Editorial: Try a staycation to help New Mexico's fire-ravaged areas - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Try a staycation to help New Mexico’s fire-ravaged areas

New Mexicans are not far removed from making conscious financial choices to help neighbors in a time of need.

Many took pains to buy local during the pandemic to help small businesses, restaurant owners and their workers continue to earn a living amid COVID restrictions. Remember when “Support your local restaurants” was a hero’s call to action as those stimulus checks hit the bank? Tough as those economic times were, it’s dejá vù all over again — this time the foes are destructive fires across the state.

While we no longer have COVID relief dollars to aid conscientious sharing, we do have the state of New Mexico’s “household relief” rebates. Those were approved during a special legislative session this spring to help New Mexico households cope with rising prices of groceries, gasoline and other expenses. Inflation, riding a 40-year high, has robbed New Mexicans of purchasing power. Paying for gasoline, now hovering around $5 a gallon in the Metro area, means transportation costs are eating into other areas of the household budget. Costs are rising for everything else, too.

For many, the state rebates will simply help keep families afloat. But for those in the position of banking the rebate, mulling an extravagant purchase, or preparing for a summer vacation, we offer a suggestion: Invest in one of New Mexico’s fire-ravaged communities.

Visiting as a tourist the areas that have been affected by fires can be a difference-maker for a sector of the economy that has quite literally suffered first-degree burns.

Not just the towns and villages in the path of the fires have suffered. And those victims whose properties have been destroyed at least have assurances the federal government will assume the costs of rebuilding. But what about businesses whose operations are intact but have no one to serve?

Ruidoso, which suffered the McBride Fire ahead of the ones that continue to burn in the Sangre de Cristo range, is still trying to recover. Businesses, especially those in the lodging and hospitality sector, were met with a deluge of calls from prospective visitors, either canceling reservations or inquiring whether the town was still on fire.

The closure of national forests due to fire danger was a second blow. But recent moisture-laden monsoonal weather patterns have eased restrictions in New Mexico’s forests. We’ve been given a reprieve from a nightmare of a summer without access to the mountains. That’s good news for communities which have built their economies around tourism and outdoor recreation.

Traveling is something that should come easily to most of us this time of year. The Fourth of July weekend is nearly upon us, highlighting the summer getaway season. But airfare prices are up 33% over the last year — the largest 12-month increase since 1980, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. With staffing shortages plaguing airlines, flight schedules are rife with delays. And if you plan to drive somewhere far away, prepare to shell out. Gas prices are up 44% over the past 12 months.

So there’s opportunity for New Mexicans to give and receive something important.

Visiting destinations like Las Vegas, Taos, Red River, Ruidoso or Silver City — or even the smaller villages more directly impacted by this spring’s fires — will circulate needed money into slumping economic areas. Visitors will be rewarded not only with a sense of helping, but with the natural splendor of New Mexico’s outdoors.

Honestly, you can’t beat mountain biking or rock climbing in the Taos Ski Valley. Fishing for rainbow trout in Red River. A gondola ride to the top of Sierra Blanca. Hiking around the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Or viewing historic buildings in Las Vegas. Considering all that was off the table in mid-June, this summer is a great opportunity for wildflowers, stargazing, mushroom hunting and wildlife watching.

But let’s remember a few rain showers don’t solve tinder-dry conditions overnight. Skip the campfires and fireworks this year and focus on celebrating all that New Mexico has to offer while keeping it safe.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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