Eco Tourism and Recreation

Annually, the outdoor recreation industry in New Mexico generates $9.9 billion.

The State Land Office to this point has completely missed the mark on ecotourism and outdoor recreation. Its outdoor recreation permitting process is onerous and restrictive. Access into state lands and recreational use is highly discouraged. Camping opportunities are almost non-existent.

Along with renewable energy production, I view expanded eco-tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities as an integral part of leveraging our public lands to support education in our state.

Locations such as White Peak, the Luera Mountains, Sierra Grande, select lands in the bootheel, and lands like the tract next to Clovis NM – which has the greatest warbler diversity in the US – should be managed and marketed specifically for their recreation and wildlife values.

The State Land Office should begin an aggressive program to restore these properties for their outdoor recreation, wildlife, and cultural values. The first thing I will do is give the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish back the $800k annual increase that the current Commissioner imposed on New Mexico Department of Game & Fish for their sportsmen’s lease. In return, I will require New Mexico Department of Game & Fish to sign an MOU with the State Land Office guaranteeing they would commit at least $4 million annually to wildlife, watershed, and recreation related restoration and improvements.

As restoration and infrastructure improvements happen, the next step is to map out a targeted international marketing campaign for specific ecotourism and outdoor recreation audiences. These specific audiences include the international birding, mountain bike, wildlife viewing, horseback and trekking/hiking, geocaching, and rock climbing communities.

For example, the State Land Office with New Mexico Department of Game & Fish funding, could build out mountain bike/hiking/horseback trails on White Peak with designated campsites, parking, and road improvements and then market these to specific national/international recreation audiences.

The Continental Divide Trail across NM is another outstanding project. The Continental Divide Trail runs through or near both the above-mentioned “heirloom” locations creating a tourism thread that can and should be part of a greater offering co-marketed by the State Land Office, NM Department of Tourism, local guides and outfitters, New Mexico Department of Game & Fish, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS)t, county commissions, and chambers of commerce.

The Luera Mountains, on the northern edge of Mexican grey wolf habitat, should be managed and marketed exclusively for its wildlife values and could be a western state model of successful revenue generation.

And of course the bootheel, with its ecological diversity like no other in the nation, should also have large tracts managed for its wildlife values.

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