Lawmakers, Governor Introduce Bill To Create Office Of Outdoor Recreation And Outdoor Equity Fund
SANTA FE ― Lawmakers and the Governor are taking innovative steps to diversify the state’s economy by targeting growth and small business development in the outdoor recreation industry.
The outdoor recreation industry is responsible for $9.9 billion of spending in New Mexico, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
Tuesday, State Senators Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) and Steven Neville (R-San Juan), State Representatives Nathan Small, Angelica Rubio, (D-Las Cruces) and Wanda Johnson (D-McKinley and San Juan) introduced Senate Bill 462, legislation that would establish the Office of Outdoor Recreation and Outdoor Equity Fund.
The bill would create a New Mexico Outdoor Recreation division within the Economic Development Department, and appropriate $1.5 million to establish an office with up to five full-time staff. The Division would focus on the creation and growth of outdoor recreation-based small businesses across the state, attract industry and retailers to New Mexico, grow outdoor recreation infrastructure across the state, and to promote the use and stewardship of New Mexico’s vast network of public lands, national forests, state parks, waters, rivers, mountains and more.
SB 462 also creates the Outdoor Equity Fund, seeking an appropriation of $100,000 administered by the Youth Conservation Corps to provide micro-grants to nonprofit organizations, local governments, and Native American communities to fund outdoor recreation and education programs that serve at least a 40 percent low-income population of youth up to 18.
Governor Lujan Grisham lauded the legislation as a major initiative to help brand the state and create new jobs at a press conference earlier today.
“The Land of Enchantment offers unparalleled opportunities to enjoy our diverse public lands and grow good jobs and economic development connected to outdoor recreation. I am excited to help establish an Office of Outdoor Recreation to bring this incredible opportunity into focus,” Sen. Steinborn said.
“While we invest in growing the outdoor recreation industry and attracting more visitors, we’re also sending a strong message to our youth across New Mexico that they will not be left behind,” Rep. Rubio said. “Through the Outdoor Equity Fund, low-income youth will also get to engage in outdoor recreation and education activities on state parks, state trust land, federal public lands and waterways and other designated outdoor locations. Youth are our most precious resource, and they will be the next stewards of our lands and environment.”
The micro-grants will be available on a competitive basis that would support a wide variety of needs to organizations and governments with new or established outdoor recreation and education programs that serve low-income youth, including transportation, equipment, staff time, and meals. A statewide and national coalition of more than 50 conservation, social justice, and outdoor industry organizations support the creation of this fund.
Creating the Office of Outdoor Recreation is one of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signature economic development initiatives of the 2019 Legislative Session, promising to establish the office as one of her 30 Leadership in Action Initiatives during her campaign for Governor.”