This is in response to Commissioner Ray Martinez’s article on the 30×30 program. I usually agree with Commissioner Martinez and believe that he is doing a good job for our county. In this case I want to expand on the information he supplied.
At the moment I am unaware of any plans to expand public land in Socorro County. However, I do not believe that expanding public lands would be bad for our county.
First there is the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) money that comes from the federal government to address the problem of land being taken off the tax rolls. In 2021 Socorro County received over $1.5 million in PILT funds.
Secondly, public lands can have monetary benefit to the community. In the 2019 report by the US. Fish and Wildlife Service, Banking on Nature, it was found that in 2017, there were 306,000 recreational visits to Bosque del Apache. Total expenditures from these visits totaled $15.8 million, with non-residents accounting for $15.5 million or 98% of all expenditures. The contribution of recreational spending in local communities was associated with 181 jobs, $4 million in employment income, $2.4 million in total tax revenue, and $17.4 million in economic output. The impact on the local economy of Bosque del Apache’s Festival of the Cranes alone over four days in November is approximately $3 million.
Our commissioners have a difficult task keeping our county solvent while supplying necessary services. Commissioner Martinez is correct that we need to bring in more tax money. Opposing 30X30 out of hand is not the way to go about that.