SOCORRO, N.M. - In today's economic turmoil, the smartest investment for New Mexico could be in conserving and restoring the state's natural resources. That's the finding of a study being released today that looks at the economic benefits of southern New Mexico's natural assets.
Chris Mehl is with Headwaters Economics, which produced the report, and he says those assets help generate billions of tourism dollars for the state each year. Over the longer term, he adds, they're also attractive to more than just visitors.
"[The area is attractive] to businesses, entrepreneurs, new companies and also retirees who are going to move to southern New Mexico for quality of life reasons. So, they have return on investment twice over, so to speak."
Wolf Watchers at Yellowstone National Park – courtesy of NPS
Mehl thinks using state dollars to invest in conservation and restoration is also smart because it's likely to be matched with federal dollars to create jobs, improve water quality and allow other short-term benefits as well. He says New Mexico's fish, wildlife, and habitats contribute $3.8 billion to the state's economy annually, through hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.
The report was commissioned by Audubon New Mexico, where Executive Director Karyn Stockdale hopes the findings are taken into consideration as future budget decisions are made.
"Even when the decision-makers have tough choices in the budget and where they're going to cut, what we're hoping is that this really demonstrates that the conservation and restoration projects really pay large dividends, now and into the future."
Stockdale notes the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge alone brings in $13.7 million annually from non-locals, along with $4.3 million in regional tax revenue.
"We love southern New Mexico for all the incredible birds and birding areas."
The report is at www.headwaterseconomics.org/NMnaturalassets.
This article was published by the Public News Service on August 26, 2010.