**New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Press Release**
SANTA FE, N.M. – Water related outdoor recreation in New Mexico’s Gila River and
San Francisco River watersheds stimulates economic activity that supports at least 3,900
jobs in New Mexico, providing $92.4 million of income, according to a new study
conducted by Southwick and Associates and commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
These water related activities contribute at least $427.8 million to the state’s economy
annually. In addition, this spending is associated with $143.9 million of value-added to
New Mexico’s economy.
The sustained economic benefits the Gila and San Francisco Rivers provide are an
important part of a diversifying the economy in southwest New Mexico to include tourism,
recreation, ranching, farming, and mining. These findings indicate that when designated
as Wild and Scenic, the Gila and San Francisco Rivers could contribute to a durable
economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic impacts.
“This type of collaboration is one reason Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had the vision to
create the Outdoor Recreation Division,” Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said. “We know
that working together to preserve wild rivers will better protect these areas and grow the
The authors of the report, titled “Economic Significance of Outdoor Recreation in the Gila
and San Francisco River Watersheds,” based their calculations on a recent survey sent to
households in New Mexico and Arizona, as well as previously published data from 2017 on
outdoor recreation spending conducted for the Outdoor Industry Association.
“Our research finds that water related recreation in New Mexico’s Gila and San Francisco
Rivers are significant drivers of economic activity and employment for the state of New
Mexico,” Lisa Bragg, Vice President of Research at Southwick Associates, said. “Our
findings strongly suggest that protecting these rivers as Wild and Scenic will increase their
economic impact and contribute to the diversified economy.”
In May of this year, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced the M.H. Dutch
Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act (S. 3670), to secure these economic
benefits for local communities by protecting portions of the Gila and San Francisco Rivers
and their tributaries by including them in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
These protections, like those for other rivers including the Rio Chama and Rio Grande, are
compatible with existing uses.
“I introduced the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild & Scenic River Act to permanently
protect some of the most dynamic and spectacular rivers and streams in our country.
There are very few places left like the headwaters of the Gila—a place near and dear to my
heart and special to so many New Mexicans. This is where locals and visitors alike go to
kayak, raft, fish, hunt, hike, and camp,” Heinrich said. “It is clear that conservation is a
catalyst for growing the economy. Thanks in large part to the last decade of conservation
victories in New Mexico, the outdoor recreation industry was fueling some of our fastest
job growth, particularly in our rural communities, just before the pandemic hit. Outdoor
recreation can help us employ millions of U.S. workers, connect Americans to their
heritage, solve health and access disparities, and drive local economies. Southwestern New
Mexico, with its access to the Gila and San Francisco Rivers, is the perfect place for this.”
“This new research adds to our growing certainty of how critical protected public lands
and rivers are to New Mexico’s economy,” Axie Navas, director of New Mexico’s Office of
Outdoor Recreation, said. “Designating portions of the Gila and San Francisco Rivers and
their major tributaries as Wild and Scenic will sustain southwestern New Mexico’s durable
and diversified local economy with recreation and tourism.”