NM Forest Legacy Program

New Mexico State Forestry

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Grant amount: Unspecified amount

Deadline: Rolling

Applicant type: Government Entity Indigenous Group Nonprofit

Funding uses: Project / Program

Location of project: New Mexico

Location of residency: New Mexico

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Congress created the Forest Legacy Program in 1990 as part of the Farm Bill. Its purpose is to help landowners, state and local governments, and land trusts identify and protect environmentally important forest lands that are threatened by present or future conversion to non-forest uses. Fragmentation of forest ownership, further subdivision, and development are the greatest threats to forest values and the rural cultures that depend upon them. The Forest Legacy Program will help assure that both traditional uses of private lands and the public values of New Mexico’s forest resources are protected for future generations.

The most important part of Forest Legacy is private land owners who want to conserve the special values of their land for future generations. Willing landowners that want to be accepted into the program may sell the development rights to all or part of their properties to the state of New Mexico. These ‘conservation easements’ are held in perpetuity by the state and effectively retire the rights to subdivide and develop the properties for non-forest uses. Participating landowners retain all other rights to their properties including occupancy, use for enjoyment or profit, and transfer to heirs or sale to new owners. In other words, the landowner continues to live and work on the land. Property taxes are paid on the retained rights, as determined by the County Assessor. These private forests continue to produce wood products, provide wildlife habitats and open space, contribute to watershed integrity, and are protected from urban sprawl.

The Forest Legacy Program is made available to the State of New Mexico by a grant from the USDA – Forest Service. The initial step by the state is an Assessment of Need, which is a study of the current status of New Mexico’s private forests and the threats to convert them to non-forest uses. The draft Assessment of Need is presently available for review at the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department – Forestry Division. When this planning document is finalized, owners of environmentally important forests will be invited to participate in the Forest Legacy Program. Those who choose to sell conservation easements to the state will be encouraged to form partnerships with land trust organizations that can help them with their property appraisals, and tax or estate planning. Up to 75% of the easement purchase price is provided through a federal grant and the state or other non-federal sources provide the remainder.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Eligible applicants are landowners, state and local governments, and land trusts.
  • To be eligible for inclusion, a property must be 75% forested with timber or riparian woodland species, and meet all of the following four eligibility criteria.
    • Threat: To meet this criterion, the property must be threatened by one of the following:
      • Conversion to non-forest uses; 
      • Further subdivision into smaller parcels.
    • Public Values: To meet this criterion, the property must possess one or more of the following public values:
      • Natural aesthetic or scenic values; 
      • Public education opportunities;
      • Public recreation opportunities;
      • Riparian areas;
      • Fish and wildlife habitat;
      • Threatened or endangered species habitat;
      • Cultural and historical resources;
      • Traditional forest uses; and/or
      • Other important ecological values.
    • Planning: To meet this criterion, the property must have one of the following:
      • A Forest Stewardship Plan or equivalent forest management plan approved by the State Forester or his or her designated representative in accordance with National Forest Stewardship Program criteria, or 
      • Where land is acquired in fee or timber management rights are transferred in the conservation easement, a management plan will be developed by the organization acquiring those rights.
    • Funding: To meet this criterion, there must be non-federal matching funds of at least 25% available in the form of cash and/or in-kind contributions.


  • Priority is given to private forested lands which:
    • are threatened by future conversion to non-forest uses; 
    • protect and enhance watershed and water quality;
    • maintain and restore riparian areas;
    • protect important wildlife habitats;
    • contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of rural communities.


  • Properties less than 40 acres in size will generally not be considered unless they contain significant features, such as endangered species habitat or rare types of forest.