New Analysis Shows Deep Cuts & Staffing Vacancies at Energy, Environment and Public Lands Agencies in New Mexico
Agencies that protect the state’s air, land and water were cut in excess of 20% during historic levels of energy production

SANTA FE, N.M. (January 14, 2020) – Today New Mexico Wild released an analysis of budget funding for energy, environment and public lands-related agencies in the State of New Mexico showing deep cuts and staffing vacancies over the last ten years during historic levels of energy production.

The analysis, “Recovering Lost Ground: The State of Energy, Environment & Public Lands Budgets in New Mexico,” looks at agency budget appropriations dating back to FY2004 under the Richardson and Martinez administrations. It also includes recent funding increases and requests by the Lujan Grisham administration.

“State agencies tasked with protecting New Mexico’s environment and public lands have been decimated during the past decade, and deep staffing cuts and budget reductions have left the state unable to protect our air, land, and water the way it should be,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “New Mexico faces daunting challenges when it comes to our environment – from the growing threat of climate change, to water scarcity, to protecting wildlife and keeping up with the rapid growth of the oil and gas industry. The current funding levels and high vacancy rates in these departments are simply unacceptable.”

Highlights of the data are included below, and the full analysis can be found here:

When adjusted for inflation, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED)’s general fund was cut by 31.69% during the Martinez administration, and currently has a vacancy rate of 18.8%. The lack of staff severely limits the agency from protecting the state’s air, land and water qualities. According to department data, there are just 7 inspectors in charge of monitoring 7,700 air emitting sources, which breaks down to 1,100 sources per inspector.

The New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) budget was cut by 23.68% under the Martinez administration. During the same period, the budget for the Oil and Gas Conservation Division (OCD), which is responsible for overseeing oil and gas activity, was cut by 25.77%. Currently, half of all inspector/compliance officer positions in the division are vacant.

Also, under EMNRD is the State Parks Division, which saw a 13.84% cut under the Martinez administration. During this time, 72 full-time employee positions were eliminated, and the State Parks Program currently has a vacancy rate of 24 %. Furthermore, the number of interpretive programs, which educate visitors about the natural and cultural resources of the state parks, fell by more than half since FY2016. These factors, along with severe environmental conditions, have contributed to a massive decline of nearly one million visitors to New Mexico State Parks since 2016.

The Department of Game and Fish has averaged a vacancy rate of 14-22% since 2012, and in 2019 is showing a vacancy rate of 16%.

The State Land Office began 2019 with a 22% vacancy rate, which was brought down to 10% under the leadership of Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, with support from the legislature and the Lujan Grisham administration. The office manages state trust land on 9 million acres of surface acres and 13 million mineral acres across 32 counties.

Since taking office, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration has requested increases for these key agencies, and legislators have responded.

For NMED, the general fund appropriation was increased by 6% from the previous year to almost $12 million. For the upcoming FY2021 budget year, NMED has requested a significant increase to more than $18 million, or 57.26% from the previous year.

If the Lujan Grisham administration request for NMED’s general fund is fully funded, and accounting for inflation, this would represent a 19.63% increase from the Martinez administration, but represent 18.29% less than the average under the Richardson administration.

For EMNRD, a 9.31% increase in the general fund was appropriated in FY2020, and an additional 12% increase was requested for FY2021.

If the Lujan Grisham administration request is fully funded, and accounting for inflation, this would represent an 8.84% increase from the Martinez administration, but 16.93% less than the average under the Richardson administration.

For the Oil & Gas Conservation Division (OCD), a 17.34% increase was appropriated in FY2020, and an additional 15.35% increase was requested for FY2021.

If the Lujan Grisham administration request is fully funded, and accounting for inflation, this would represent an 77.23% increase from the Martinez administration, and a 31.56% increase from the Richardson administration.

For the State Parks Division, a 7.35% increase was appropriated in FY2020, and an additional 13.19% increase was requested for FY2021. Importantly, this request would help fund a full-time position dedicated to managing grants under the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund program (LWCF), which provides millions of dollars to states for conservation programs. Since 2008, management has been roughly 10% of one full-time staff, which has prevented the state from adequately leveraging the program and meeting compliance standards. If the legislature meets the administration’s request for funding, a dedicated full-time staff position could result in a significant increase in federal funding for the New Mexico State Parks system.

For the Department of Game & Fish, which is considered an “enterprise agency” that operates on the revenue it generates from hunting and fishing licenses and federal funding, the Lujan Grisham administration is requesting a special appropriation of $500,00 for management of threatened and endangered species. If enacted, this would be the first legislative appropriation from the general fund in more than 10 years.

“It’s going to take several years to make these agencies whole again, but Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is showing much-needed leadership in her first two years in office,” added Allison. “While some of the requests are modest, legislators must respond by fully supporting her request to increase funding levels for these key agencies to put New Mexico back on a path of environmental sustainability, protect public health and safety, and provide proper stewardship of our natural resources.”

The agencies included in the analysis are the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) - including its Oil and Gas Conservation Division (OCD) and State Parks Division – as well as the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). Staffing levels for the State Land Office and Department of Game and Fish, which don’t receive general fund appropriations, were also included.

Sources for the report come from publicly available data from the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee, General Appropriations Act (GAA) documents, department/agency sources and the New Mexico Sunshine Portal.