Public lands “crown jewels” languish for lack of funding

 

On a balmy spring day in Ironwood Forest National Monument, volunteers work up a sweat as they plant native bushes and sweep away the vehicle tracks that cut across the Sonoran Desert landscape. Arizona's Ironwood Forest is one of 15 national monuments in the Bureau of Land Management's National Landscape Conservation System. The monument already relies on volunteers for much of its restoration work, but it may become even more dependent in the coming months: The National Landscape Conservation System faces a 15 percent budget cut this year, the largest since its inception in 2000.

The little-known program was created under Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to recognize and protect vast expanses of BLM land. The system oversees wild and scenic rivers, historic trails, wilderness areas, national conservation areas, and national monuments; 800 units in all, spanning some 26 million acres. It was intended to put the BLM on par with the National Park Service as a manager of awe-inspiring public lands.

But the National Landscape Conservation System has been losing ground on funding, and will continue to do so under President Bush's proposed 2008 budget, which slashes funds by $8.56 million from the last enacted 2006 budget. The system already struggles with understaffing and growing visitor use. Now it's likely to be even more hard-pressed to protect archaeological sites, clean up illegal dumping, and perform needed restoration work. Ironically, the cuts come as the administration touts proposed increases to the National Park Service budget. And funding for oil and gas projects on BLM lands is also slated to rise; for example, $12.9 million has been earmarked to facilitate leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The National Landscape Conservation System has strong supporters in Congress, though. In February, members of a house caucus on the beleaguered system spoke out against the cuts, as did Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo. In a press release, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz, a caucus co-chair, said funding should be increased, not slashed, for "the crown jewels of our public lands." In March, caucus members will host a briefing to drum up more congressional support.

In the meantime, land managers are racking their brains for ways to make do with less. At Ironwood Forest, which has to contend with illegal immigration and growing use as nearby cities expand, Manager Scott Berkenfield says that means "looking for as many partners on as many projects as possible."

High Country News Classifieds
  • PUBLIC LANDS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a candidate with excellent communication skills and a commitment to environmental conservation for the position of Public Lands Program Manager....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Western Slope Conservation Center in Paonia, CO, seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking, and a creative problem-solver. WSCC is committed to creating...
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    Seeking qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating, implementing and managing land conservation activities,...
  • REGIONAL TRAIL STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with trail maintenance and volunteer engagement...
  • TRAIL CREW MEMBER
    Position Title: Trail Crew Member Position Type: 6 month seasonal position, April 17-October 15, 2023 Location: Field-based; The RFOV office is in Carbondale, CO, and...
  • CEO BUFFALO NATIONS GRASSLANDS ALLIANCE
    Chief Executive Officer, Remote Exempt position for Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance is responsible for the planning and organization of BNGA's day-to-day operations
  • IDAHO DIRECTOR - WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT
    Western Watersheds Project seeks an Idaho Director to continue and expand upon WWP's campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Development Director to join our team in supporting and furthering our mission. This position will create...
  • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Operations Director to join our team. This position will provide critical organizational and systems support to...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is seeking a leader to join our dynamic team in the long-term protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We...
  • GRASSLAND RESEARCH COORDINATOR
    The Grassland Research Coordinator is a cooperative position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that performs and participates in and coordinates data collection for...
  • HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
    1.3 MW FERC licensed hydroelectric station near Taylorsville CA. Property is 184 deeded acres surrounded by National Forrest.
  • "PROFILES IN COURAGE: STANDING AGAINST THE WYOMING WIND"
    13 stories of extraordinary courage including HCN founder Tom Bell, PRBRC director Lynn Dickey, Liz Cheney, People of Heart Mountain, the Wind River Indian Reservation...
  • GRANT WRITER
    JOB DESCRIPTION: This Work involves the responsibility of conducting research in the procurement of Federal, State, County, and private grant funding. Additional responsibilities include identifying...
  • ASPIRE COLORADO SUSTAINABLE BODY AND HOME CARE PRODUCTS
    Go Bulk! Go Natural! Our products are better for you and better for the environment. Say no to single-use plastic. Made in U.S.A., by a...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in the natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau, with lodge and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.