Historic $300 million appropriated for New Mexico water conservation, agriculture, and outdoor recreation

State legislative session results in Audubon-supported funding for Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund

The Legislative session in 2024 was a short, 30-day session solely focused on the state’s budget. But in that short time, we saw huge successes for conservation funding, which will ensure restoration and protection work will happen on the ground at a far greater scale than New Mexico has ever been able to do.

New Mexico's 2024 legislative session ended with a historic $300 million appropriation for the Land of Enchantement Legacy Fund. This will support land and water conservation, agriculture, and outdoor recreation projects.

In the 2023 session, Audubon was part of a large coalition which worked to establish the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund. Prior to this fund, New Mexico did not have a dedicated source of revenue for conservation work. Not only did this mean agencies had to request additional money from the legislature every time they wanted to do a large project not within its regular budget, it also meant we did not have the often-required matching dollars to secure federal money. 

Last year the legislature put enough money into the fund to pay out a total of 12.5 million dollars per year to eleven programs at six state agencies for four years. Each dollar from the fund will bring three to four federal dollars into the state. These programs include the River Stewardship program which does riparian restoration, the Healthy Soils program, and endangered species work at the Game and Fish Department. If the fund has 350 million dollars in it, it can output this amount in perpetuity solely from the interest it generates. Incredibly, in 2024 the legislature put an additional 300 million dollars into the fund. We are so grateful to them for recognizing the importance of these programs and their impact on our state’s ability to withstand the effects of climate change.

Another success was the appropriation of $7.6 million to the New Mexico Environment Department for the creation and implementation of a surface water permitting program, which will fill some of the regulatory gaps New Mexico faces after the US Supreme Court’s Sackett decision, which removed Clean Water Act protections from most of New Mexico’s surface waters.

We also saw a $2 million appropriation to the River Stewardship program, in addition to what it is receiving through the trust fund (around $3 million). There is over $10 million in need each year for river restoration projects, and historically the program only sees $1 million annually, making this year is a huge step forward for this critical program.

Lastly, we were able to secure an additional $160 thousand for the Environmental Database we helped establish in 2021. This will be used as a statewide planning tool for agencies, and is also open to the public. This money means the database will become more comprehensive and will be used more widely to make more informed decisions.

We’re looking forward to the 2025 session, when we hope to work on updates to the Game and Fish Department, water policy initiatives, and more!

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