For decades, New Mexico did not have a dedicated funding stream for conservation. This meant the state often missed out on federal matching dollars to help communities protect our land, water, economy, and culture. In 2023, the legislature passed - and the governor signed - SB9, which established the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund. Initial seed money was invested, but not enough to ensure a sustainable funding source or meet the demand from New Mexico communities. Without additional investments, the Enchantment Legacy Fund will run out of money by FY29.
This session, the governor and legislators have the opportunity to secure our legacy by prioritizing budget surplus dollars and maximizing investments in the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund. At least $350 million is needed to ensure the Fund can produce enough annual returns to be self-sustaining, weather economic downturns, access hundreds of millions of federal matching dollars, and meet the demand from all 33 counties and Tribal communities.
The Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund is a bipartisan product of five years of negotiations led by a broad coalition of advocates, legislators and state agencies. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham championed the effort with Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Sen. Steven Neville and House Appropriations Chairman Nathan Small. The Fund prioritizes land and water stewardship, forest and watershed health, outdoor recreation and infrastructure, agriculture and working lands, historic preservation, and wildlife species protection.
HOW THE FUND
The Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund is made up of two investment strategies. The first, an Expendable Fund, will make annual disbursements to existing state programs that are shovel-ready, have a proven track record of success, are popular in communities, or have rarely been funded to their full potential. The second, an Investment Fund, will be managed by the State Investment Council, similar to the Early Childhood Education Trust Fund. Interest earned would be disbursed annually to state programs utilizing existing statutes, boards, and rulemaking. These investments can provide a state match for many federal programs that could unlock hundreds of millions of additional dollars.
The Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund helps create jobs and builds critical infrastructure in local communities to better protect us from wildfire, flood and drought, safeguard our water supplies, preserve our agricultural heritage, and grow our outdoor recreation economy. Local entities - including acequias, Tribal communities, and Soil & Water Conservation Districts - receive funding for projects they know work best for them. The Fund preserves our cultural heritage and outdoor traditions, leaving a legacy for our children to hunt, fish, farm, and enjoy the lands and waters the way our ancestors have for generations.
A minimum $350 million investment is needed to ensure a sustainable funding source for economic downturns and future generations. In the 2023 session, the legislature appropriated $50 million for the Investment Fund; this session, legislators should prioritize budget surplus dollars to maximize investments in the Enchantment Legacy Fund and reach the $350 million minimum investment. The larger the appropriation now, the higher the returns will be, and the more stable the Fund will be for New Mexico communities.