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Existing Programs to Reach New Mexico’s 30 by 30 Goals

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  2. Framework for a Uniquely New Mexico 30 x 30
  3. Existing Programs to Reach New Mexico's 30 by 30 Goals


The following is a summary of existing programs and authorities across multiple state agencies currently positioned to contribute toward 30 by 30 goals. Not all programs involve direct purchase of land or easements, but all do contribute in some way to the preservation or enhancement of conservation values on lands across the State. Several programs offer grant opportunities that allow stakeholders to submit projects and become directly involved in 30 by 30.

The 30 by 30 Committee will be focused on the coordination and effective utilization of these programs in the coming years—work that will depend on public outreach and stakeholder engagement to inform criteria and definitions for conserved and climate stabilization lands.

Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department 

Natural Heritage Conservation Act (NHCA) Program

The NHCA program protects New Mexico’s natural heritage, customs, and culture by funding conservation and agricultural easements and land restoration projects. NHCA protects the land and water available for forests and watersheds, natural areas, wildlife and wildlife habitat, agricultural production on working farms and ranches, and outdoor recreation including hunting, fishing, and trails. Projects are selected through a competitive process and grants are awarded to qualified entities that include state agencies, tribes, and non-governmental conservation entities.

Authorizing Statute: Chapter 75-10-1 to 75-10-9 NMSA 1978 

General Requirements: Project selection through a competitive process with projects recommended by the Natural Lands Protection Committee

Forest and Watershed Restoration Program 

EMNRD’s Forestry Division selects high-priority forest and watershed restoration projects each year to receive funding made available through the Forest and Watershed Restoration Act (“FAWRA”). The project proposals are reviewed by the FAWRA advisory board who recommend projects based on their public benefits including water source protection, wildfire risk reduction and fish and wildlife habitat conservation. 

Authorizing Statute: The Forest and Watershed Restoration Act (FAWRA) (House Bill 266, 2019) 

General Requirements: The FARWA defines an eligible project as “a large-scale forest and watershed restoration project on any lands in the state that increases the adaptability and resilience to recurring drought and extreme weather events of the state’s forests and watersheds; protects water sources; reduces the risk of wildfire, including plans for watershed conservation; restores burned areas or thins forests; and includes a related economic or workforce development project or a wildlife conservation or habitat improvement project.” Interested parties work directly with EMNRD Forestry District Offices to develop proposals, which are then reviewed by the FAWRA advisory board on an annual basis. 

Forest Legacy Program

The U.S. Congress created the Forest Legacy Program in 1990 to help landowners, state and local governments, and land trusts identify and protect environmentally important forest lands that are threatened by present or future conversion to non-forest uses. The Forest Legacy Program is authorized through the federal Farm Bill and made available to the State of New Mexico by a grant from the USDA Forest Service (USFS). Conservation easements are held in perpetuity by the state and effectively retire the rights to subdivide and develop the properties for non-forest uses. Participating landowners retain all other rights to their properties including occupancy, use for enjoyment or profit, and transfer to heirs or sale to new owners. Property taxes are paid on the retained rights, as determined by the County Assessor. These private forests continue to produce wood products, provide wildlife habitats and open space, contribute to watershed integrity, help combat climate change through carbon sequestration, and are protected from urban sprawl.

Authorizing Statute: The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (federal)

General Requirements: Landowners who choose to sell conservation easements to the state may sell the development rights to all or part of their properties, are encouraged to form partnerships with land trust organizations that can help them with their property appraisals, and tax or estate planning. Up to 75 percent of the easement purchase price is provided through a federal grant. The other 25 percent must be funded by non-federal sources or donated by the landowner.

Department of Cultural Affairs 

New Mexico Prehistoric and Historic Sites Preservation Act 

The New Mexico Prehistoric and Historic Sites Preservation Act (HSPA) allows state agencies to submit proposals to the Department of Cultural Affairs, Historic Preservation Division for the acquisition, stabilization, restoration, or protection of significant prehistoric and historic sites. The HSPA requires a nonprofit corporation to contribute 10 percent toward the purchase of lands and develop a long-term management plan for the sites. Projects simultaneously protect the natural landscapes at multiple historic sites while providing high-impact engagement for visitors. 

