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New Mexico Reaps Increasing Benefits from Outdoor Recreation


Friday, November 25, 2022   

The Land of Enchantment collects more than $2 billion a year from those who enjoy the outdoors, including camping, hiking, climbing and biking, according to the latest federal data.

Steve Harris, outfitter and president of Far Flung Adventures in El Prado, said the state has worked for decades to secure federal Wild and Scenic River protections for segments of the Gila and San Francisco rivers and main tributaries. He believes the efforts are reflected in the new report.

"Outdoor recreation opportunities are increasingly valued; I think that's one thing this tell us," Harris asserted. "And that the Gila is on the verge of being discovered for its remarkable backcountry values, the isolation, the ecological integrity and so forth."

According to the analysis, outdoor recreation accounted for 2.1% of New Mexico's gross domestic product in 2021, increasing by $400 million from 2020. It also supports at least 5,300 jobs. The Gila area is the world's first designated wilderness, created in 1924 at the urging of conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold.

The Bureau's analysis showed outdoor recreation played a particularly large role in the economies of western states. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the state's Outdoor Recreation Division into law in 2019, joining other states committed to growing the outdoor recreation economy, which Harris believes will put New Mexico's offerings in the spotlight.

"I think the sky's the limit," Harris contended. "Because what we're trying to do is get a spin that suggests that the Gila's really important to the development aspirations of New Mexico."

Advocates are seeking designation from Congress for 440 miles of the Gila River -- the state's last free-flowing river -- and the San Francisco River.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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