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Office of Outdoor Recreation Gains Support

by Susan Torres

New Mexicans are fortunate to have amazing outdoor recreation opportunities in practically every corner of our state. Compounding our unparalleled forests, desert, mountains, and valleys is a long season of unmatched weather that allows us to enjoy the outdoors longer than other Western mountain states.

It’s no secret that New Mexico has an economic problem, however. Now a growing number of organizations and legislators are looking to our outdoor resources to boost our economy in a new way – by creating an Office of Outdoor Recreation. A growing number of states are setting up Offices of Outdoor Recreation to highlight the booming industries around outdoor activities. There’s no reason New Mexico can’t benefit from promoting outdoor focused businesses as well.

Outdoor recreation and ecotourism is a massive $887 billion industry in the United States that sustains 7.6 million full time jobs for Americans and generates $59.2 billion in state and local taxes. It is one of the fastest growing sustainable industries.

New Mexico’s outdoor recreation and ecotourism industry currently generates just under $10 billion annually, with $623 million in state and local taxes, and employs approximately 100,000 New Mexicans. While these numbers are impressive, it’s important to point out that our outdoor recreation industry is one of the smallest of any Western states. Compare these numbers to Colorado’s $30 billion dollar industry with $2 billion in state and local taxes and 300,000 full time jobs. Or California’s staggering $90 billion dollar industry with $6.2 billion in state and local taxes, and an astounding 600,000 direct full time jobs.

By not having an office dedicated to promoting outdoor recreation, New Mexico is losing out on potential growth in this area. The need for this tool is especially important for New Mexico because of the struggles of the last decade to grow economic opportunity and jobs in rural parts of the state. Due to the advantages of proximity to public lands, outdoor recreation can be an important tool for rural communities in New Mexico. Given our weather, cultural resources, and abundance of public lands, there is no reason New Mexico can’t compete with Colorado, California, Utah, and the growing number of states who have tapped into the outdoor industry market.

The good news is there is growing support for such an office. At a Water and Natural Resources Committee meeting in August, there wasn’t a single legislator voicing opposition to the idea for creating an Office of Outdoor Recreation. Bipartisan support is growing so now is the time to keep the momentum going. Contact your state elected official today and tell them you support creating an Office of Outdoor Recreation!