Green Chamber reports national monument would be worth millions to the economy

LC Sun News
By Brook Stockberger

MESILLA >> Proponents of the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument on public lands in Doña Ana County have said that the designation of the about 500,000 acres would be a boon for the county’s economy.

Now they feel they have some more ammunition for their argument.

A new economic study by BBC Research & Consulting – commissioned by monument supporter the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce – estimates that the action will generate $7.4 million in new economic activity annually and create 88 new jobs, doubling the number of jobs that these public lands support in outdoor recreation and tourism. The study also estimates an additional $562,000 per year generated in combined state and local government tax revenue from designation of the national monument.

“That’s a pretty big impact to the region,” said Laura Sanchez, CEO of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce. Sanchez spoke at an economic forum in Mesilla held by the Las Cruces branch of the chamber on Friday.

She said that, while southern New Mexico may not be able to compete with other parts of the nation in average salary, keeping the land protected does offer other benefits in addition to a potential increase in business.

“We can compete on quality of life,” Sanchez said. “That helps with the retention and recruitment of workers.”

Las Cruces City Councilor Greg Smith was on hand for the forum.

“I want to see us connect to our cultural heritage and natural heritage,” he said

State representative Jeff Steinborn said he believes that the economic benefit to the area could even be stronger than the study shows.

“What struck me is how conservative this report was,” he said. “The area will become better known when there is a monument.”

The Green Chamber invited members of the Taos community who worked to support the creation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in the Taos area. It was named a national monument in March by presidential proclamation.

“Conservation and protection of public lands is good for business,” said Stuart Wilde of Wild Earth Llama Adventures, a company that offers single- and multi-day llama trekking adventures in the wilderness areas of Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Rio Grande Gorge. “This model creates a ripple effect that goes throughout the business community.”

The Green Chamber reports that the economic benefits of designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would go beyond visitor spending.

“With the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks permanently protected, we will be better equipped to promote Las Cruces as a city where businesses and individuals can prosper,” said Philip San Filippo, Director of the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau, said via a statement. “Just as important, this action will help establish our reputation as a community that’s involved in protecting its unique heritage.”