SENATE BILL 273
54th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - second session, 2020
Steven P. Neville
RELATING TO NATURAL RESOURCES; ENACTING THE AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST ACT; CREATING THE AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST FUND AND GRANT FUND; CREATING THE AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST BOARD AND OFFICE OF AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST TO ADMINISTER A GRANT PROGRAM TO CONSERVE AGRICULTURAL, WILDLIFE AND NATURAL RESOURCES; MAKING AN APPROPRIATION.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. [NEW MATERIAL] SHORT TITLE.--This act may be cited as the "Agricultural and Natural Resources Trust Act".
SECTION 2. [NEW MATERIAL] DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Agricultural and Natural Resources Trust Act:
A. "board" means the agricultural and natural resources trust board;
B. "grant fund" means the agricultural and natural resources trust grant fund; and
C. "trust fund" means the agricultural and natural resources trust fund.
SECTION 3. [NEW MATERIAL] AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST FUND--CREATED--DISTRIBUTION--INVESTMENT.--
A. The "agricultural and natural resources trust fund" is created in the state treasury. The trust fund consists of appropriations, gifts, grants and donations of money. Earnings from investment of the trust fund shall be credited to the trust fund, and unexpended and unencumbered balances in the trust fund at the end of any fiscal year shall not revert to any other fund.
B. Except as provided in Subsection D of this section, money in the trust fund shall not be expended for any purpose, but on July 1 of each year an annual distribution shall be made from the trust fund to the grant fund in the amount of the earned income of the trust fund from the prior fiscal year.
C. Funds in the trust fund shall constitute a perpetual trust fund, which shall be invested by the state investment council in a manner to obtain the highest return possible consistent with preservation of the fund corpus.
D. Money in the trust fund may be expended in the event that general fund balances, including all authorized revenues and transfers to the general fund and balances in the general fund operating reserve, the appropriation contingency fund and the tax stabilization reserve, will not meet the level of appropriations authorized from the general fund for a fiscal year. In that event, in order to avoid an unconstitutional deficit, the legislature may authorize a temporary transfer from the trust fund to the general fund but only in an amount necessary to meet general fund appropriations. Money transferred pursuant to this subsection shall be repaid to the trust fund.
SECTION 4. [NEW MATERIAL] AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST GRANT FUND--CREATED--PURPOSES.--
A. The "agricultural and natural resources trust grant fund" is created in the state treasury. The grant fund shall consist of distributions from the trust fund, appropriations, gifts, grants and donations of money. Earnings from investment of the grant fund shall be credited to the grant fund, and unexpended and unencumbered balances in the grant fund at the end of any fiscal year shall not revert to any other fund. The director of the office of agricultural and natural resources trust shall administer the grant fund, and disbursements from the grant fund shall be made by warrant of the secretary of finance and administration pursuant to vouchers signed by the director or the director's authorized representative.
B. Money in the grant fund is appropriated to the office of agricultural and natural resources trust to carry out the purposes of the Agricultural and Natural Resources Trust Act and may be used for:
(1) funding agricultural and natural resources trust grants; and
(2) staffing and other administrative expenses to carry out the purposes of the Agricultural and Natural Resources Trust Act; provided that no more than five percent of the distribution from the trust fund in any one year may be used for staffing and other administrative expenses.
SECTION 5. [NEW MATERIAL] AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST BOARD--CREATED--TERMS--MEETINGS.--
A. The "agricultural and natural resources trust board" is created within the office of agricultural and natural resources trust.
B. The board consists of nine members as follows:
(1) the commissioner of public lands, or the commissioner's designee;
(2) the director of the department of game and fish, or the director's designee;
(3) the director of the New Mexico department of agriculture, or the director's designee;
(4) six public members appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the senate, including:
(a) two public members with backgrounds in agriculture with at least one member representing acequias and community ditches;
(b) one public member representing hunting or fishing interests;
(c) one public member representing land conservation interests;
(d) one public member who is a member of an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo; and
(e) one public member representing energy industry interests; and
(5) at least three of the board members shall have advanced degrees in either fisheries or wildlife biology, rangeland science, restoration ecology or soil science.
