I am a resident of New Mexico for many reasons. Access to our incredible public lands is at the top of that list. I live a quick and winding drive down the road from the Santa Fe National Forest. This past year, it was impossible to escape the summer’s 28 days of smoke from the Medio Fire that ravaged some of my favorite places to recreate. Unfortunately, these fires will become more and more common if we don’t start actively addressing climate change. As a resident of Santa Fe and an owner of an outdoor recreation business, I feel a responsibility to demand our state government address the methane problem that is severely damaging the air we breathe and the public lands that make this home so special.

Methane, as you may know, is a powerful climate change pollutant that is responsible for 25 percent of global warming. As a business owner that makes gear for climbing and cycling, I have a dual investment and heightened passion for accessible outdoor recreation. Methane pollution from the Permian Basin is significantly damaging the air quality in New Mexico (along with the entire western United States). If we don’t adequately address this, our sense of adventure and place in the mountains will be a thing of the past. This issue is detrimental to the environment, and on a more personal scale, outdoor businesses that rely on natural resources for their livelihood.

Since the pandemic started in early 2020, our state’s economy has been hit hard. Outdoor recreation has been a respite for a tough year and will continue to be an economic powerhouse in New Mexico when this virus is gone, or more realistically, controlled and understood. Our state’s Outdoor Recreation Division, led by Axie Navas, is requesting more funding for outdoor programs like the Great New Mexico Trails Package and the Outdoor Equity Fund. She believes outdoor recreation — one of the state’s fastest growing industries — is going to be a key part of New Mexico’s economic recovery. The outdoor industry brings in more than $2 billion in state gross domestic product and employs up to 35,000 residents. Nationwide, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending, 7.6 million jobs and $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue. By using our public lands for recreation instead of extraction, we can preserve our natural resources and expand access to the outdoors. We can help grow economies throughout the state, especially in rural communities with untapped access to incredible hiking and biking.

I stand behind Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s goal of enacting strong state regulations that require the oil and gas industry to reduce methane waste and pollution. I want New Mexico to remain a destination for hikers, cyclists, climbers, rafters, skiers and every other type of recreationalist who visits the Land of Enchantment each year. Simply put, if our outdoor spaces are thriving, our businesses will too. We need sensible methane regulations to protect our landscapes and allow for healthy outdoor recreation experiences.

Eric Puckett is a Santa Fe resident who owns a company called Farewell, which makes climbing and biking gear.

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