After 4 years of inauspicious negotiations, New Mexico created the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund throughout the 2023 legislative session. Till this yr, New Mexico was one of many solely western states with out a devoted income stream for conservation and restoration tasks. This meant that our state companies had been fully reliant on no matter they might get by the annual finances course of to finish particular tasks. As a result of many conservation applications within the state don’t have a particular line merchandise in our state’s finances, they generally had no cash in any respect except the company secured a particular appropriation on a year-to-year foundation. Most considerably, it additionally meant that New Mexico was not claiming vital federal cash, which incessantly requires states to place up some share as a match to get the federal funds.

Audubon started working with a coalition 4 years in the past to handle this downside. Because the coalition grew, we had many difficult conversations about how a fund ought to work, and which applications ought to obtain funding. This yr, with a partnership that included teams representing conservation, agriculture, state companies, outside recreation, and trade, mixed with an unprecedented finances surplus—the celebrities aligned.

Final week, Gov. Lujan-Grisham signed the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund. It handed each chambers of the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan help.

This yr, the legislature appropriated $100 million to the fund, with $50 million slated to be spent over the following 4 years, and $50 million put right into a everlasting fund to generate curiosity. The legislature made a dedication to place a further $75 million into it throughout every of the following three legislative periods. This may imply that in 4 years, when the everlasting fund begins being spent, about fifteen million {dollars} will likely be placed on the bottom for restoration and conservation applications, with out utilizing any of the principal of the fund; the fund will likely be perpetually sustaining at that stage.

Cash from the fund will go to 10 present applications, together with 10% to the River Stewardship program which does riparian restoration work, 22% to the Sport and Fish Division for Endangered Species work, and 22.5% to the Division of Agriculture for soil well being and noxious weeds administration. The remainder of the spending will go towards different conservation causes. New Mexico has a documented backlog of a whole lot of thousands and thousands of {dollars} of tasks. The impression of this fund can’t be overstated. Because the state confronts the growing impacts of local weather change, the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund will give us important assist to be as resilient as attainable. We’re so grateful to the legislature, the Governor, and our companions for his or her dedication to this effort.

Along with creating this fund, the legislature additionally funded the state’s Strategic Water Reserve at $7.5 million, which is essentially the most ever given to the Reserve in a single yr. The Reserve is likely one of the solely mechanisms the state has to go away water in rivers, permitting it to buy and lease accessible water rights for endangered species safety and Rio Grande Compact compliance. This cash will permit the state to guard fish and birds alongside the Center Rio Grande and different elements of the state by guaranteeing they’ve water after they want it.

As we go ahead in our legislative work, we stay dedicated to making sure these funds get further cash, and we thank our members for all of the outreach they did to their legislators throughout the session.