Commentary: As the price of fossil fuels continues to freefall, New Mexico leaders should focus on diversifying the state’s economy by using the state’s natural resources in a healthier, more sustainable way -- outdoor recreation.
In a new report published by the National Recreation and Parks Association, local park and recreation spending supports $787,081,162 of economic activity and 6,121 jobs in New Mexico. And according to the New Mexico Division of Outdoor Recreation, the outdoor recreation industry in the state as a whole directly supports $1.2 billion in income and 33,500 jobs, a sector that is growing faster than the overall state economy.
Congress has the opportunity to include The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) as part of its COVID-19 economic stimulus package. The GAOA is bipartisan legislation that would permanently fund the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million per year, and establish the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund, which would direct $9.5 billion over five years to prioritize job-creation and restoration projects on national parks and other federal public lands.
Together, these two programs would bring sustainable economic development and job-creation opportunities that would help build New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy, a growing source of the state’s GDP and a sustainable way to use the state’s natural resources and federal public lands.
Carrie Hamblen, CEO/president of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, said:
“A permanent, fully-funded LWCF will provide a huge economic boost for the outdoor recreation industry in New Mexico by expanding places for people to fish, hike, camp, hunt, and get outside. Not to mention all of those activities drive the small business economy in nearly every community in the state.”
Patrick Nolan, executive director of Friends of Organ Mountains Desert Peaks, said:
“We urge New Mexico’s federal delegation to include the Great American Outdoors Act in an upcoming stimulus package. In Las Cruces, our community has seen tremendous growth in outdoor recreation, visitation, and economic activity thanks to protected federal public lands like the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. We have several key opportunities to expand trails and access in our community, but we can’t do it without LWCF. ”
Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said:
“We are grateful for the leadership and support of our entire Congressional delegation when it comes to LWCF and public lands, but we can’t lose sight of the opportunity to pass the nation’s greatest bipartisan conservation program. Hunting and fishing alone support nearly 8,000 jobs and contribute more than $51 million in state and local taxes. Now more than ever, we need this economic boost, at no cost to taxpayers, that can help New Mexicans and our economy weather the storm.”
Alexandra Merlino, executive director of the Partnership for Responsible Business, said:
“It’s way past time that we think beyond fossil fuels when it comes to powering New Mexico. We can use our natural resources a different way, and still grow our state’s economy. From hotels to restaurants and breweries, there are so many different businesses that can thrive if we invest in their communities and surrounding parks and public lands. LWCF is the tool we need to do that. Our elected leaders should act now on the passage of this historic legislation and help support our local economies.”
Mark Allison, executive director of New Mexico Wild, said:
“Places like the Valles Caldera, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, and the Carson National Forest are part of what make New Mexico so special and worth visiting. Fully funding LWCF would add additional opportunities to help grow our state’s economy and ensure our public lands, parks, and wild places are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. We need LWCF and the Great American Outdoors Act now to continue building on New Mexico’s legacy of public land conservation.”
Angel Peña, president of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, said:
“LWCF is an important economic development tool for rural communities and communities of color. As we think about what makes places like Silver City, Deming, Ruidoso, and Socorro thrive, we think about the Gila National Forest, the Florida Mountains, the Lincoln National Forest, and the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. These gateway communities need the support of LWCF to create jobs and conserve landscapes.”
Teresa Martinez, Executive Director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, said:
“The Continental Divide Trail is drawing increasing attention and visitation from hikers, campers, and backpackers from all across New Mexico and the United States. Because of LWCF, we have been able to address several trail gaps, and continue to rely on this critical program in our efforts to finally complete the CDT. Gateway communities like Silver City, Chama, and Cuba are proof that LWCF and protected federal public lands increase economic activity in rural communities - and so are the 98% of small business owners along the CDT who support dedicated, full funding of LWCF. Passing the Great American Outdoors Act would be a huge win for our communities and our lands.
Greg Peters, Public Lands and Wildlife Advocate for Conservation Voters New Mexico, said:
“As New Mexico recovers from this deadly pandemic and one of the worst downturns in the fossil fuel industry, we will need every tool available to prop up our local economies. The Great American Outdoors Act can put New Mexicans back to work and help protect our state’s cherished landscapes, it’s a win-win. We urge our Congressional delegation to include this legislation as part of its economic stimulus package in upcoming negotiations.”
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, from 2005 to 2011, when the Great Recession saw most economic sectors decline, the outdoor recreation sector grew at a rate of 5 percent. More information about the economic impact of the outdoor recreation industry in New Mexico is available here.