from the New Mexico News Connection - A statewide news service for New Mexico
Las Cruces, NM – A major federal report finds a consensus among Americans that protecting and promoting the "Great Outdoors" should be priorities for government, especially if more jobs are created along the way.
America's Great Outdoors are alive and well, and keeping it that way is a priority for a consensus of New Mexicans ... and Americans – that's the central message of a major report out this week from the federal government. One recommendation in the report suggests the establishment of a so-called "21st Century Conservation Service Corps" that would create jobs, get youth involved in working outside and protect and restore natural and cultural resources. Harry Bruell with the Southwest Conservation Corps, which has an office at Acoma Pueblo, says the idea would be great for New Mexico and the region, where there's already plenty of demand, "We had 2,000 more applications this year than spots, and that's a lot of young people who want these opportunities, they want to re-connect to their public lands. They want a job, they want a service opportunity."
The report draws on input gathered at 51 listening sessions about conservation held across the country last year, including one in Albuquerque. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other members of the Obama Administration helped lead the effort. The report also suggests incentives to conserve rural working farms, ranches and forests, as well as programs to develop more urban parks and community green spaces.
The report also suggests full-funding for the consistently under-funded federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. John Muñoz with the Hispano Chamber of Commerce in Las Cruces says some of the iconic landscapes of southern New Mexico have already been protected through the fund, "Like Mesilla Valley Bosque Park, a beautiful area, and of course we have the iconic Organ Mountains that some visitors that I have in town from Denver and Florida absolutely love."
Lawmakers in Washington are currently looking at cutting all kinds of programs, including conservation initiatives, but Muñoz says programs like those recommended in the report preserve quality of life and pay big dividends in the long run for local economies.
The report is at americasgreatoutdoors.gov.
Eric Mack reporting, email@example.com