Photo: Gila River Bird Area, Dennis O’Keefe
SANTA FE, N.M. (December 14, 2021) — Conservation groups today applauded New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for announcing that her administration will pursue much-needed funding for state conservation programs through a general obligation bond. The unprecedented funding proposal, if approved by the state legislature and voters, would support jobs across the state, offer access to federal conservation funding, increase equitable outdoor opportunities for all New Mexicans, and help protect natural lands and working lands for future generations.
The Governor’s announcement comes as the Legislature considers an allocation of $45.3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to conservation programs this week. If both initiatives pass, they would work in unison to kickstart over a decade’s backlog of projects and provide a sustainable source of state matching dollars for future projects so that New Mexico no longer leaves millions of dollars in federal grants on the table. In past years, the state’s boom-and-bust funding cycles have prevented agencies from fully leveraging federal conservation grants. Any state funding provided by a bond will be able to leverage at least the same amount in federal dollars. Federal assistance through the American Rescue Plan Act is unable to serve as the state match for existing federal grant programs.
Last month, a coalition of conservation advocates sent a letter to Governor Lujan Grisham calling for the governor’s support for legislative reforms to the existing Natural Heritage Conservation Act, which is poised to receive a portion of general obligation bond funds.
New Mexico voters overwhelmingly support policies and funding to protect the state’s natural places and access to them. The 2021 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll found:
- 90% of New Mexicans agree that we should find money to protect state land, water, and wildlife even with state budget problems.
- 78% support directing funding to ensure adequate access to parks and natural areas for lower-income communities and communities of color that disproportionately lack access to them.
- 77% support a goal of protecting 30% of America’s land and oceans by 2030.
“Today’s announcement is yet another demonstration of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s commitment to public land conservation and protecting New Mexico’s natural and cultural heritage,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “This financial commitment will help our state agencies better protect the places we promote for tourism every day. We thank the Governor for her continued dedication to safeguarding the lands, waters, and wildlife New Mexicans cherish and building a climate-resilient future for the next generation.”
“Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order to protect 30% of the state’s land by 2030 was a critical start to discussions about how we can preserve and protect 30% of our lands and waters. The Governor’s new proposal of a $50 million conservation bond is a good first step in ensuring New Mexico gets its share of federal conservation funding and shores up long-underfunded land management programs benefiting communities across the state. This is a down payment on long-term investment that will build resilience in our forests and watersheds, maintain local parks, support conservation partnerships with private working lands, and expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and biking that will grow a strong outdoor recreation economy,” said Greg Peters, Public Lands & Wildlife Advocate, Conservation Voters New Mexico.
“New Mexico has no shortage of immediate, shovel-ready conservation projects in need of funding. We hope that short-term funding for existing conservation programs through the American Rescue Plan Act, in addition to special appropriations in the 2022 legislative session, can work in concert with long-term, durable funding through a general obligation bond,” said Andre Miller, Western Resource Advocates Policy Analyst. “Land conservation continues to be incredibly popular among New Mexico voters. This proposal is a major step forward and will help leverage tens of millions of federal dollars made available to the state through grant programs each year.”
“A voter-approved general obligation bond will set a precedent for conservation funding, leveraging tens of millions of dollars in federal dollars for communities across our state by funding land conservation projects, working lands restoration, watershed protection projects, as well as other efforts. The funding will support jobs in our state’s growing outdoor economy, preserve our outdoor way of life, and make the state more climate-resilient,” said Greg Hiner, The Trust for Public Land’s New Mexico Director of Land Protection. “The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of these lands to local communities and the importance of offering all New Mexicans an equal ability to get outdoors. A general obligation bond for conservation is an investment designed to benefit all New Mexican public land users.”
“Amigos Bravos applauds Governor Lujan-Grisham’s commitment to conservation of New Mexico’s natural resources, which will be enormously beneficial to New Mexico’s rivers and watersheds,” said Joe Zupan, Executive Director, Amigos Bravos.
“New Mexico’s outdoor spaces are rooted in culture, tradition and are among some of the best to visit in the nation, but until today, there hasn’t been broad state-level investment in how we manage these places. The governor’s announcement signals a welcome change in how New Mexico approaches conservation and works to expand equitable access to outdoor recreation,” said Ángel Peña, Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project Executive Director.
“Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s conservation funding proposal will help ensure that the necessary funding is available to implement protection of 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. This effort is urgently needed to address the climate and extinction crises, ensure that our state’s treasured wild places like the Gila can be enjoyed by future generations of New Mexicans, while also building thriving local outdoor recreation economies,” said Allyson Siwik, executive director, Gila Resources Information Project/Gila Conservation Coalition.
“Today’s announcement will help expand outdoor opportunities at state parks and state wildlife areas, and help leverage federal funds to expand local parks and open spaces. Long-term investments in conservation will provide jobs in local communities and help diversify our state’s economy by expanding our outdoor recreation industry,” said Camilla Feibelman, Director, Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter.
“Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks enthusiastically support Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s proposal to re-shape how we fund conservation efforts in the state of New Mexico. Ensuring the protection and restoration of our natural resources and outdoor spaces is vital to our state and the communities across New Mexico that value them. Efforts like this will ensure these resources are healthy and accessible for the generations to come. It’s time to reimagine how we manage our natural resources and build healthier and more resilient communities across our beautiful state,” said Patrick Nolan, Executive Director of Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
“New Mexico can’t afford to keep leaving money on the table — the bond is an opportunity to ensure New Mexico’s financial investments can be multiplied by matching federal conservation programs,” said Adrian Angulo, deputy director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “To meet the goals of the Governor’s 30×30 plan, New Mexico’s agencies and programs need resources to retain quality staff, maintain critical programs, and ensure our wilderness and wildlife are managed responsibly for hunting, fishing, and our way of life.”
“Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is taking a critical step to conserve our state’s treasured landscapes, preserving New Mexican culture, communities, and traditions in our state for generations to come. The Governor’s funding announcement is a significant step to protect watersheds, wildlife, and natural heritage and supports her recent executive order to protect 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. This financial commitment underscores the priorities voters support to protect our lands and waters. HECHO applauds Governor Lujan Grisham’s commitment to public land conservation,” said Max Trujillo, New Mexico Senior Field Coordinator for Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO).
“Today’s announcement demonstrates a commitment by the Lujan Grisham administration to invest in statewide conservation and habitat restoration programs. Such investments are essential to addressing the impacts of climate change on our land and water resources and will benefit water users, fish and wildlife, and working lands,” said Dan Roper, Trout Unlimited Angler Conservation Coordinator.
“The health of New Mexico’s broad landscapes and ecosystems are crucial to its national parks and this funding will play a big role in conserving its lands, waters and wildlife,” said Emily Wolf, New Mexico Program Coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association. “This is an excellent step that will make the state more resilient to the dangers of climate change and expand access to the outdoors.”