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NM hires first director of outdoor recreation

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Rafts with New Wave Rafting Co. leave John Dunn Bridge and head through the Taos Box in April this year. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico now has its first director of outdoor recreation as part of a new economic development effort to promote the state’s mountains, rivers and trails.

Axie Navas, a journalist who led a 25-person team at Outside magazine, began work Monday as head of the new Office of Outdoor Recreation.

“I think New Mexico is doing this at a really important time,” Navas said in an interview. “There’s a lot of consensus nationally that outdoor recreation is a powerful economic tool.”

She takes over a division charged with boosting outdoor-based tourism and recreation, promoting environmental preservation and recruiting out-of-state outdoor businesses to New Mexico. It’s part of the Economic Development Department.

“I’m intensely passionate about the outdoors – protecting our wild places, and getting more people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs outside,” Navas said in a written statement.

She will work with Peter Mitchell, who has worked for years in economic development and served as the point person for the new office since its inception in July.

The state’s $7 billion budget plan for this year includes about $200,000 to launch the outdoor recreation division. The Tourism Department also received $250,000 for a study on developing the outdoor economy.

Navas said she grew up in Colorado hiking, biking and skiing in the Rockies – which extend into northern New Mexico – and she’s eager to help other people enjoy the outdoors.

She said she would advocate for environmental conservation and respect for tribal lands, in addition to economic development.

New Mexico is the fifth-largest state by land area and home to five national forests; 17 national parks and monuments; 35 state parks, 20 with lakes; and 25 wilderness areas, according to a state marketing campaign.

The outdoor division was established this year in Senate Bill 462, signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in April.

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Axie Navas, New Mexico’s director of outdoor recreation

“We are building on what we have and creating job opportunities in a field where this state can, should and will lead regionally and indeed nationally,” Lujan Grisham said in a written statement.

The legislation passed the Senate 38-0 and the House 52-14.

Supporters said New Mexico had untapped potential for economic growth driven by the state’s natural beauty. Opponents said the state could continue to promote the outdoors without creating a new government office.

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