August 24, 2023

More funding is needed in state conservation fund

Hannah Grover

Fall colors are seen north of Chama

While the state created its first ever dedicated recurring fund for conservation projects during the last legislative session, Brittany Fallon, a member of the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund Conservation Coalition, said more money is needed to prevent the fund from running out of money in fiscal year 2029.

“It’s really important that we get the investment account, the permanent fund to $350 million before then or the Legacy Fund will have no more funding,” Fallon said.

Fallon spoke to the interim Legislative Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The coalition consists of 37 organizations across the state that represent a variety of interests including conservation, agriculture, acequias, recreation, tribes and even fossil fuels. Fallon is a policy manager for Western Resource Advocates, a member of the coalition. 

“Until this bill passed, New Mexico was the only interior West state that did not have a dedicated source of funding and now we do,” she said.

She asked the state lawmakers to appropriate more money to the fund to ensure it is able to meet the needs going forward.

The money will become available for use in conservation programs next year. 

Starting on July 1, the state’s Department of Finance and Administration will distribute either $12.5 million or 25 percent of the investment fund, whichever is greater, to various programs in the state that are dedicated to conservation.

Those distributions will only occur if there is at least $150 million in the investment fund.

Fallon suggested various modeled ways to make sure there is adequate funding for the conservation programs. For instance, the state could choose to invest $100 million annually for three years or $300 million in fiscal year 2025.