This shows the view from the Guadalupe Peak of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas. A 100-mile trail running from Carlsbad Caverns National Park through the Lincoln National Forest to west Texas officially opened Saturday. (Submitted Photo)
A new 100-mile hiking and backpacking trail opened Saturday in Carlsbad and could represent a boost for the economy, some say.
The Guadalupe Ridge Trail runs through Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the Guadalupe district of the Lincoln National Forest and nearby Bureau of Land Management lands in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeast New Mexico and west Texas.
“This is a new, multi-agency, multi-use recreational trail through the Chihuahuan Desert backcountry,” said a Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce announcement. “This will be a welcomed addition to the growing tourism opportunities in the west Texas and New Mexico area.”
Natural features of the 100 miles of terrain include the Guadalupe Peak, the Sitting Bull Falls, freshwater springs, canyons, caves and a fossil-studded reef.
The trail is seen by some groups as a way to enhance economic development in southeast New Mexico. They say recreational tourism such as hiking, hunting, fishing, bird-watching and sightseeing means big business for outfitters, guides, lodging enterprises and eateries.
“Having a balance between industrial development and protected, undeveloped landscapes helps support economic diversity that enables communities to weather downturns in different aspects of the economy,” said Judy Calman, staff attorney for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Recognizing the benefits of undeveloped lands today helps ensure they will be here for the generations of tomorrow.”
The use and designation of federal and state public lands in southeast New Mexico has caused tension between various groups in the past. The Wilderness Alliance, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and other groups want to see much of the land remain undeveloped to allow for continued public use and recreational activities. But oil and gas companies and other companies have sought leases on some of the public lands.
An October 2016 meeting between the Chaves County Board of Commission and the Carlsbad office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to discuss the bureau’s proposed Carlsbad Resource Management Plan included some tense moments as commissioners questioned why some lands have been designated as having wilderness characteristics, an earmark that would likely prevent any type of industrial use of the property in the future.
Although not the size of the oil an gas industry in this state, outdoor recreation is a significant industry, according to various sources.
In 2011 and 2012, outdoor recreation generated $646 billion in consumer spending in the United States and $6.1 billion in New Mexico, according to the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade industry member group based in Colorado. The amount of consumer spending nationwide exceeded that of the auto industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the natural gas industry or the household utilities industry, the association indicated.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management indicates that recreational uses accounted for $5.9 billion of its $88 billion in revenues in 2015, while fossil fuel leases accounted for about $64 billion. In New Mexico, recreational uses of BLM lands brought in $178.9 million in 2015. Environmental and recreational groups also point out that recreational activities support clean water and clean air efforts.
So-called “quiet” recreation, meaning non-motorized, represented 2.3 million visits to BLM lands in New Mexico in 2014, according to a Pew Charitable Trust fact sheet.
More information about the trail can be found at guadaluperidgetrail.com.