(The Center Square) – The New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division awarded several organizations a combined $1.7 million from its Outdoor Equity Fund this week.
Created in 2019, the equity fund aims to provide “New Mexican youth equitable access to the outdoors,” according to a press release from the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division.
“The grant supports programming that provides outdoor experiences that foster stewardship and respect for New Mexico’s land, water, and cultural heritage,” the release said.
Since its inception, the fund has provided nearly $4 million to 181 organizations in New Mexico.
“New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Division has quickly become a national model as we invest not just in trails and rural communities but also our youth,” Economic Development Department Deputy Secretary Jon Clark said in the release. “The Outdoor Equity programs have introduced 20,892 young New Mexicans to the outdoors through day hikes, bike rides, camping trips, fishing, river adventures, acequia irrigation, and more. Many are having these experiences for the very first time, setting them on a path of healthier living and outdoor stewardship.”
New Mexico is using $3 million of American Rescue Plan money to bolster the program. It also receives funding from annual state appropriations, private donations, and the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund.
“ORD has made the largest impact in New Mexico outdoor recreation that I have ever seen in a short amount of time,” Dustin Berg, Executive Director and Founder, of Global Opportunities Unlimited, said in the release. “Programs are blossoming, and the state is ripe for an influx of funding to make another huge push. It’s time we showcase our beautiful state and establish beneficial avenues for people to enjoy what we have in our fantastic state that is full of outdoor recreation opportunities.”
In its first round of Fiscal Year 2024 awards, the Outdoor Equity Fund provided 54 organizations with a combined $1,741,499.23; the grants averaged about $32,000 apiece.
The state hopes this will provide nearly 21,000 young New Mexicans with “outdoor and environmental education, industry career training opportunities, outdoor recreation activities, and more, from now through 2024,” according to the release.
“The Outdoor Equity Fund’s intent from the start was to invest in our New Mexican youth and our communities,” State Representative Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, said. “The investments made to grantees since 2019 are not only growing and nurturing opportunities for young people to experience our great outdoor spaces, but they hold up our values of raising future generations of stewardship of New Mexico’s water, air, and lands. Grateful to the New Mexico Legislature and its commitment to not only continuing to grow this fund and provide these opportunities for so many young people but in doing so equitably.”
Here are some examples of the organizations receiving funding.
New Mexico Dream Team, an Albuquerque-based organization, is receiving $40,000.
“New Mexico Dream Team (NMDT) is a statewide network of Latinx, immigrant, undocumented, and LGBTQ+ youth and supporters providing holistic wellness, mobilization, and leadership development,” the release said. “The UndocuHealing Outdoors program lowers barriers for underserved youth and young adults to foster participation in outdoor activities. UndocuHealing centers on the reclamation of immigrant, undocumented, and mixed-status youth participants’ connections to their environment, fostering healing from the trauma of displacement through engagement with the outdoors of New Mexico.”
Similarly, Together for Brothers/Partnership for Community Action, another Albuquerque-based organization, will also receive $40,000.
“Together for Brothers (T4B) engages self-identified boys and young men of color (BYMOC), ages 12-24, from impacted communities to be leaders at all levels in their communities and improve health equity,” the release said. “Biking, Clean Transit, and Outdoor Equity Project youth organizers will work with T4B staff to plan, implement, and evaluate seasonal cohorts of youth leaders, including documenting learning and storytelling with weekly artifacts focused on bike mechanics and safety, environmental justice, outdoor recreation, rules of the road, and transit equity that builds capacity of BYMOC to share their stories with decision-makers.”
Plus, the Semilla Project, also based in Albuquerque, is receiving $40,000 as well.
“The Semilla Project’s SemiYA! (YA = Youth Activation) program is a new organizing model that creates equitable access to the outdoors for BIPOC youth while laying a foundation for activism, influence, and action on climate change and racial justice,” the release said. “Programs are offered at no cost to participants.”
Also, Vista Grande High School in Taos will receive $40,000 to teach students about climate change.
“Through the Place in Time outdoor recreation program, students explore regional natural resources while connecting to cultural heritage,” the release said. “At each site, students learn about the cultural value of a natural resource over time, how resources are threatened by climate change, and how to look to the past in transitioning to a more sustainable future.”