ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In New Mexico, the outdoors is big business.
Outdoor recreation accounts for $9.9 billion in consumer spending, $2.8 billion in wages and salaries, $623 million in state and local tax revenue and 99,000 direct jobs, according to a 2017 report from the Outdoor Industry Association. Those numbers reflect spending and employment associated with a broad range of activities, everything from wildlife viewing to skateboarding to “running 3+ miles.”
Then there’s impact associated with specific locations. Across Doña Ana and El Paso counties, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument supports about $10 million in economic activity, $570,000 in state and local tax revenue and 100 jobs on an annual basis, according to a study commissioned by the Partnership for Responsible Business and the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re talking about real economic value,” said Carrie Hamblen, the chamber’s CEO and president. “So many businesses here have really embraced that, and those that have understand we need to protect our land.”
Hamblen is one of the organizers of the New Mexico Outdoors Economics Conference, which will take place in May in Las Cruces. The tagline for the event is “creating jobs from protected public lands.”
The backdrop for the conference, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, was reviewed last year by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to determine whether the Obama administration had exceeded its authority in creating the nearly 500,000-acre monument. Zinke eventually recommended that the footprint of the monument be kept intact, but also said its proclamation should be amended to prioritize “public access; infrastructure upgrades, repair, and maintenance; traditional use; tribal cultural use; and hunting and fishing rights.”
The recommendations are still under review by President Trump.