While we understand the economic significance of military base activity in some areas of New Mexico, the Air Force proposal for Holloman AFB would not bring economic gains to the Gila Region. On the contrary, this proposal could harm one of the area’s principal economic assets identified in Grant County’s current economic development plans: quality of life amenities, including the rural nature of small towns and villages in a beautiful landscape, far from the disturbance of big cities, with easy access to wilderness and solitude.
Three recent strategic economic documents specific to Grant County and Silver City highlight the importance of the quality of life and remote location near the Gila Wilderness. Quality of life is the top attraction cited by businesses for being located in Grant County, and the #1 response to the survey query, “What are the three primary reasons you have chosen to live in Grant County?” According to Silver City MainStreet’s Community Assessment, Silver City’s best strategy is to transform its main constraint (geographical remoteness) into its principal asset (proximity to the Gila Wilderness).
A clean, quiet environment is directly linked to the tourism and outdoor recreation economy in the Gila region. The tourism economy in New Mexico is growing and in some places, is breaking records.
Birding is an important component of the tourism economy in the region. More than 350 species of birds are found in the Gila Region. This premier birding region attracts birders from in-state and out-of-state. The Southwest New Mexico Birding Trail and Map guides birders to the best locations throughout the Gila Region, including six Important Bird Areas (IBAs) that could be affected by sorties under Holloman’s proposal.
A 2013 New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Study showed that hunting and angling are significant contributors to Grant County’s economy. That year alone, 10,000 people participated in angling in Grant County for 100,000 angler-days, spending $6.5M, supporting 74 jobs, generating $1.9M in labor income, and contributing $10M to federal, state and local taxes. That same year, nearly 7000 people participated in hunting for nearly 38,000 hunter-days, spending $8.9M, and supporting 112 jobs that generate $2.8 M in labor income and $1.4M in federal, state and local taxes.
Revenues from retirees moving into the area, from entrepreneurs establishing businesses, and from tourists represent significant portions of the local economy. Many of these people are drawn to the Gila Region by its natural beauty and tranquility as well as the outdoor recreational opportunities offered by the nearby mountains, rivers, and forests. Increasing military training in these areas is likely to be significantly harmful to local residents.
Effects of Noise and Airport Activity on Residential Property Values: A Survey Study (1988), University of Illinois