As Tea Party leaders in Congress push for a “no more national parks” bill (seriously), businesses and conservation leaders in and around Taos are united in touting the big economic benefits national monument designation has brought to Northern New Mexico since President Obama designated the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument last year.
The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce economic numbers show the national monument has increased the town of Taos lodgers’ tax revenue by 21 percent in the second half of 2013, compared with the same time period in 2012. In addition, gross-receipts revenue to businesses in Taos County in the accommodations and food service sector rose 8.3 percent in the second half of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, representing an increase of $3.7 million.
The chamber attributes this boost to the increased number of visitors to the newly designated monument. The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the monument as part of the National Landscape Conservation System, has reported a 40 percent increase in visitors to the site in less than a year, rising to 182,501 visitors from 130,000, according to the chamber.
The spike in visitors to the area “has been great for my business,” said Cisco Guevara, president of Los Rios River Runners in Taos, which leads white-water rafting trips down the Rio Grande and Rio Chama rivers.
More from ThinkProgress on that dumb bill:
Until the passage of a bill to protect wilderness lands in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore last week, Congress had not protected a single new acre of public lands since 2009, the longest such drought since World War II. Adding injury to insult, Congress also forced a 16-day government shutdown last fall that cost national parks and local communities 8 million lost visitors and $414 million in lost visitor spending…
Responding to President Obama’s decision last week to protect a stretch of California’s Coast near Point Arena as a new national monument, the House of Representatives is planning to vote next week to overturn a 108 year-old law that presidents of both parties have used to protect iconic American places, including the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Arches National Park.
The bill, H.R. 1459, aims to block presidents from using the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish new national monuments by putting caps on how many times it can be used, requiring congressional review of proposed monuments, and forcing local communities to engage in an ironic exercise of reviewing the environmental impacts of protecting lands for future generations.
All New Mexico eyes are on Steve Pearce, our lone Tea Party congressman, when this vote comes up next week.