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Creating lasting change is not easy, we have become all too familiar with bandaid solutions and temporary fixes. Vital state agencies and programs too often are chronically underfunded, particularly conservation state agencies and programs. Fortunately, between the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions something historic occurred. Through broad collaboration, coalition work, and bipartisanship, the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund was passed and then funded with the full $350 million it needed to make it immediately viable.

To understand why this is historic, it’s important to understand what the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund (LOE) is. It invests long-term in supporting statewide programs that help protect and restore our lands, water, wildlife, and cultural heritage. With this funding, the LOE 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.

Just as important as understanding what the LOE does, it is also vital to understand how it does it. It is actually comprised of two funds: the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund (LELF) and the Conservation Legacy Permanent Fund (CLPF). Each fund received an initial investment  in the 2023 session of $50 million. The LELF is to start funding state agencies and conservation projects by 2025. It would do so by paying out 25% percent of its budget annually to the following entities:

  • 22.5% to the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department
    •   50% allocated to the Forestry Division 
    •   50% allocated for the Natural Heritage Conservation Act
  • 22.5% to the New Mexico State University Department of Agriculture
  • 10% to the Department of Environment
  • 15% to the Economic Development Department
    • 25% allocated for the Outdoor Equity Grant Program
    • 75% allocated to the Outdoor Recreation Division
  • 8% to the Cultural Affairs Department
  • 22% to the Department of Game and Fish

The CLPF, on the other hand, was placed under the management of the State Investment Council, and its funds were invested to begin accruing interest to eventually be paid out into the LELF.  With its initial funding, the CLPF would not have been able to replenish the LELF until 2040, when the CLPF was projected to have accrued enough interest to have reached $150 million. The CLPF must have a minimum balance of $150 million before it can distribute its investment income into the LELF. Fortunately, through tireless advocacy, close work with our allies and legislative champions, we were able to secure an additional $300 million for the CLPF in the 2024 legislative session.

With the CLPF at $350 million, it is estimated that the fund could start making distributions to the LELF by 2026. Current estimates also predict that by 2028, the LELF will be able to distribute incrementally more to our state agencies and programs in each successive year. Without the influx of funds from the CLPF to the LELF, it would have stopped being able to fund agencies by 2029.

Now that the LOE is self-sustaining it can help fund essential New Mexican conservation efforts for generations to come.  It is a true legacy of conservation that we all can be proud of, and hopefully a herald of lasting change. 

To illustrate the number of past and current projects throughout the state that can be funded by the LOE, an interactive map has been created by the LOE Coalition. You can check it out here.