SB 9 will leave a legacy of conservation - Albuquerque Journal

SB 9 will leave a legacy of conservation

Ducks paddle in the Pecos River as it flows south of Carlsbad in November 2019. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)

New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment for a reason. With its diverse array of natural wonders, from the Chihuahuan Desert to the Rocky Mountains, and the Gila to the Pecos, it’s no surprise so many of us have a deep connection to the land and water that surrounds us.

This natural heritage is not only beautiful, it plays a vital role in our economy and way of life. But what happens when that heritage is threatened? How do we ensure future generations can experience the same sense of wonder and connection that we have?

This is where the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund comes in. This investment would provide dedicated, sustainable funding to land and water conservation for the first time in our state’s history to better protect communities from wildfire, flood and drought, safeguard urban and rural water supplies, support rural and agricultural communities, and grow our outdoor recreation economy.

After five years of negotiation among a broad coalition — groups who are often at opposite sides of the Roundhouse — we have come together in the urgency of this moment around a truly bipartisan solution for our communities. And with support from the governor and legislators in both chambers, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver for New Mexico’s diverse communities by passing this fund.

Right now, New Mexico is one of the only Western states that doesn’t have dedicated land and water conservation funding. This puts us at a disadvantage when seeking federal resources — resources that our congressional delegation worked hard to secure and which often require matching funds. It also means millions in federal money is being left on the table that could be supporting our communities.

New Mexico is no stranger to natural disasters. Because of past underfunding, our forests and watersheds remain at risk for wildfires, drought, and floods. The Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund will ensure we have the resources to protect our communities and preserve our natural resources, no matter what challenges we may face. After all, it’s more expensive to clean up a problem than it is to prevent one.

The best part is the fund doesn’t require creating any new programs. There will be no new bureaucracy, just tried-and-true programs that already have on-the-ground success but would benefit from more resources and longer-term planning.

We’re grateful to see Gov. (Michelle) Lujan Grisham lay out the vision for this fund and make land and water conservation a high priority, and thankful for the leadership of Sens. (Steven) Neville and (Peter) Wirth, and Rep. (Nathan) Small, for taking up the mantle. It’s now up to the Legislature to shape the next 50 years of our state by making this historic investment, which could leverage hundreds of millions of federal dollars for 33 counties and tribal communities.

We can’t let another year go by without action — the extreme weather conditions we’re experiencing are threatening the Land of Enchantment as we know it. The question is, what kind of legacy will we leave for future generations? New Mexico will lose its enchantment if our forests burn and our rivers run dry. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s meet the moment we are in and pass SB 9 to leave a legacy that New Mexico’s future generations deserve. Join us at

Debbie Hughes is the executive director of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, and Demis Foster is the executive director of Conservation Voters New Mexico. Together they represent a broad coalition of New Mexico conservationists, wildlife advocates, agricultural and farming associations, tribal members, hunters and anglers, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and community groups.

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