C. Public members of the board shall serve for terms of six years; provided that of the initial appointees, two members shall be appointed for two years, two members shall be appointed for four years and two members shall be appointed for six years. The governor may remove a public board member for misconduct, incompetence, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office. Vacancies shall be filled by the governor for the remainder of the original terms.
D. A majority of the board constitutes a quorum. The members of the board shall annually elect from among their membership a chair and vice chair.
E. The board shall meet at least quarterly.
F. Board members who are not state employees or otherwise reimbursed for per diem and mileage expenses are entitled to per diem and mileage as provided in the Per Diem and Mileage Act and shall receive no other compensation, perquisite or allowance.
SECTION 6. [NEW MATERIAL] AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST BOARD--POWERS AND DUTIES--RULEMAKING.--
A. The board shall:
(1) establish an agricultural and natural resources trust grant program;
(2) approve applications for grants from the grant fund based upon review, evaluation and recommendation;
(3) adopt rules in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act to carry out the Agricultural and Natural Resources Trust Act. The rules shall include:
(a) criteria for evaluating grant proposals, including consideration of the ecological and socioeconomic costs and benefits of the grant proposal and whether the proposal includes partnerships between private and public entities; improves public access to natural areas and outdoor recreation opportunities, including hunting and fishing; provides agricultural and environmental education for youth and beginning farmers and ranchers; or promotes social and economic equity for historically underserved communities, and equal consideration shall be given to proposals for projects on public, tribal or private land;
(b) guidelines for prioritizing projects with matching funds or other in-kind contributions from grantees;
(c) a process to evaluate, rank and prioritize grant proposals; and
(d) a process to review and monitor grants to grantees, including coordination with appropriate state and local agencies;
(4) invite representatives of the United States department of agriculture natural resources conservation service, the United States fish and wildlife service, the United States forest service and the bureau of land management to participate in an advisory capacity to the board in carrying out its duties; and
(5) hire a director of the office of agricultural and natural resources trust, who shall be subject to the Personnel Act.
B. The board may:
(1) consult with other governmental agencies, persons and nonprofit organizations, as necessary;
(2) accept or decline federal grants and other contributions, grants, gifts, transfers, bequests or donations;
(3) coordinate with for-profit entities to develop wildlife habitat; provided that the board shall not award grants, or otherwise divert financial resources, to a for-profit entity; and
(4) recommend to the governor or the legislature that funds be transferred from the grant fund to the trust fund in the state's annual budget.
C. Annually, no later than September 30, the board shall report to the governor and the appropriate interim legislative committees with respect to all federal grants, state appropriations and other contributions, grants, gifts, bequests and donations received and credited to the trust fund and grant fund during the preceding fiscal year. The report shall include all grants awarded by the board and progress made on grant projects.
SECTION 7. [NEW MATERIAL] OFFICE OF AGRICULTURAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST.--
A. The "office of agricultural and natural resources trust" is created and is administratively attached to the office of the governor.
B. The director of the office of agricultural and natural resources trust shall:
(1) at the direction of the board, administer the agricultural and natural resources trust grant program; and
(2) act as a liaison for the board to state, federal and local governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations and members of the public who seek to provide input regarding grant proposals.
SECTION 8. [NEW MATERIAL] GRANT PROGRAM--ELIGIBLE ENTITIES AND PROJECTS--GRANT CONDITIONS.--
A. The board shall award agricultural and natural resources grants to state agencies, political subdivisions of the state, Indian nations, tribes or pueblos or nonprofit organizations to promote, preserve and enhance the native wildlife, natural resource or environmental heritage of New Mexico and its people. Projects may occur on public, tribal or private land.
