New Mexico Outdoor Economics Conference
Welcomes More than 150 Participants to Las Cruces
Speakers from Seven States and Across New Mexico Convene to
Discuss Innovative Strategies to Grow the State’s Outdoor Recreation Economy

CONTACT:           Nathan Small, New Mexico Wild
(484) 639-4534 |

Carrie Hamblen, Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce
(575) 323-1575 |

LAS CRUCES, NM – Business leaders, directors from respective Western states’ outdoor recreation offices, and elected officials, including two U.S. Senators, are amongst the speakers at the first-ever New Mexico Outdoor Economics Conference, today and tomorrow in Las Cruces. The goal of the conference is to advance economic development strategies and opportunities to grow New Mexico jobs connected to protected public lands and outdoor recreation.


Conference attendance is expected to exceed 150 participants representing at least seven states. At least a dozen cities, counties, and tribes from across New Mexico are sending representatives to contribute to the discussion and bring back new ideas for their communities.


On Thursday, panelists are examining outdoor recreation and public lands marketing successes; business opportunities connected to the outdoor recreation industry; the experiences of State Offices of Outdoor Recreation; and how protected public lands benefit local businesses.


On Friday, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich will deliver the keynote address on the inextricable link between conservation and growing the Western economy. The Senator will also unveil his legislation to establish White Sands National Monument as a National Park and Ray Rasker of Headwaters Economics will present the results of a new study examining the economic benefits that could result from re-designating White Sands. Also on Friday, panelists will discuss growing outdoor industry manufacturing jobs and what is needed for Dona Ana County to take part.


“Outdoor recreation in New Mexico, much of it around protected public lands, is a big driver of the state’s economy. But there is work to be done to ensure that New Mexico continues to be competitive with neighboring states and attracts outdoor industry companies,” said Cailin O’Brien-Feeney, State and Local Policy Manager for the Outdoor Industry Association. “The potential in New Mexico, which already boasts 99,000 outdoor recreation-related jobs, is unquestionable.”


The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, which surrounds Las Cruces, has enjoyed a huge increase in visitors since being designated a national monument in May 2014. By September 2016, visitation to the Monument had increased by 152 percent. Many local businesses have been successful in translating increased visitation to the monument to increased business profits.


“I’m thrilled that Las Cruces is hosting this conference,” said Ken Miyagishima, Mayor of Las Cruces, who is also a speaker at the conference. “Our city has found that promoting our protected public lands as a community asset also benefits our local economy. We are excited to share our story, learn from others, and continue taking steps forward.”


One key point of the conference is the role of state offices of outdoor recreation, which are being created in states across the West, typically housed within state economic development departments. Currently, New Mexico lacks such an office but several New Mexico state legislators would like to change that.


“It [creating the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation] was a game changer for Utah. It further reinforced the importance of the outdoor industry, public lands, tourism, and the significant economic impact they all have on our state,” said Tom Adams, Director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, the first office of its kind to open in the U.S. “Like New Mexico, Utah is known for its remarkable natural beauty. New Mexico also has an opportunity to share that natural beauty, draw businesses and tourists, and encourage a healthy, active lifestyle.”


According to an Outdoor industry Association 2017 report, the outdoor recreation economy in Colorado and Utah generated $28.0 billion and $12.3 billion, respectively, in consumer spending. For the same period, the outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico generated $9.9 billion.


For more information on the New Mexico Outdoor Economics Conference, including background on the speakers and the schedule, please visit If you’re not able to attend, most of the Conference will be broadcast via Facebook Live at