EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A proposed center designed to meet New Mexico’s future reforestation needs is closer than ever before after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a 2024 spending bill of $8.5 million.

Lujan Grisham signed a bill that goes into effect on July 1 and provides funding that will be used to start the development of the New Mexico Reforestation Center (NMRC).

This comes after 900,000 acres in New Mexico were destroyed during a single fire season last year. An additional $1.5 million will be used towards revegetation needs in New Mexico, according to a release sent by the State of New Mexico.

To help with reforestation, the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources’ Forestry Division, New Mexico Highlands University, New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico are teaming up to develop the NMRC.

The $65 million reforestation center is set to be completed in four phases. The bill signed by the governor will go towards completing the first phase of the center and will focus on land acquisition and infrastructure design. The first phase is set to be completed in a year.

Different locations are being considered for the center. Potential areas include San Miguel County, the village of Mora, Española/Santa Clara Pueblo, Santa Fe and the Middle Rio Grande Corridor.

NMSU says the NMRC will be designed and constructed to produce up to 5 million tree seedlings per year. Sarah Cottrell Propst, secretary of the Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources says, “The center will enable the scale-up that is needed to grow and plant trees that can survive in the harsh environment of lands burned by wildfire.”

An economic analysis created by NMSU states the NMRC would “provide a total economic contribution of nearly $100 million, primarily impacting industries associated with construction, architectural and engineering service.”