Pared-down wildlife corridors bill moves forward
By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican
Lawmakers on a House committee unanimously approved a plan to leverage state funds to draw matching federal money to work on wildlife corridor projects around the state. Senate Bill 72, which has $5 million committed to it in the state budget proposal, could bring in $20 million in federal funds to allow the state Department of Transportation to keep working on road projects to protect both animals and people. “From both the wildlife connectivity and human safety standpoint this is incredibly important,” Michael Dax, the western program director for Wildlands Network, said in an interview after the House Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve the measure. Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, who introduced the bill, originally hoped for an appropriation of $50 million, but acknowledged after the vote that “fifty million was a pipe dream.” She added she hopes to up the $5 million state commitment to $10 million by the end of the legislative session on March 18.
She said the state can leverage the funds in an 80/20 federal grant initiative called the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program, which is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and includes $350 million to create wildlife corridors over a period of five years.