Place:  Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Location:  Taos and Rio Arriba counties, New Mexico  

Person interviewed:  Garrett VeneKlasen, Sportsman

How this site benefits you and your community: Five years after the Rio Grande del Norte was designated a National Monument, tourism was up 45 percent with more than 180,000 visitors a year. LWCF’s funding to help preserve sites and access within the 242,000–acre monument not only continues to benefit the hundreds of thousands of visitors, but it also helps inject essential economic vitality into the region’s growing tourism and outdoor-oriented businesses.

Garrett VeneKlasen sees the potential for economic opportunities only growing. Born and raised in northern New Mexico, VeneKlasen started giving fishing tours in the area when he was only 15 years old. “The year I got my driver’s license I began bringing people out here. I knew they would fall in love with it the way I had.”

He calls the Rio Grande del Norte – a varied landscape of volcanic lands, deep gorges, rocky mountains and clear rivers – “the cornerstone of the community, part of its identity and culture.” He has also seen the immense economic impact of how protected public lands feed local restaurants, hotels and other businesses. “In terms of outdoor recreation, the industry contributes $10 billion annually statewide and there’s no reason it can’t grow even more. Places like Rio Grande del Norte are cornerstones for this.”

He says, “Preserving and protecting the value of the outdoors as part of our culture will also improve our economy in the long run.”

Land and Water Conservation Fund