Southeastern New Mexico is rightfully known for its oil and gas resources, but the economic impact of hunting and fishing in the area cannot be ignored or taken for granted.
Sportsmen contribute $453.8 million to New Mexico’s GDP and generate $100 million in tax revenue. In Chaves and Eddy counties alone, hunting and fishing generate $4 million in annual tax revenue while supporting hundreds of jobs in outdoor recreation, retail, food services and lodging. With oil and gas revenue and jobs subject to boom-bust cycles, the outdoor recreation industry is critically important where communities struggle to make ends meet.
But none of this sportsmen-derived income would be possible without the abundance of wild game and quality habitat afforded to us by the area’s large tracts of undeveloped lands surrounding and within the Guadalupe Mountains, which, unlike public lands in southeastern New Mexico, have not seen intensive oil and gas exploration.
For example, desert grasslands extending along the base of the range, near Carlsbad Caverns National Park, offer excellent hunting opportunities for Barbary sheep, mule deer, quail and doves. North of the Lincoln National Forest’s Guadalupe District, expansive grasslands support mule deer and pronghorn antelope, but they’re also important to local ranchers. The more mountainous terrain is also home to elk, turkeys, pumas and black bears, while the Black River supports a diverse population of trout, bass and catfish. These undeveloped lands are essential to our local wildlife, outdoor recreation businesses and hunting and fishing traditions.
The BLM oversees much of the fish and wildlife habitat in this area. As the agency revises its land-use plan for southeastern New Mexico, and as the Permian Basin teeters on the verge of the next big energy boom, sportsmen and women need to speak up in support of maintaining this unfragmented habitat to ensure our hunting and fishing opportunities are not put in jeopardy.
With forward-thinking, balanced management, we can continue to reap the benefits of responsible oil and gas development, while at the same time maintaining and improving access for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities that are also critical to our way of life.