NM Tourism Department Unveils Ecotourism ‘Fast Track’ Pilot Projects, Targeting Taos & Gila

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Choices Based on Unique Offerings, Ecotourism Potential

All our efforts will be dedicated to transforming these two destinations into truly unique and innovative ecotourism destinations.

Tourism Department’s Ecotourism Program, in partnership with EcoNewMexico, announces the launching of the first-ever “fast track” pilot projects, targeting the Gila Wilderness and surrounding areas; and the wilderness areas and native lands surrounding Taos which includes Ojo Caliente.

"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 Governor Bill Richardson, approved a special appropriation to fund the Department’s Ecotourism project in Fiscal Year 2010. Following a request for Proposals process, the Tourism Department contracted with EcoNewMexico, LLC to “take inventory of Ecotourism assets throughout the state; educate communities on Ecotourism and 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.”

Hobson said both Taos and the Gila Wilderness were chosen from all the areas visited in the State, and were assessed based on the following criteria:

  • Is the destination world-class and truly unique, offering what no other destination can?
  • Are its residents “ready, willing and able” to commit all that is necessary to make it a successful Ecotourism destination, with emphasis on the vision and values of a community?
  • Does it have the potential to show a measurable before-and-after scenario on how Ecotourism has changed tourism in that area?
  • Is the community working group coming together as a strong unit, and is it interested in the greater good of the statewide ecotourism initiative set forth by the Tourism Department.?

“These two communities 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.”

For more information specific to the Ecotourism initiative contact Deputy Secretary Jennifer Hobson, 505-827-6674.

For more information about the fast track pilot project, contact Sandy Cunningham at EcoNewMexico, 505-795-7711, 888-326-4440; or visit http://www.eco-newmexico.com

For more information on the NM Tourism Department, contact Mike Stauffer, Communications Director at 505-412-2137.

For more information on Taos, visit http://www.taossacredplaces.com. For more information on the Gila Wilderness and surrounding community, visit http://www.discoversouthwestnm.com.

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Erica Asmus-Otero

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