New Mexico Increasingly Benefits from Outdoor Recreation / Public News Service

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

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 sections of the Gila and San Francisco rivers and major tributaries. He believes the efforts are reflected in the new report.

“Outdoor recreational opportunities are increasingly valued; I think that’s one thing that tells us that,” Harris assured. “And that the Gila is about to be discovered for its remarkable hinterland values, isolation, ecological integrity and so on.”

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

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

“I think the sky’s the limit,” Harris claimed. “Because what we’re trying to do is get a twist that suggests the Gila is really important to New Mexico’s development efforts.”

Proponents are asking Congress to designate 440 miles of the Gila River — the state’s last free-flowing river — and the San Francisco River. They are also urging Congress to pass America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, which includes the Public Lands Act.

Support for this reporting has been provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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