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Our Work

Albuquerque Journal

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

By Gilbert Apodaca

President, Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces

Early this month our organizations were proud to have sponsored the seminar ‘“Wilderness Economics, Creating Jobs from Protected Lands.” We, along with 150 other attendees, listened to an impressive lineup of speakers discuss many ways Doña Ana County could help create jobs and economic development through the protection and promotion of our important wilderness areas.

While we sometimes take for granted unique local treasures like the Organ Mountains, the reality is that we should capitalize on the appeal these public lands offer to families, businesses and recreationists. By protecting and promoting these resources, our wilderness will be good for our economy and quality of life. Wilderness Economics was a great education on how to create these economic opportunities, and given our tough economic times, this is one more reason to protect our wilderness now.

The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces and the High Tech Consortium of Southern New Mexico are proud to stand in strong support of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks Wilderness Act to protect our wilderness areas in Doña Ana County and create national conservation areas around the Organ Mountains and Broad Canyon. We thank Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall for their vision and leadership in introducing this important legislation and helping to secure the quality of life and a bright economic future for our region.

Protecting our spectacular natural areas — like the Organ Mountains — is critically important to protecting the quality of life we all currently enjoy and that is so important to a thriving business climate. Our incredible open space and mountains are the reasons many people and businesses move to Las Cruces or choose to stay here. Enacting a meaningful conservation vision for our community will provide a long-term boost for business, tourism and our overall economy.

Like many communities, Las Cruces and Doña Ana County are seeking opportunities to attract and provide higher paying jobs that will allow our citizens to earn more and give families and kids the chance to have better lives. In order to attract new businesses and keep the best jobs in our community, it is essential that we protect our strongest asset, which is our quality of life.

A recent study by the nonprofit Sonoran Institute examined how our mountains and open space have been vital to the economic success we’ve already experienced — and that are likely to play a bigger role in our economy if we enact permanent high-level protection of them. The Sonoran study, along with related research done throughout the western United States, shows the advantages to a community of having protected natural lands nearby to help recruit high-wage jobs and quality employers.

Proof of this appeal is how our beautiful mountains and open space are often mentioned in national publications as a key reason for us being recognized as one of the top places in the country to live, run a business and retire.

In addition to the economic value and quality of life that our mountains bring to us, it should also be pointed out that they have been integral to our culture for hundreds of years. From the time of the horse-drawn wagon caravans, people have come to the fertile Mesilla Valley to farm and settle family roots. Along the historic Camino Real trade route, our region is rich with this history, culture and countless stories from past generations, which are still alive today throughout Doña Ana County.

Today we have a critical opportunity to advance our economy and honor our culture by protecting our Organ Mountains and other important natural crown jewels like Broad Canyon the East Potrillo Mountains. We support passage of Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks Act to secure this future; now and forever.