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Conservation Fund renewal important to NM

I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but as someone who is personally committed to creating a healthy economy in New Mexico, there is an ugly deadline looming in less than 100 days that could mean a huge reduction in important federal funding for our state.

I’m referring to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which will expire Sept. 30 if it is not reauthorized.

What is the LWCF and why is it so important to the fortunes of our state?

The fund was created 50 years ago and uses royalties from offshore oil and gas development to conserve irreplaceable lands and improve outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the nation. The fund is a vital resource that has had far-reaching impacts in New Mexico.

Since its inception, the fund has brought about $168 million into New Mexico. This money has helped create national preserves and wildlife refuges, add private lands from willing sellers to national parks and forests, and built parks and ball fields in every single county in the state. This money has put people to work, provided amenities that improve our quality of life and preserved our state’s heritage and wild places. It is key to the success of our outdoor recreation industry which contributes $3.8 billion to the state’s economy and supports 47,000 jobs.

Just a few of the iconic New Mexico places that the LWCF has supported include: Petroglyph National Monument, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, Valles Caldera National Preserve, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. In addition to these places, since 1965 the fund had also helped finance the creation of many local parks and ball fields, including Albuquerque’s very own Tingley Beach and the Phil Chacon and Heritage Hills parks.

Clearly, the loss of this funding source would hurt us.

That’s why, as a business that loves New Mexico, we stand with the more than 60 other local businesses who recently wrote U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Lisa Murkowski and ranking member Maria Cantwell asking them to reauthorize LWCF before it sunsets.

We have also called upon the Congress to ensure the program is fully funded. Sadly, LWCF had fallen victim to politics, with members of Congress bleeding off the fund to support other programs. In fact, the fund has only twice in 50 years been fully used for its intended purpose of land and water conservation and the construction of parks.

In New Mexico, Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have taken up the fight and are working hard to reauthorize and fully fund LWCF because they know what it means both to New Mexico’s economy and the great outdoors.

But they can’t do it without support from home. That’s why I am urging my fellow New Mexicans to contact our Congressional representatives and urge them to support the LWCF. If you’ve hiked a trail on public land or played basketball at the park across town, chances are those places and facilities were established with help from LWCF.

The impact of this program in New Mexico is broad and deep, and if Congress does not act quickly it will be a tragedy felt by all New Mexicans for years to come.