New Mexico

Urban to Wild: Albuquerque

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Urban to Wild: Albuquerque
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Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society

Increasing access to public lands in the Land of Enchantment

Albuquerque is close to a number of extraordinary public lands, but not enough people are able to access them. As a result, many New Mexicans are missing out on the public health benefits of time outdoors at a time when the state places low in national health rankings. This is due to issues like a shortage of public transportation options, lack of awareness and poor outreach by management agencies. Increased access to parks and open spaces is an especially acute need in low-income communities and among children, more of whom live at or below the poverty level than in almost any other state.

To help address this, we’re partnering with local officials, community groups and federal land managers to develop a comprehensive effort that helps communities across Albuquerque and Bernalillo County access parks, open space and federal public lands.

Why this issue matters

New Mexico boasts some of the nation’s most outstanding wildlands. But low-income communities and people dependent on public transportation may have a hard time reaching these places. They’re missing out on health benefits as well as experiences that could make them conservationists for life.

40th in park access
That's how low Albuquerque ranks among America’s 100 largest cities.
A Transit Score of 30/100
Albuquerque has a low transit to trails score.
Physical inactivity is a major problem
Just 31.8% of New Mexico kids ages 6-11 meet CDC-recommended 1 hour of physical activity every day.

The threat

In New Mexico, accessing parks and open spaces can be a major challenge, especially for low-income communities and people dependent on public transportation.

For example, Albuquerque is blessed with many protected wildlands and cultural sites within just a few miles of city limits, including iconic places like Petroglyph National Monument, the Cibola National Forest, Sandia Mountain Wilderness, and the new Valle de Oro National Urban Wildlife Refuge. But the ability to physically reach these places is not enjoyed equally by all residents, and people who miss out on the outdoors are also missing out on numerous physical, mental and emotional health benefits.

Our goal in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County is to ensure that all New Mexicans equitably benefit from our public lands, including reaping the rewards of increased exercise in nature. This work includes making it easier for Albuquerque residents to experience these places through public transit; working with land managers and elected officials to fund and enact more programs and policies that engage local stakeholders; and making parks and open space a valued part of the community.

What we're doing

  1. Protecting parks for all

    We are engaging in local, state and federal land use planning processes to ensure local parks and federal public lands in and around Albuquerque are protected and accessible to all.

  2. Ensuring local involvement

    We plan to support the development and implementation of plans to ensure local stakeholders are involved in the management and program development for local federal public lands, including the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, Cibola National Forest, and Petroglyph National Monument.

  3. Developing more public transit options

    We have begun initial outreach to local elected officials to secure more public transit options to help more people access Albuquerque’s public lands.

  4. Supporting community outreach

    We’re working toward supporting local parks and open-space advocates by providing mini-grants to support their advocacy work and community outreach.

What you can do
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