Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks designation would boost economy in southern NM

New Mexico Mercury
By Arianna Parsons
May 2, 2014

Recently I had the privilege of participating in a convening of business owners from the Taos area to celebrate the first anniversary of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico. The consensus among these business owners was clear: just one year in and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument has been good for local businesses.

As our community discusses the prospect of a new national Monument in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region, I think it’s important to look at the data and lessons from our neighbors in the north.

Since designation on March 25th, 2013, data show the Town of Taos Lodgers’ Tax Revenue increased by 21 percent in the second half of 2013 compared to the same period of 2012, amounting to an increase of nearly $100,000 revenue.

In addition, gross-receipts revenue to businesses in Taos County in the Accommodations and Food Service sector was 8.3-percent ($3.7 million) higher for the second half of 2013 than for the same period of 2012. This increase in gross receipts for Taos County outpaced the statewide increase for Accommodations and Food Service by 1.8 percent over the same period.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Taos Field Office (BLM) reported late last year a 40% increase in visitors in less than one year since the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument designation. In fiscal year 2013, which ended last September 30, the BLM reported 182,501 visitors to the areas within the monument, compared to 130,002 visitors in fiscal year 2012.

As I listened to the economic data being shared and the personal testimonials being provided by Taos-area business owners, I couldn’t help but get excited about what a similar national monument designation could do for the economy here in southern New Mexico.

That’s why I am looking forward to a potential national monument at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. A recent economic study found that the proposed monument here would result in $7.4 million in new annual economic activity and create new jobs.

The one year that has passed since the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument’s inception is proof that these kinds of projections are not at all far-fetched, and in fact, are likely to come to fruition.

We have so many reasons to be optimistic. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich played an integral role in encouraging President Obama to create the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument last March. They are putting forward the same kind of effort again – having introduced the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act last December.

The lands within the proposed monument already play a big role in our community and they deserve to be protected – not only for future generations to enjoy, but also because a new monument will benefit businesses and create jobs here in Las Cruces.