The State must preserve critical water resources | My opinion

New Mexico has an incredible opportunity to preserve our state’s critical water resources and address other climate-related concerns. Now is the time for the state to act on the state of our forests and the health of our water supplies.

This legislative session, I sponsored Senate Bill 162 for Strategic Water Reserves, and Senate Bill 145, creating the New Mexico Reforestation Center. These legislative initiatives represent important and proactive steps to protect our natural resources for future generations.

SB 162, co-sponsored by my colleague, Senator Liz Stefanics, provides a budget of $15 million to fund the Strategic Water Reserve, a repository for groundwater, leased water, and water rights. We pursue this funding for compliance purposes relating to interstate covenants and perhaps most importantly, to safeguard and benefit protected and endangered species.

Although the water reserve has existed for many years, it has not been consistently funded, making it difficult for the state to meet its obligations under interstate river pacts.

Securing dedicated funding for the strategic reserve reflects New Mexico’s recognition and commitment to conserving fish and wildlife in our important river basins and demonstrates leadership in drought mitigation. Water is one of our most precious natural resources, and as a citizen legislator who grew up in New Mexico, I believe we must protect it on behalf of our children and grandchildren.

Senate Bill 145 establishes a Reforestation Center to meet the state’s current and future reforestation needs. The legislation is a critical step in mitigating the impacts of catastrophic wildfires and climate change on our state’s forests, and includes seeding and planting programs that, if passed, will be carried out by the Division. Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Forestry. in partnership with the John T. Harrington Research Center, University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University.

SB 145 would allocate more than $4 million in funding to achieve many valuable forest health benefits; water quality and quantity; wildlife habitats; and for recreational purposes.

The center will accomplish its mission for healthier forests through the production of 5 million seedlings per year, the planting of climate-smart trees, and enhanced programming for forest-based economic growth. Additionally, New Mexico’s investment in the design and construction of the center would allow the state to leverage millions of dollars for reforestation, including $200 million in replanting funding and $250 million in Build funds. Back Better, creating valuable jobs in our rural communities.

New Mexico’s forests account for more than half of all water used by municipalities and agricultural entities in our state.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, including historic fire suppression and drought, forest health is declining in New Mexico and the Southwestern United States.

The proposed provisions of SB 145 will help mitigate these trends, restore New Mexico’s forests and ecosystems, and ensure water security for our communities and businesses.

As a public servant who has served for several decades, I believe my goal is to ensure the health, safety and well-being of my constituents and all residents of our state. Pursuing these essential environmental goals is consistent with that goal, and I look forward to the passage of these important pieces of legislation.

Senator Pete Campos represents District 8, which includes parts of Colfax, Guadalupe, Harding, Mora, Quay, San Miguel and Taos counties. An educator and small business operator, he has been representing them for more than three decades. He’s a Democrat.

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