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Office of The Secretary DOI: John Wright, 202-208-6416
For Immediate Release: Feb. 5, 2003 BLM: Lorraine Buck, 520-258-7200

President's FY 04 Budget Promotes Conservation
and Recreation at Las Cienegas NCA

Tucson, Ariz.--Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton is in Arizona near Sonoita today to highlight President Bush's proposed Fiscal Year 2004 Budget request. The FY 2004 budget provides a funding increase of 23 percent to help protect and maintain Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Norton made the announcement today during a tour of the conservation area.

"I believe that stewardship of the land begins on the local level," Norton said. "The goal of government is to empower people to be citizen conservationists while respecting the need to make a living off the land. That's what is happening here."

The lands within the NCA form a scenic landscape of vast desert grasslands and rolling oak-studded hills that connect several "sky island" mountain ranges. Cienega Creek, with its perennial flow and riparian corridor is the heart of the NCA. The area is home to a rich diversity of vegetation and wildlife, including several threatened or endangered species.

Norton noted that the budget increase for Las Cienegas National Conservation Area under the President's FY 04 budget is $676,000, up 23 percent, or $125,000 over the FY 03 budget request.
"The funds will go toward implementation of the resource management plan that was just completed," Norton said.

Earlier this week in Washington, D.C., Secretary Norton announced the overall Department of the Interior's FY 2004 budget request of $10.7 billion. Of that, the Administration is requesting $1.7 billion for the Bureau of Land Management, an increase of $42.8 million over the 2003 budget proposal. Of the $1.7 billion, $5.2 million will enable BLM to provide quality recreational opportunities and enhance public health and safety for the growing number of outdoor enthusiasts who use BLM-administered lands for a variety of purposes.

The Las Cienegas National Conservation Area managed by BLM was created December 6, 2000, through legislation introduced by Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, and supported by a grass roots effort of citizens, ranchers, land users, and representatives from federal, state and local governments.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to Congressman Jim Kolbe and Sen. John McCain for shepherding the bill that made the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area a reality," Norton said. "We thank them for their efforts in helping to turn a great idea into a new conservation area."

The Sonoita Valley Planning Partnership and the BLM are working together collaboratively to set management goals for the NCA. The area was created with 42,000 acres of BLM administered land combined with 143,000 acres of state trust land. The management plan just completed is a model of broad participation and full cooperation between urban and rural communities.

"Las Cienegas is extraordinary, not only for its scenic beauty and breathtaking landscape," Norton said, its an example of creative partnerships, homegrown initiative and something I call the Four C's: communications, consultation, and cooperation all in the service of conservation."

The NCA is popular for many recreational activities including hiking, camping, mountain biking, picnicking, horseback riding, photography and bird watching. Off highway vehicles must stay on designated roads. There are no developed facilities on the NCA, the nearest facilities are available in Sonoita.

The management plan for the area is scheduled to be finalized in March 2003.


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