Preserving state’s beauty
President Obama recently visited our neck of the woods to talk about domestic energy production, in light of the rallying cries to drill for more oil. It’s worth noting, however, that increasing drilling will not decrease the price of gasoline. Moreover, what Obama did not mention, but should be underscored, is that using our public lands for energy development does not diminish the importance of also protecting special landscapes in New Mexico.
First, we need to clear up some confusion. Gasoline prices are determined by a global market and driven by Wall Street speculators and oil companies, so an increase in production at home does not have an impact on the price of a barrel of oil. The Associated Press found that there is no statistical correlation in domestic drilling and gas prices over 36 years. In fact, since February 2009, domestic drilling has increased 15 percent, and gas prices have risen by $1.51 a gallon in the same time frame.
Second — and New Mexicans are on record agreeing with me about this, according to a recent Colorado College poll — we can have a strong economy and protect landscapes that are important to our communities. Places such as White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns National Park are what make the Land of Enchantment precisely what it is — a state known for its rich landscapes and breathtaking scenery. We and our neighbors in southern New Mexico have seen great economic benefits from nearby protected areas.
In 2009 alone, visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park spent $23 million in the surrounding communities, supporting 433 jobs in the area.
Visitors to White Sands National Monument generated $16 million and supported 275 jobs. Roswell is the largest city on the path most traveled between Carlsbad and Albuquerque, so I know that we have benefited from tourists eating in our restaurants, staying in our hotels and enjoying our museums, not to mention visiting Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
New Mexico is ripe with other places that need protection. The day before President Obama visited our state, more than 150 community leaders, business owners, elected officials and other citizens attended an event in Las Cruces to celebrate many natural and cultural resources on public lands located in nearby Doña Ana County. This event included a call to protect some of the public lands in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region. This designation would bring additional tourists, retirees and businesses to southern New Mexico, supporting additional jobs and bolstering our economy.
New Mexico has played an important role in making our nation a net petroleum exporter, and we are also a leader in creating new jobs and businesses in renewable energy. This is not mutually exclusive with protecting our natural and cultural heritage on our public lands in parks and monuments. We hope that future visits by President Obama to New Mexico will help celebrate this heritage, our ability to pass it along to our children and grandchildren, and the role it plays in building and sustaining a diverse New Mexican economy that includes a healthy tourism sector.
Formerly of Roswell