The New Mexico Tourism Departments recently unveiled the first of its fast track pilot projects as part of its brand-new Ecotourism Program. The program, which it is running in partnership with EcoNewMexico, will fast track ecotourism development for the following two areas: the Gila Wilderness and surrounding areas and the wilderness areas and native lands surrounding Taos.
“The pilot-project designation means these two areas will become the focus of our Ecotourism initiative,” said Jennifer Hobson, deputy director of the tourism department and director of the program. “All our efforts will be dedicated to transforming these two destinations into truly unique and innovative ecotourism destinations. That is not to say that the other communities and areas are any less important, but based on our guiding principles for the decision making process, it came down to these two areas.”
“Ecotourism has the potential to make New Mexico an even more enthralling destination for travelers from around the world,” said Michael Cerletti, secretary of the tourism department. “This initiative will build on the equity and add further dimension to our ‘Land of Enchantment’ marketing initiatives.”
The New Mexico Legislature, with the support of state goovernor Bill Richardson, approved a special appropriation to fund the department’s Ecotourism project in 2010. To complete the project, the tourism department contracted with EcoNewMexico, LLC to identify the state’s ecotourism assets; educated communities; teach ecotourism marketing skills; and work with other statewide agencies and public and private entities.
“Over the past year, we have traveled throughout the state and have met with many residents living in communities located in rural and wilderness areas,” said Charles “Chip” Cunningham, managing director of EcoNewMexico, LLC. “Through our asset mapping of the state and through our workshops, we have met with enthusiastic support for the statewide ecotourism initiative, and every community that we met with expressed a wonderful appreciation for this initiative.”
“These two communities [Gila and Taos] demonstrated a very real commitment to our initiative,” Hobson said, “and a conscious ability to work together for the conservation of wilderness and preservation of indigenous cultures while being true to the spirit of adventure-based ecotourism.”
New Mexico Tourism Department