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In our arid, sun-kissed region of Southern New Mexico, a remarkable tale of growth, resilience, and prosperity has been unfolding over the past decade. At the heart of this growth is the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (OMDPNM), a testament to how protected lands can fuel economic vitality. Conservation and increased access to public lands is a critical part of economic development in Las Cruces. Nearly a decade after its designation, OMDPNM is proving to be a success story that we can continue to build on into the future.
A new economic study released recently highlights the extraordinary impact these protected lands have had on our local economy, shattering previous estimates and proving that conservation and economic growth are not mutually exclusive. Aptly titled "A Decade of Opportunity: How the Designation of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is Boosting Southern New Mexico's Economy," reveals how the monument has breathed new life into the area. In addition to sparking a surge in job opportunities, the study also reveals increased tax revenue and a significant upswing in visitation since President Obama designated the monument in 2014.
The change in designation status into a national monument has not only elevated the region's profile but also ignited a spending spree that delivered more than $234 million to our region. The monument helped elevate Las Cruces’ profile by joining the ranks of existing protected public lands like White Sands National Park and Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. Together, they offer visitors the chance to explore two monuments and a recently re-named National Park in one visit. Over the past decade, visitation to the monument has nearly tripled, infusing the local economy with spending that support jobs and a wide array of businesses, from gas stations to restaurants, motels, and retail establishments.
In 2022 alone, spending by out-of-town visitors resulted in $35 million of positive economic impact, while also supporting 305 jobs. This translated into substantial growth for county coffers, generating $1.9 million in tax revenue in 2022 and contributing nearly $13 million in taxes over the past decade. This is money and resources our county desperately needs.
The Bureau of Land Management, responsible for the monument's stewardship, significantly increased its operations and staffing budget too, intensifying protection, research, and recreational activities, benefiting not just visitors, but locals as well. The study shows the designation of the monument has encouraged more of us to explore its wonders, enhancing our quality of life and our own health. The monument is also an asset, as retirees and even potential job seekers evaluate quality of life and access to the outdoors as part of their own physical and emotional well-being.
Let us not forget strong communities and prosperity can be found where nature thrives and where local residents, elected officials and businesses are united in purpose. Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument stands as a testament to this truth, promising a brighter and more sustainable future for everyone.
What’s happening in Southern New Mexico is a model for the nation – protected public lands benefit local economies through increased jobs, visitor spending and tax revenues while also enhancing the quality of life for those who call these areas home. Let’s spend the next decade continuing to build on the momentum we have seen over the past 10 years by using the Organ-Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument as a tool to attract new businesses and resources that will help sustain a strong and vibrant local economy for us and future generations.
Carrie Hamblen is the CEO/President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce and also serves as State Senator for District 38.