LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – As a result of a governor-signed spending bill, New Mexico State University can now move forward with plans to build a reforestation center. “What the New Mexico Reforestation Center will be is a regional hub to meet current and future reforestation needs,” said Claire Montoya from the NMSU Agricultural Experiment Station.

Over a year after the devastating Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Wildfire blazed through northeastern New Mexico, help is on the way to ensure revegetation statewide. “Through a comprehensive seed bank, seedling nursery as well as planting operations combined with research, outreach and education efforts,” said Montoya.

It’s coming from partners like NMSU, UNM, New Mexico Highlands University and the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Forestry Division and of course, a big chunk of money from the state to kickstart the project. “The NMRC will be established in four phases. The current phase that was funded was for phase one, $8.5 million was earmarked in this previous legislative session for the upcoming fiscal year,” said Montoya.

The center will be designed to produce up to five million tree seedlings a year, which they hope will help the state recover from the backlog of reforestation needs. Something the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon fire made even worse.

“New Mexico has a need of about 150-390 million seedlings and that estimate was actually made for the severe 2022 wildfire season,” said Montoya.

Last year, a wildfire breached the NMSU John T. Harrington Forestry Research Center in Mora. It forced staff to evacuate the seed bank along with 75,000 seedlings.

The facility there was skipped over by the flames but the need to produce more seedlings was there long before that wildfire. “About 28% of our state is actually made up of forests. New Mexico has a really diverse geographical landscape and reforestation efforts are critical to water supply and providing valuable ecosystem services throughout New Mexico,” said Montoya.

They hope to begin construction on the center next summer.