Historic $43.5 million conservation investment heading to Governor’s desk

Photo: Zack Bumgarner.

New Mexico Wild and other nonprofit conservation organizations today are cheering the New Mexico State Legislature for passing a budget that includes approximately $43.5 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to conserve New Mexico’s public lands and waters, improve equitable access to outdoor spaces and address a backlog of maintenance projects in state parks.

“Thanks to today’s final vote, we have an unprecedented commitment from state leaders to our public lands, our outdoor infrastructure, and the state’s growing outdoor recreation economy,” said Brittany Fallon, New Mexico Wild Policy Director. “The continuing COVID-19 pandemic sees people escaping to the outdoors with nowhere else to go, bringing into clearer focus just how underfunded the agencies that manage our natural resources have been in recent decades. State leaders have done right by the people of New Mexico during this special legislative session by finally devoting adequate resources to our public lands and investing in opportunities for all communities to have equitable access to the outdoors.”

Several state leaders had a hand in crafting the proposed budget and ensuring its passage. In addition, New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf convened a climate change summit in Santa Fe in October that allowed citizens and conservation advocates to outline the need for many of the items included in this budget proposal to legislators.

“New Mexico is home to a diverse array of natural resources which are vital in supporting our growing and thriving outdoor industry and the jobs associated with it. House Bill 2 recognizes the need for our state to conserve these wonderful natural spaces and places and sets aside nearly $45 million for standalone conservation projects to be used to maintain and upgrade our beautiful state parks and national monuments,” said House Appropriations & Finance Committee Chair Patty Lundstrom (D-Gallup). “We must use every tool at our disposal to ensure we are building a stronger New Mexico, and conservation is a critical component of that.”

“Now is the time to make an assertive investment in New Mexico’s natural resources and boost the outdoor economy to help our businesses and communities recover from the pandemic,” said Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque). “Right now we have a chance to ensure that the places we promote for tourism all across New Mexico are given the resources they need to remain attractive destinations for visitors. I’d like to thank Governor Lujan Grisham for her support of the state’s outdoor economy; this is a wise use of our ARPA funding.”

In summary, the budget proposal includes:

  • $20 million for the New Mexico State Parks Division to clear a backlog of maintenance projects
  • $10 million for the New Mexico Environment Department’s river stewards and surface water programs
  • $10 million for the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division, including funds for the Outdoor Equity Fund and trails work
  • $3.5 million for the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Division to address orphaned oil and gas well cleanups

The approved budget will continue growing the outdoor recreation economy in the state, which the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division found contributes $1.9 billion to the state’s economy and supports 33,500 jobs annually. In combination with the proposed $50 million general obligation bond that would go to voters in 2022 for conservation projects in the state, which was announced earlier this week by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico may be facing a nearly $90 million investment in conservation by state leaders over the next several years.

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