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The New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division (ORD), a division of the N.M. Economic Development Department (EDD), announced the inaugural award recipients of the Outdoor Equity Fund (OEF). The first-of-its-kind OEF was created to allow all youth equitable access to the outdoors. The grant will support transformative outdoor experiences that foster stewardship and respect for New Mexico’s land, water, and cultural heritage.
A volunteer evaluation committee spent hours poring over 84 applications filled with innovative ideas to get kids outside in a COVID-safe way. The ORD is especially grateful to the reviewers: Gabe Vasquez, Las Cruces city councilor; Marlene Catherine Yanez, La Semilla Food Center program coordinator; Phoebe Suina, founder of High Water Mark; Simon Sotelo, community grassroots organizer at NM Wild; and Anthony Marquez, outdoor recreation business owner.
"The Outdoor Equity Fund is one of the proudest achievements of my administration to date, and I'm humbled that we can provide this incredible opportunity for New Mexico kids," said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. "The great outdoors is New Mexico's most treasured resource -- our beautiful green forests, our clean air, the mountains and mesas and rivers that make New Mexico the greatest place in the world. Everyone deserves a chance to experience them, and providing these pathways is a big step toward building a robust outdoor recreation economy we know we can create here."
“Investing in youth access to the outdoors is economic development," Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said. "By getting more young New Mexicans outside, the Outdoor Equity Fund builds a rung on the career ladder for these kids to find jobs working with our remarkable lands and waters. The grant opportunity also advances education for the next generation about the importance of a healthy environment to the state’s future. I want to thank lawmakers and other donors to the fund for making this a reality."
According to the committee of reviewers, it was no easy task to narrow applicants down to the 25 finalists, and they spent several hours in debate earlier this month making sure the funds went to the best proposals. The result of their hard work is the below list of organizations providing programming across the state of New Mexico.
“We were blown away by the 84 incredible applications we received for the inaugural Outdoor Equity Fund grant cycle,” ORD Director Axie Navas said. “The tribes, Pueblos, municipalities, counties, and nonprofits who applied developed so many creative ideas to introduce young New Mexicans to the state’s lands and waters in engaging, COVID-safe ways. Our evaluation committee dedicated hours of hard work winnowing down that amazing group to the final recipients, and the result is a truly inspiring collection of organizations nurturing the state’s future land stewards.”
“COIVD-19 has proven to all of us how critical access to the outdoors is for healing during these times, and also taking care of our most precious and unique spaces," New Mexico State Representative Angelica Rubio said. "The Outdoor Equity Fund, which elevates the Division of Outdoor Recreation’s purpose in New Mexico, will do just that-- transforming the possibilities and accessibility for countless New Mexican youth--who deserve this access the most right now.”
The OEF awarded a total of $261,863.78 toward getting approximately 2,700 kids outside over the next year. It leveraged over $7 million of total programming funds.
FY21 Outdoor Equity Fund Award Recipients from Dona Ana County:
City of Sunland Park
The City of Sunland Park will host four weekend events at local parks for youth grades 3-6. The events will be educational and are designed to give the impoverished youth of the City of Sunland Park an opportunity to get out into their environment and do hands-on learning, with a focus on ecology, flora, fauna, and humans & the environment and will provide access to tools that students would not have otherwise.
Location: Sunland Park
Families and Youth, Inc.: The Outdoor Legacy Project
The Outdoor Legacy Project will provide resources and support to educate youth on conservation, climate, and cultural connectedness to the outdoors. It seeks to empower youth by providing innovative, quality outdoors experiences that promote having a sense of ownership, relationship, and responsibility with regard to our lands and natural resources.
Location: Las Cruces with trips to surrounding areas
Fly Fish NM
Fly Fish is a nonprofit providing education and outdoor access to underprivileged youth interested in learning how to fly fish. Events will teach youth safety considerations when planning a fishing trip, demonstrate proficiency assembling and casting a fly rod, conservation and preservation of fish habitat, and grant free access to participants to these events. The goal is to foster stewardship and respect for our lands, our wildlife, and our waters.
Location: Youth accessible fisheries throughout New Mexico
ORD is very appreciative of everyone who took the time to apply for this funding. It is their intention to be able to offer these grants again in early 2021 for the next round of Outdoor Equity Funds.