NM Governor, Legislature Support Land Protection

Santa Fe, New Mexico, 4/9/2007: Governor Bill Richardson and the New Mexico Legislature worked together in the recently-concluded legislative session to provide major support for land conservation in New Mexico and those decisions will have a far-reaching impact, The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, said Tuesday.

“There was real, tangible support from Governor Richardson and several legislators for creating parks and protecting special places in New Mexico which all New Mexicans care about,” said Karyn Stockdale, TPL’s acting New Mexico state director. “All of us who live here know how fast this state is growing and we all see lands of tremendous ecological and cultural significance being converted into developed lands every day. Now is the time to act to protect some of these special places, so future generations can see them as they are now.”

Most notably, Governor Richardson championed the protection of land and wildlife and furthered his clean energy initiative through a $2 million appropriation to the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department for land, wildlife, and clean energy projects. Although the act to establish this funding as a permanent funding source did not pass the legislature, the Governor noted the importance of funding for “conservation easements and fee land acquisitions for working farms or ranches, forests or watersheds, natural areas, outdoor recreation and trails and wildlife habitat and to fund land and habitat restoration and management and other clean energy projects statewide.”

Two major projects supported through this legislative session included the Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza, which will receive $1.225 million thanks to the Governor, Senator Grubesic, and Representative Wirth, and the Gutierrez Canyon Open Space Expansion, near Albuquerque, which will receive $1.25 million led by Senator Beffort and Representative McCoy with additional help from Lt. Governor Denish, Senator Cravens, and Representative Stewart.

The Railyard Park and Plaza will add 12 acres of new parklands within the City of Santa Fe’s downtown Railyard development project.

The Gutierrez Canyon project will add over 400 more acres to the existing open space and will also provide a public access link between Gutierrez Canyon and the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway.

“We are particularly excited about the Gutierrez Canyon project because that area is developing very rapidly as Albuquerque expands and there are few opportunities to protect such a large block of open space, especially with existing well-loved trails,” Ms. Stockdale said.

Besides those projects, the legislature also designated $525,000 for the protection of Anderson Farm in the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque thanks to Senator Feldman, Senator Ryan, and Representative Zanetti and set aside $251,000 through Senator Garcia and Representative Steinborn to protect a portion of the 784-acre Tonuco property, located along the Rio Grande river north of Las Cruces.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has protected more than 2 million acres across the country and in New Mexico, TPL has helped protect over 140,000 acres.