On July 1, the residents of Northern New Mexico counties had reason to celebrate as Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández secured $20 million dollars in federal resources for transportation and infrastructure projects as part of the INVEST in America Act. The funding will go to Taos, Santa Fe, San Juan, Roosevelt, Rio Arriba, and McKinley Counties.
The funds come as much-needed relief for one of the poorest areas of a state that ranked 45th (out of 50 states and Washington D.C.) in infrastructure maintenance according to USNews.com.
As part of the INVEST in America Act, Fernández also secured an amendment to permanently authorize the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) and double its authorization of appropriations level to $300 million for each fiscal year. The HPF helps fund programs dedicated to preserving cultural heritage.
The amendment comes as a special gift to the Congresswoman, who served as the vice chair of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
“I’m glad my colleagues in the House agree [on the bill’s importance] and voted to include my amendment to authorize increased funding for the Historic Preservation Fund in the INVEST in America Act so we may continue to expand our support for cultural and historic projects across the country,” she said in a news release.
Members of organizations like the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (NATHPO) were quick to voice their support for Leger Fernández.
“My sincere appreciation to Congresswoman Leger Fernández for spearheading this amendment and seeing its realization,” said Kurt E. Dongoske, a NATHPO board member. “The authorization level of the HPF has not increased since its establishment in 1976.
“Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and State Historic Preservation Offices are the backbone of implementing the National Historic Preservation Act,” Dongoske continued, “and funding has fallen far short of the ever-increasing demand. For the Pueblo of Zuni, and many other Tribes, the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices are a central element of cultural preservation and protecting ancestral sites, sacred places and traditional cultural properties upon which the Zuni stewardship responsibility to the ancestors is based.”
The HPF funds several grant programs that support preservation projects across the country, including those related to Tribal preservation, equal rights movements, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.