Drought sends a blow to outdoor recreation, tourism

Posted at: 05/10/2013 6:12 PM
Updated at: 05/10/2013 6:27 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Despite Friday afternoon’s brief rain showers, the state is in its third straight year of severe drought, and it could have an impact on New Mexico’s tourism and recreation industries – a huge part of the state’s economy.

State leaders are planning accordingly, focusing on promoting the state’s attractions that aren’t necessarily aquatic, such as restaurants and museums and galleries and cultural activities. Meanwhile, they want to get the word out that you can still have fun in our drought-shrunken lakes and rivers and in our bone-dry forests where the fire danger is high.

Fire restrictions vary from place to place in the National and State Forests, and on public lands. People should check with local authorities before they light a campfire.

For example, in the Albuquerque bosque and the Rio Grande Valley State Park, it’s always forbidden to light open fires. Camping is illegal, along with fireworks and smoking.

“This year looks, in terms of the health of the forests, like it could be as bad as the other years,” said State Forester Tony Delfin. “We just haven’t had as much activity as we’ve had in prior years, but the potential is certainly there.”

Four state park lakes are currently closed for boating. There’s just not enough water in Clayton, Conchas, Storrie and Morphy lakes.

“Elephant Butte, everybody talks about how low it is, but actually it’s not historicall low,” said State Parks Director Tommy Mutz. “It’s kind of normal times for the Butte. There’s actually lots of acreage down there to boat on. Navajo Lake, Ute Lake, all of these other lakes are in really good condition.”

But last July, the Butte was at less than ten percent of its maximum capacity, with rarely seen rocks and sandbars sticking out of the shrinking waters. Hydrologists say that will most likely be the case this summer.