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Transformative legislation like Senate Bill 9, which created the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund, doesn’t take shape overnight. A surplus in the budget and bipartisan support in 2022/2023 primed the bill’s passage. Still, the foundations for this legislation were years in the making. Tribal governments, ranchers, farmers, hikers, hunters, anglers, Hispano communities, traditional conservationists, land trusts, and others came together. This coalition worked across diverse perspectives and priorities toward a common goal: dedicated sustainable funding for existing land, water, and wildlife conservation programs. 

SB 9 does for our state what has never been done before. It allows state agencies to invest long-term in conservation, rehabilitation, and protection. With proper funding, it could leverage more than $1 billion in federal matching funds, making it the most significant state conservation funding commitment in our history. This translates to sustained stewardship for New Mexico’s forests and streams, mountains and mesas, and all the creatures and spaces in between. 

But stewardship is not just about conservation and restoration. As New Mexicans increasingly are subjected to the devastating effects of climate change, the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund will be able to help mitigate disasters our communities are experiencing. It will allow our state agencies to plan for wildfires, floods, drought, and water scarcity, all of which are the varied and unpredictable effects of climate change. 

These investments will also allow us to grow our outdoor economy. New Mexico’s outdoor industry accounts for 2.1% of our GDP, roughly $2.3 billion, a substantial revenue stream but one that lags behind our western neighbors. The Land of Enchantment Legacy fund will allow us to close that gap, create good-paying jobs, and preserve our ways of life that make New Mexico unique. 

How will one funding stream achieve all of this? The Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund is not just one fund but two, split into $50 million reserves – one to address the current backlog of needs under existing state programs and another permanent fund managed by the State Investment Council. This second permanent fund’s interest would be disbursed annually to existing state programs that have a proven track record of success, are popular in communities, or have yet to be funded to their full potential.  

The permanent fund is not yet sustainable. In coming legislative sessions, it will be essential to add funds to the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund until it reaches at least $200 million. This will allow the annual interest from the fund to deliver resources to all 33 counties and tribal communities across the state while expanding conservation, restoration, and protection efforts. 

Never in New Mexico’s history has a conservation bill brought so many different interests together. Through the power of collaboration, we have passed historic legislation. The Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund is the culmination of that work – a promise kept to the generations to come, and to the memory of those who have come before us. It is a true legacy of conservation that we all can be proud of.