New Mexico legislative session could bring millions to conservation efforts

The Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund would provide support toward the preservation of New Mexico land, water, and bird populations.

Audubon Southwest is proud to share the New Mexico legislative action we supported during the 2024 legislative session.

This year, our biggest objective was the full funding of the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund. Last year, the fund was established by the Legislature and given about four years of funding at $12.5 million per year. That money would go to eleven programs at six different state agencies, and used for things like the River Stewardship program, which does riparian restoration, endangered species work at the Game and Fish Department, and healthy soils initiatives at the Agriculture Department. Additionally, all eleven programs which receive money from the fund would be able to use it to secure federal money. New Mexico is currently leaving unclaimed funds due to lacking the often-required state matching money. We believe the fund is capable of bringing in approximately $3-$4 for every state dollar spent, making it critical to helping the state weather the effects of climate change and the extinction crisis.  

We also supported efforts to get several other individual appropriations to agencies, including $840,000 to the Environment Department for increased monitoring and enforcement of surface water issues while it develops its own surface water permitting program in the face of the Sackett decision at the US Supreme Court. 

We advocated to secure an additional $5 million appropriation to the aforementioned River Stewardship program, in addition to what it receives through the Legacy fund. And lastly, we are thrilled to say we have already secured an additional $160,000 for UNM’s environmental database, which is a statewide, multi-layered map of environmental and environmental justice data which was created in 2021 by another bill we championed. This map is free and accessible to the public, and will be used by agencies to make planning and permitting decisions which are better informed. This additional money will enable UNM to hire an additional person or expand the scope of the database, and will help in our efforts to see it used for smart renewable energy transmission planning and more.  

Finally, there is a bill to modernize the Game and Fish Department, which is an issue we have worked on for many years with a large coalition of conservation, sportsmen, and animal rights organizations. It would update the membership of the Game Commission to include a wider variety of interests, would increase the amount of money going to the Department, and would change the Department’s name to the Department of Wildlife. This bill is important because the laws about New Mexico’s wildlife and the system that governs it date back to early statehood and have not been updated since. The Department’s mission and management too often focuses on “consumptive” use of wildlife, like hunting and fishing, and the financial benefits that come from that use, rather than a current understanding of ecosystem health and the value of “non-consumptive” wildlife use like birdwatching.  

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