Newsroom | The Nature Conservancy

Governor Signs Bi-Partisan Bill That Protects Your Water and Quality of Life

HB 266 supports large-scale forest thinning across boundaries.

Santa Fe, NM

In a deeply divided world, New Mexicans can celebrate a win that spans across all people and beliefs. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed the Forest and Watershed Restoration Act into law after nearly every lawmaker signed off on the legislation.

HB 266 creates a mechanism for large-scale forest restoration across ownership boundaries to protect critical watersheds and communities. The Act will make it easier for agencies and partners from diverse sectors to co-fund projects and implement shared priorities. HB 266 will increase efficiencies, maximize funding opportunities, and enable consistent reporting on costs and accomplishments.

“Five years ago, The Nature Conservancy started building a coalition of groups determined to improve our unhealthy forests to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires,” says Terry Sullivan, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico. “Together with our 80 partners, we have demonstrated that this collaborative approach to watershed protection works!”

Forests naturally store and filter New Mexico’s water. Right now, they’re dangerously overgrown and vulnerable to severe fires which threaten the water supply. Ongoing action is needed to make New Mexico forests resilient to drought and wildfire.

The Forest and Restoration Act, sponsored by Representative Paul Bandy (San Juan County – R) and Senator Peter Wirth (Santa Fe County – D), drew unanimous bi-partisan support and was embraced by residents of both rural and urban communities.

“New Mexico has seen the devastation a catastrophic fire can have on people’s livelihoods, our water supply and the places we love to play. This bill will enable us to scale forest thinning work in ways that will truly make a difference” adds Brent Racher, President of New Mexico Forest Industry Association.

Water is central to everything in our lives – drinking, food, recreation and energy. Thanks to the Forest and Watershed Restoration Act, New Mexico will be taking action to ensure our natural resources are protected for our children and future generations.

The Forest and Watershed Restoration Act will support projects like The Nature Conservancy-led Rio Grande Water Fund. Supported by more than 70 partners – the public-private collaboration is designed to restore 600,000 acres of unhealthy forests in northern New Mexico over 20 years. In its first four years, the effort has thinned 108,000 acres and provided more than 200 jobs in rural communities last year. Forest and watershed restoration work also improves wildlife habitat and enhances New Mexico’s recreational industry.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.