SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Protecting the environment doesn’t happen overnight. It’s often a long-term process, and to ensure there’s funding for the long run, legislators are considering a bill to ensure long-term funds for conservation.
Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Steven P. Neville (R-San Juan) and Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe), would create new funds at the State Treasury. Cash from the funds would be sent to the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the Environment Department, and several other departments.
The funds would be earmarked for conservation-focused projects. These include things like the Forest and Watershed Restoration Act and the New Mexico Prehistoric and Historic Sites Preservation Act.
Supporters of the bill say it would help address issues like drought. “New Mexico has a strong agricultural economy, but it needs more resources from the state to protect our land and water from the effects of historic drought,” Debbie Hughes, the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts executive director, said in a press release.
On Wednesday, the bill was debated in the Senate Finance Committee. And some people spoke in opposition.
Bronson Corn, speaking for the New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association, said the bill should include a requirement that the agencies receiving funds report on how they spend the money. In addition, Corn asked that the money not be used to purchase land.
Some members of the Senate Finance Committee attempted to amend the bill to ensure none of the funds be used for land purchases. The concern was that the state might buy land and then fail to properly manage that land. That attempt at an amendment failed.
Ultimately, the committee passed the bill. Next, it’s headed to the Senate floor.