Authorizing Statute: Chapter 18-8-1 through 18-8-8 NMSA 1978 

General Requirements: That the property be listed in the State Register of Cultural Properties or the National Register of Historic Places 

Environment Department

River Stewardship Program 

The River Stewardship Program funds projects that enhance the health of rivers by addressing the root causes of poor water quality and stream habitat. The River Stewardship Program enhances New Mexicans’ ability to hunt, fish, float, and view wildlife while maintaining and improving flood safety near streams and rivers. The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) administers the program to fund projects that improve surface water quality, river habitat within a waterway, and/or its associated riparian area through on-the-ground activities and sustainable management practices. This program also provides critical match dollars to ensure New Mexico can continue to receive federal Clean Water Act (CWA) funding.

Authorizing Statute: No dedicated statute; program falls under NMED general authorities with funding through agency capital outlay in recent years 

General Requirements: Annual competitive process ranked by an evaluation committee while adhering to state procurement rules for RFPs 

Economic Development Department, Outdoor Recreation Division

Outdoor Equity Fund

The Outdoor Equity Fund was created to help provide all youth equitable access to the outdoors. The grant supports transformative outdoor experiences that foster stewardship and respect for New Mexico’s lands, waters, and cultural heritage. 

Authorizing Statute:  Chapter 9-1-1 to 9-1-10 NMSA 1978 

General Requirements: Funding to eligible applicants to invest in transformative outdoor recreation experience programming, particularly for youth from underserved communities. Both capital and noncapital projects are eligible 

Outdoor Recreation Trails+ Grant

The Outdoor Recreation Trails+ Grant helps fund the design and construction of trails and other access projects that connect communities to outdoor spaces and expand existing trails across regions. 

Authorizing Statute: Section 9-15-4 NMSA 1978 

General Requirements: Funding to eligible applicants to design and build outdoor recreation infrastructure, with a long-term aim of economic growth and public health benefits 

Department of Agriculture

Soil and Water Conservation Districts 

Soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) are local subdivisions of state government with elected and appointed officials making up the board of supervisors. SWCDs have mill levy authority. SWCDs are authorized to assist private and public landowners in the implementation of conservation projects. There are 47 SWCDs in the state. They help communities self-organize to protect land, improve land management practices and access technical and financial support for land management and other projects. SWCDs also provide essential support to state agencies administering federal grants by proposing projects, writing grants, engaging with partners, and providing project management and outreach capacity in watersheds across New Mexico. SWCDs are supported by the NM Soil and Water Conservation Commission (SWCC), which is appointed by the Governor. The SWCC provides advice to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) which in turn provides a variety of support and resources the SWCDs.

Authorizing Statute: Chapter 73-20-5 to 73-20-29 and 73-20-33 to 73-20-49 NMSA 1978 

General Requirements: The general statutory requirement is to conserve and develop natural resources of the state. 

Healthy Soil Program 

The Healthy Soil Program (HSP) promotes and supports farming and ranching systems and other land management that increases soil organic matter, aggregate stability, microbiology, and water retention to improve the health, yield, and profitability of New Mexico’s soils. The NMDA administers the HSP. The grants to improve soil health via on-the-ground projects are the centerpiece of the program. HSP also supports soil health through assessment, education, and research. 

Authorizing Statute: “Healthy Soil Act,” Chapter 76-25-1 to 76-25-5 (passed in 2019) 

General Requirements: Eligible entities (local government entities with proven land management capacity to support healthy soil), including pueblos/tribes/nations, land grants, acequias, SWCDs, and NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service, may submit applications to a competitive process administered by NMDA. Projects are selected by the Healthy Soil Program’s “Technical Review Committee,” comprised of farmers/ranchers/landowners and representatives from eligible entities, and scientists with expertise in soil health and rangeland management.

Department of Game and Fish 

Habitat Management Fund   

The Habitat Management fund is used by the State Game Commission for the improvement, maintenance, development, and operation of property for fish and wildlife habitat management. 

Authorizing Statute: Chapter 17-4-34 NMSA 1978 

General Requirements:  Upon appropriation by the legislature, money in the Habitat Management Fund may be expended by the State Game Commission for the improvement, maintenance, development, and operation of property for fish and wildlife habitat management.

