TPL Applauds Signing of New Mexico Conservation Law

The Trust for Public Land today praised Gov. Bill Richardson for signing into law the Natural Heritage Conservation Act, a bill championed by Richardson and which will create new money to protect land, water, and working ranches in the state.

“This law is a big step forward in creating dedicated conservation funding for New Mexico,” said Jenny Parks, TPL’s New Mexico Director. “This historic Act will enable the state to make long-term, strategic investments in land conservation to protect and conserve water, wildlife, and working farms and ranches for future generations. The Governor has created a legacy that will honor generations to come,” said NM State Director Jenny Parks.

“We also are also grateful for the strong legislative role played by Senator Carlos Cisneros, the bill’s chief sponsor,” she added.

The new law provides $5 million to pay for restoration projects or property acquisition from willing landowners in the form of conservation easements that will restore and protect:

  • Water quality and quantity;
  • Working farms, ranches, and other agricultural lands;
  • Forests and watersheds;
  • Wildlife habitat and natural areas;
  • Outdoor recreation opportunities, including hunting and fishing; and
  • Cultural and historic sites.

“Protection of our natural resources is a sound investment that will pay dividends into future years,” said Ms. Parks. “We know that maintaining and expanding funding for land conservation is vitally important to the New Mexico economy.”

Land conservation in New Mexico contributes billions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy through jobs, taxes, tourism, and other revenue. The outdoor recreation and tourism industry contributes $3.8 billion annually to New Mexico’s economy, supports 47,000 jobs in the state, and generates $184 million in annual state tax revenue. In the agricultural and forestry industry, farm, ranch, and forest protection provides an economic stimulus to rural communities where the value of production in New Mexico’s agricultural sector is $3.39 billion annually, providing approximately 23,000 jobs.

In 2004 a comprehensive report detailed the need for nearly $50 million in annual funding for the next decade to protect New Mexico’s unique landscapes, open spaces, recreation areas and wildlife habitat. The report was prepared by the Department of Game & Fish and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, at the request of the legislature.

In addition to Gov. Richardson and Sen. Cisnernos, “we are also grateful to Sen. John Arthur Smith, Rep. Brian Egolf and New Mexico House Speaker Ben Lujan for their key roles in securing passage of this historic law,” said Ms. Parks.