $500,000 – for the U.S. Geological Survey to continue implementation of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act that is characterizing, mapping, and modeling groundwater resources along the border.
  • $1 million – Southwest Consortium for Environmental Research and Policy (SCERP) based out of NMSU

“New Mexicans will benefit from the investments this bill makes in water, public lands and education initiatives,” Bingaman said.

“In this legislation, we are making significant and necessary investments for responsible land and water usage, as well as education in our state,” said Udall. “I am pleased it is one step closer to being signed into law.”