By Carrie Hamblen
Last month, Congress had the opportunity to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a bipartisan program that for 53 years has funded and protected thousands of national parks, monuments and local recreation areas across our country. Unfortunately, Congress failed to pass any bill, putting the future of our nation’s most important program for expanding access to public lands and supporting recreation projects at the national, state, and local level at risk.
Years ago, when I would think of public lands, I would think of solitude. I would think about my childhood, camping in the Gila Wilderness with my friends and family. We would often meet hikers along the Continental Divide Trail.
However, my experiences in the last four years working with amazing leaders and community members in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County have resulted in highlighting the benefits local businesses receive from public places like the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument. What this has taught me is that protected public lands and parks benefit our communities in many ways.
So, as I set out on a road trip in August to learn about projects funded by LWCF across southern New Mexico.
I kept an open mind about what I might learn and was rewarded for it. I was happy to discover rich narratives of diverse communities building connections with public spaces and honoring traditions, all thanks to LWCF-protected spaces (see SaveLWCFNewMexico.com to learn about the sites I visited).