2004-5 Legislative Efforts

June 17, 2005 update: Lynda Taylor, the Commissioner of State Lands, the Governor of Picuris Pueblo, the New Mexico State Forester, and the heads of the Small Business Development Center and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts signed a letter to President Martin and Dean Schickedanz of New Mexico State University asking them to make a statewide fungi bank at NMSU one of their top priorities for the next legislature.

On November 12, 2004, Governor Richardson met with State Forester Butch Blazer, EMNR's Sally Rodgers, SCZ's Lynda Taylor, SCZ's Will and Janette Fischer, and New Mexico State University's John Mexal to discuss their ideas on a new NMSU program. The new program is based on recent sustainable forestry work by SCZ under a US Forestry Grant.

NMSU would house the first-ever New Mexico State Fungi Culture Bank. Starting with mushrooms, their ability to restore forests, and as a possible source of animal feed, the Fungi Bank would expand to include other beneficial micro organisms and how all could be applied in rangeland and agricultural activities, as well as forests, for increased health and productivity.

The governor said he supported the establishment of this program as a way to assist rural communities in forested areas with alternative economic opportunities that also helped restore our forests. He was happy that the Picuris Pueblo was moving forward on the commercialization of the charcoal/wood preservation ovens and that NMSU was interested in establishing the state's first fungi culture bank using the capital outlay monies sponsored by the governor and passed by the legislature last session.

From January 18 to March 19, 2005, SCZ testified before relevant committees of the New Mexico Legislature concerning the Native NM Fungi Resource Bank and funding for our project on it. There is a great need and potential for rural economic development and forest restoration from this program.

Feb. 23, 2005 news from the NM Legislature: HB 813, to create and fund the NMSU Native Fungi Resource Bank and Program, requests $250,000 in appropriations to NM State University to establish the first of its kind program in the State of New Mexico within the Dept. of Horticulture and Agronomy, College of Agriculture. It also creates the position of State Microbiologist, and includes support and field staff in Las Cruces as well as in its extension at the Mora Research Station, and an Advisory Task Force.

The purpose of this bill is for NMSU to develop economic opportunities by cultivating and applying native fungi on the vast amount of wood wastes from forest thinnings such as ponderosa, pi´┐Żon, juniper, fir, salt cedars, Russian olives, and orchard trimmings such as pecan and apple trees, for the production of economically viable crops and products including edible mushrooms, animal feed supplement for cows, bison and sheep, a rich mushroom soil compost for gardens as well as for restoration activities for forest health, riparian areas, range and agricultural lands.

HB 813 passed out of House Agriculture and Water Committee on February 22, 2005 unanimously. The following diverse interests were present to support the bill:
1. New Mexico State University, College of Agriculture, Dept. of Horticulture and Agronomy - Ricardo Rel, lobbyist, and John Mexal, PhD with the Dept.
2. State Land Office - Jerry King, Deputy Commissioner and Jim Norwick, Forest Supervisor.
3. Picuris Pueblo - Governor Richard Mermejo
4. Small Business Development Centers - Duane Fladland
5. Association of Conservation Districts - Brian Greene
6. New Mexico Mycological Society - Ted Stampton
7. Former Assistant Forester in State Forestry, Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Dept. - Greg Fitch

Other entities supporting the bill but not present in committee include:
8. Farm and Livestock Bureau - Cecilia Abeyta, lobbyist
9. Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District - Sterling Grogan
10. Mora Research Station - John Harrington, PhD

Unfortunately, on March 31,2005, our legislative efforts to get funding for the Bank and Program failed. The full legislature didn't even look at the bill as there were just not enough funds to go around and many of the regularly funded social programs got cut as well. However, HB 813 did receive the unanimous support of the Water and Agriculture and Appropriations Committees. Hopefully we can get funding for personnel next session when the potential for the program's rural economic opportunities has been more thoroughly demonstrated. In the meantime, our collaboration with NMSU continues, and the money we obtained for the equipment to be housed at NMSU will get the bank established and in place.

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Sustainable Communities/ZERI-NM
P. O. Box 8017,
Santa Fe, NM 87504 USA
Phone: 505-820-0186
FAX: 505-986-6019
E-mail: info@scizerinm.org

Sustainable Communities/ZERI-NM is a public 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

This page was last updated on November 29, 2004

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Unless otherwise indicated, all photographs are © 2001-2004 Lynda Taylor.