All three remaining candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination say they would end leasing of federal land for energy development, including oil and natural gas, if elected. Not only would this be disastrous for the New Mexico economy, but the policy is based on the false premise we can’t protect public lands while also pursuing responsible development.
New Mexico’s recent economic success, however, proves we can do both at the same time: A newly released study shows our state’s outdoor economy has been growing alongside the oil and natural gas boom that is producing record revenues and budget surpluses for the state (“NM’s outdoor recreation is thriving,” Feb. 22 Journal.)
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show outdoor recreation added $2.3 billion to the state economy in 2017, an increase of 11.4% from 2012. Employment attributable to the recreation industry grew 3.2% to 33,486 since 2012, while employee compensation increased 13.7% percent to $1.17 billion.
Much of this economic growth is dependent on public lands, including our many state and national parks, national forests and state trust lands. For example, the economic impact of visitors to New Mexico’s national park sites grew 67 percent to $152 million between 2012 and 2018, resulting in 650 new jobs.