New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy is outpacing the U.S. in the sector | Bot To News

CARLSBAD — Steve Jones, owner of Backcountry Hunts LLC, employs about a dozen people part-time as guides during his hunting and guiding season.

They are part of an outdoor recreation workforce that grew 18.2 percent in New Mexico last year, according to a report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), an industry that contributed $2 billion to New Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021. This was an increase of about USD 400 million from the previous year.

“I hunt about 10 and a half months out of the year and we’ll be hunting all the way up to mid-June, we’ll be hunting antelope and some exotics in Texas,” Jones said of the business he started in 1984 in Carlsbad, New Mexico. .

That area has become crowded, Jones said, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to turn to outdoor recreation.

“The outfitting industry in the states was busy during COVID. If you weren’t busy during COVID, you were doing something wrong,” Jones said.

The New Mexico Department of Outdoor Recreation announced in November that the industry’s GDP growth not only outpaced the state’s, but also grew in compensation and employment.

In 2021, the state was named fifth in the nation for outdoor recreation. The industry employed 28,475 new Mexicans in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Nationwide, outdoor recreation accounted for 2.1% — or $459.8 billion — of gross domestic product in 2019, according to the BEA.

Even as inflation and low unemployment weighed on the country, compensation rates and employment rose in the sector, which rose 0.4 percent in the U.S., the BEA reported. Employees in this sector saw an average increase in compensation of 17.3 percent across the country.

“When Governor (Michelle) Lujan Grisham identified outdoor recreation as a way to bring more opportunity and jobs to the state and diversify the economy, it was a vision,” Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keys said in a statement.

“These figures show how New Mexico continues to be a leading state in the outdoor industry.”

The New Mexico Department of Outdoor Recreation was established in 2019 under the state Department of Economic Development. At the time, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the division should advocate for access and conservation, which should lead to economic growth.

Ultimately, Jones said the industry will continue to grow with good service and successful business practices, but it will also depend on strong wildlife conservation policies.

“You want your hunters and shooters to get the best game possible, your hunters come first, your customer comes first,” Jones said.

Jones said it often feels like the state is prioritizing the economy over everything else, including conservation.

“Sometimes they’re more money managers than wild animals,” Jones said.

Axie Navas, the current director of the department under which the industry has flourished, announced that she will leave her post in December to be replaced by current deputy director Alyssa Renwick “until a permanent director is appointed.”

“I am confident that this is just the beginning and that ORD’s momentum will continue to accelerate under the leadership of the next director,” Navas said in a statement.

Jessica Onsurez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @JussGREAT.

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