New Mexico: Budget Proposal Threatens Conservation Funding

By Andy Treharne, Senior Director, Western States

As the New Mexico Legislature moves ahead with the 2019 legislative session, the sportsmen’s community’s investment in state-based conservation funding faces new threats. A proposal included in the state’s Fiscal Year 2020 Executive Budget Recommendation proposes to divert revenue from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Game Protection Fund to purposes that could jeopardize the state’s ability to collect its share of conservation funding.

Funding for the state’s conservation programs comes from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR), a program that generates monies from hunting and fishing license sales. This is also a fundamental component of the American System of Conservation Funding. In recent years, New Mexico’s apportionment from the Wildlife Restoration program (commonly referred to as Pittman-Robertson funds) has totaled upwards of $15 million annually.

All states’ eligibility to collect WSFR funds is tied to a commitment that funding generated through the sale of sporting licenses will remain under the control of each respective state’s fish and wildlife agency and be used only for specific purposes related to fish and wildlife conservation, research, public  recreation access, and hunter education. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines that a state has used license dollars for unauthorized purposes and / or restricted their state fish and wildlife agency’s ability to access or use these funds, the state becomes ineligible for federal assistance through the program. In the case of New Mexico’s Executive Budget Recommendation, a diversion of Game Protection Fund dollars to New Mexico State Parks and dam operations could put this funding at risk.

National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member Representative Bill Rehm has reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Region 2 WSFR office to ask for a formal determination as to whether the Executive Budget Recommendation would jeopardize the state’s ability to collect funds.

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