In 2022, New Mexico’s luck ran out. For years, forests in neighboring states and across the West burned at unprecedented levels, while our landscapes remained largely intact. Then, in tragic and catastrophic fashion, one of the hottest and driest springs in recorded history gave rise to four of the state’s largest-ever wildfires.

While there are several underlying conditions that allowed these fires to flourish, the biggest culprit is our hotter, drier climate.

These wildfires shined a bright light on the state’s need to invest in resilience — in adapting communities to the climate’s “new normal” as we simultaneously chip away at the backlog of work needed to restore the health of our forests and watersheds. Yet, New Mexico lacks a source of dedicated, recurring funding for things like river restoration, forest and soil health, community resilience, or ensuring equitable access to the outdoors.

Jonathan Hayden is a resident of Santa Fe and the Western lands senior policy analyst with Western Resource Advocates, a regional nonprofit advocacy organization fighting climate change and its impacts to sustain the environment, economy, and people of the West.