B. A project funded by a grant shall provide a public benefit and shall:
(1) improve stream, wetland and hydrological function, reduce erosion, increase surface and ground water supplies, restore and maintain acequias and community ditches, restore or enhance wetlands, improve water quality or ensure the long-term conservation of water resources;
(2) preserve or conserve open space, cultural or agricultural land and resources and habitat for fish, migratory birds, native wildlife or plants through purchase or acquisition of land use easements;
(3) improve and maintain habitat necessary to maintain optimum populations of terrestrial or aquatic species;
(4) enhance native fish or native wildlife habitat in areas impacted by residential, energy, mineral or industrial development;
(5) use habitat improvements to promote the health of both livestock and native wildlife and reduce potential for disease transmission;
(6) protect native flora and fauna, restore degraded habitat or improve or maintain rangeland health and productivity;
(7) achieve habitat improvement by restoring natural fire regimes, including using prescribed fire in consultation with the state forester; reducing the risk of catastrophic fire; or restoring watersheds impacted by fire; or
(8) implement land and watershed management techniques that promote soil and rangeland health and productivity, increase water infiltration, improve wetland function, increase drought and climate adaptation or improve fish and native wildlife habitat.
C. The board shall determine the amount of each grant and any conditions attached to the grant; provided that:
(1) grants in an amount over three hundred fifty thousand dollars ($350,000) shall be approved by the state board of finance before being awarded by the board; and
(2) the board shall not require public access to private land as a condition to receive grant funds.
D. Grant funds shall not be used for:
(1) the reintroduction of species pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended;
(2) legally required mitigation, reclamation or restoration activities, including pursuant to the New Mexico Mining Act, the Water Quality Act or the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977; or
(3) the operating or administrative costs of a governmental agency, Indian nation, tribe or pueblo or nonprofit organization, except that grant funds may be used for administrative costs directly related to the grant project.
E. Grant funds may be used for fee simple acquisition of real property from a willing seller only under the following conditions:
(1) funds shall not be expended for acquisition of real property in the first five years of the grant program or until the corpus of the trust fund reaches three hundred million dollars ($300,000,000), whichever is first;
(2) fifty percent matching funds shall be provided by the grantee;
(3) water rights shall not be severed from the real property; and
(4) the acquisition shall satisfy one of the following purposes:
(a) the acquisition of a private inholding will resolve land management problems;
(b) the property is needed to create public access to landlocked public lands;
(c) the property is needed to promote the value of agriculture to the state; or
(d) the acquisition of terrestrial or aquatic habitat is necessary to attain or preserve desired wildlife or fish population levels when existing habitat is determined critical or is present in minimal amounts.
F. Prior to receiving grant funds, the grantee shall certify that no gratuities, kickbacks, gifts, commissions, contingency fees or other considerations have been or will be made in connection with the grant.
G. Grants shall not be awarded until the rules adopted by the board have become effective.
SECTION 9. [NEW MATERIAL] LAND EASEMENTS.--
A. A land easement funded in whole or in part with funding made available by the Agricultural and Natural Resources Trust Act shall bind the parties to the land easement to an agreement that provides that the state is a third-party beneficiary to the easement solely with the contingent right to enforce the terms of the easement if the grantee fails to enforce the terms of the easement. The agreement shall provide that if the easement is transferred for value, sold or extinguished without the consent of the board, the state shall have the right to either take legal action to enforce the terms of the easement or to recover from the proceeds of the transfer for value, sale or extinguishment the state pro rata share of the proceeds based on the funds the state provided for the creation of the easement.
B. Funds disbursed for land easements shall not be used to:
(1) prohibit hunting or fishing, if hunting or fishing could be conducted consistent with the underlying purposes and conservation values of the easement; or
(2) end or restrict production agriculture on the land.
SECTION 10. [NEW MATERIAL] AUDITS.--The state auditor's office shall audit the trust fund and grant fund annually. Copies of the audits shall be provided to the governor and the appropriate interim legislative committees.
SECTION 11. APPROPRIATION.--Fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the agricultural and natural resources trust fund in fiscal year 2021 for the purposes of the fund. Any unexpended or unencumbered balance remaining at the end of a fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund.
SECTION 12. EFFECTIVE DATE.--The effective date of the provisions of this act is July 1, 2020.
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