New Mexico is home to one of the most diverse landscapes in the U.S., yet the state has no permanent source of conservation funding leaving millions of available federal funds on the table each year instead of being put to use in our communities. The state is missing out on most of it because it lacks matching funds.
Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Senator Peter Wirth, Senator Steven Neville, and Rep. Nathan Small, represents a historic investment in land and water conservation programs. It would leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money for all 33 counties and tribal communities in New Mexico.
“It is smart fiscal policy to make these investments now and into the future so our communities can access untapped federal dollars to better prepare for the environmental challenges we face,” said Rep. Small.
The bipartisan bill is the product of five years of collaboration among a broad bipartisan coalition of legislators, state agencies, community stakeholders and non-governmental organizations.
The proposal builds on the vision laid out by Gov. Lujan Grisham in her executive budget recommendation. The proposal would not create any new programs but instead utilize existing statutes, boards, and rulemaking. It would be the state’s first-ever dedicated source of recurring funding for conservation, prioritizing land and water stewardship, forest and watershed health, outdoor recreation and infrastructure, agriculture and working lands, historic preservation, and wildlife species protection.
“We’ve made steady progress on land and water stewardship in recent years, but never had the dedicated source of state funding that our communities deserve,” said Senator Wirth.
As New Mexico searches for ways to deal with the effects of climate change, the legacy fund would help communities be more resilient as the state continues to deal with wildfires, flooding and long-term drought.
“The Land of Enchantment Fund will leave a legacy for our children to hunt, fish, farm, ranch, and enjoy the lands and waters the way our ancestors have for generations,” said Senator Neville.
Beginning with an initial investment of $50 million, the Fund would make annual disbursements beginning in fiscal year 2024 to existing state programs spread across six agencies, including the Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Department, Department of Agriculture, Department of Game and Fish, Environment Department, Economic Development Department, and Department of Cultural Affairs.
A second, permanent trust fund would be established with an initial investment of $25 million that would be managed by the State Investment Council. Interest earned would be disbursed annually to existing state programs that have a proven track record of success, are popular in communities, or have rarely been funded to their full potential.
New Mexicans from every corner of the state would benefit from the Legislature’s approval to establish the state’s first dedicated funding source for conservation, agriculture and outdoor recreation programs.
“The Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund will be a critical tool for New Mexico to achieve the state’s conservation, preservation, restoration, and climate resilience goals,” said Dr. Brittany Fallon, western lands senior policy manager at Western Resource Advocates.
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