Share with Wildlife Program

The Share with Wildlife Program is a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish program initiated in 1981 that depends on tax-deductible donations from the public and supports non-game species that do not receive funding from any other source. The program funds four categories of wildlife projects: habitat enhancement, research, education, and rehabilitation. The first category is for capital projects. It receives much of its funding through the state income tax check-off program. It is also supported through Share with Wildlife license plate sales and direct donations. Matching federal funds maximize the program’s support of New Mexico’s wildlife. 

Authorizing Statute: Laws 1981, ch. 343, § 1 

General Requirements: Eligible projects include non-game habitat purchase and improvement projects as well as non-capital projects in wildlife research, rehabilitation (i.e., wildlife rescue, treatment, and care), and education. Universities, non-profit organizations, private consulting firms, tribes, and individuals are eligible for these funds.  

New Mexico State Land Office

NMSLO Leasing

Charged with managing over nine million surface acres and 13 million mineral acres, the NMSLO generates over a billion dollars each year to support public schools, universities, and hospitals, while also assuring the health of state trust land for the benefit of future generations. The agency leases lands for a broad array of activities, including agriculture, energy, and economic development, and strives to incorporate appropriate conservation protections as part of this process.

With the exception of a few areas, such as oil and gas leases that have terms set by statute, the Commissioner of Public Lands has flexibility to modify leasing instruments to meet specific objectives. Leasing instruments that may be adapted to, or which already serve conservation purposes, include:

Business Leases which may be purchased for: municipal, county or state parks or recreation areas; recreational access; renewable energy generation; restoration, reclamation or protection of wetland or other critical habitat or wildlife corridors; environmental mitigation; or ecosystem service credits;

Rights of Ways which may be purchased for conservation corridors;

Natural Resource Agreements and Rights of Entry which may be purchased for restoration, education, study or research purposes; and

Agricultural Leases which may be purchased for ranching or farming activities and which provide protection against waste and trespass, as well as stewardship of rangelands. About 90% of state trust surface lands are leased to the agricultural community; agricultural leases provide significant opportunities for partnerships with lessees and other entities seeking to advance conservation objectives.

In addition, the State Land Office is able to restrict or withdrawal certain activities from occurring on either the surface or mineral estate. These restrictions, known as Land Use Restriction Codes (LURCs), may be used to withdraw land from a specified activity, such as mining or commercial development, or to protect broader landscapes. However, to meet its legal obligation to generate income for trust beneficiaries, these restrictions require that compensation be provided in an amount that corresponds to the value of the resource being restricted. In combination, LURCs and leases can be used to protect, conserve, or restore state trust lands in accordance with the terms of the agreements.

Authorizing Rules: Business Leases NMAC 19.2.9 and 19.2.11; Rights of Way Grants NMAC 19.2.10; Agricultural Leases NMAC 19.2.8; LURCs (Internal NMSLO Policy) ADM-04-01.

Office of the State Engineer & the Interstate Stream Commission

Strategic Water Reserve

The Strategic Water Reserve statute authorizes the Interstate Stream Commission to establish a water reserve composed of leased, purchased, or donated surface or groundwater, water rights, and storage rights. The Reserve is to be used for two purposes: to assist the State in complying with interstate stream compacts and court decrees, and to assist the State and water users in water management efforts to benefit threatened or endangered species. The Reserve has been and continues to be essential to meeting the requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 to 1599, (ESA) in the Middle Rio Grande and the Lower Pecos River reaches, and for future ESA compliance in the Canadian River reach below Ute Reservoir.

Authorizing Statute: Chapter 72-14-3.3B.2 NMSA 1978

General Requirements: The general statutory requirement is to utilized water management for the benefit of threatened or endangered species

Habitat and Channel Restoration

In addition to efforts conducted related to the Strategic Water Reserve, the Interstate Stream Commission participates in a number of habitat and river channel restoration projects, particularly in the Middle Rio Grande and lower Pecos Rivers. These initiatives are often related to ESA compliance and involve state, local and federal partners.

Authorizing Statute: No dedicated statute; program falls under ISC general authorities with funding through the agency.

General Requirements: The general statutory requirement is to utilize water management for the benefit of threatened or endangered species.