89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Historic conservation fund set to run out of money without new appropriations

Orange sediment barriers stretch across the ice pond west of Las Vegas.
Bryce Dix
Orange sediment barriers stretch across the Rio Gallinas. Now considered endangered, grants from the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund would help efforts to recover the river.

Experts and advocates are voicing their concerns about the future of a newly passed conservation fund.

They met in Las Vegas, New Mexico Wednesday to tell a powerful legislative budget committee the fund could run out of money by 2029 if lawmakers fail to step up.

Passed just this year, the groundbreaking Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund is a historic and, on paper, permanent pool of money for land and water conservation across New Mexico.

Investments made in the related Conservation Permanent Fund yield money that is available to the Legacy Fund.

Though, without some type of general appropriation from lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session in January, the Legacy Fund could eventually lose that money.

Brittany Fallon is with the Western Resource Advocates –– one of the groups that spoke to the Legislative Finance Committee.

“Just like a retirement account, the more you invest earlier, the faster it will grow and the faster that money will be on the ground helping communities.”

She said a $350M investment would be the best case scenario to ensure the fund grows and gains momentum to minimize market volatility.

“I heard you had some spare change under couch cushions this morning,” Fallon said. “So we're here to collect.”

On Wednesday, the state announced the highest general revenue fund forecast in New Mexico’s history, thanks to a thriving and robust oil and gas industry.

The Legacy fund is unique to New Mexico, because it aims to reach a swath of communities with an emphasis on distributing cash equitably to those often overlooked –– like acequias and land grants. Beginning in 2024, $50M will make its way to initiatives like the Outdoor Equity Fund and the River Stewardship Program.

On the other hand, a minimum of $150M is needed in the next fiscal year to maintain an annual promise of $12.5M for current needs. That’s also assuming the market does well, which is not always the case.

The next legislative session is scheduled to begin in January and will last for 30 days.

Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
Related Content