Israel Chávez walks alongside children from Doña Ana Village during an educational hike in the open space south of the village to learn how the area can be saved from being completely destroyed through a development plan with the National Park Services. Credit: Courtesy Israel Chávez

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By Israel Chávez, Doña Ana County

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As grantees of the Outdoor Equity Fund, we have seen firsthand the transformative impact that outdoor recreation can have on the lives of young people in New Mexico. The Doña Ana Village Association (DAVA) represents the oldest Colonia in NM on a wide range of issues such as community infrastructure, youth engagement, resources, and also advocates for the interests of Colonia communities generally. We believe the proposed Senate Bill 9, ‘Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund,’ is a critical step towards ensuring that this work can continue for generations to come.

New Mexico has struggled to secure necessary funding to support land and water conservation, and to provide young people with access to the outdoors. The proposed $350 million ‘Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund’ would provide the state with its first-ever dedicated source of recurring funding for conservation, outdoor recreation, and more. By investing in existing state programs, the fund has the potential to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants, while creating a lasting legacy for future generations of New Mexicans.

For our organization, the connection between the proposed Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund and the Outdoor Equity Fund is clear. By creating a steady stream of funding for the Outdoor Recreation Division, the Legacy Fund would provide a reliable source of support for organizations like ours that are working to expand access to outdoor recreation opportunities for all young people in New Mexico.

With funding from the Outdoor Equity Fund, DAVA has been able to provide a framework for Colonia communities to engage some of the most vulnerable youth in our community, while incorporating outdoor activity, recreation, culture and history. DAVA leverages its designation as a historic Colonia to build a model for other unincorporated Colonia communities to engage their own families and youth in both the cultural vibrance of Colonias and the interconnected outdoor activities that go along with Colonia life. We have seen the impact that these programs can have, not only in terms of the skills and knowledge that young people gain, but also in terms of the sense of confidence, belonging and empowerment that they develop as they explore the outdoors and connect with their peers and mentors.

Senate Bill 9 will ensure that these opportunities are available to even more young people in the future. By providing a reliable source of funding for conservation and outdoor recreation programs, the fund will help to safeguard New Mexico’s natural resources for future generations, while creating a more equitable and just society, in which all young people have the opportunity to explore and learn in the beautiful and transformational outdoor spaces our state offers.

The proposed Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund is a critical investment in the future of New Mexico, and in the lives of the young people who call this state home.

We urge our legislators to support the Senate Bill 9, Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund, and to help us create a more equitable and sustainable future for our state.

Israel Chávez is an Attorney and President of the Doña Ana Village Association in the north valley of Doña Ana County, New Mexico. Learn more about DAVA by visiting our Facebook page @DonaAnaVillage or on Instagram @donaanavillage.