New Mexico

Urban to Wild: Albuquerque

Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society

Increasing access to public lands in the Land of Enchantment

Albuquerque is surrounded by extraordinary landscapes, including protected wildlands within just a few miles of city limits, like Petroglyph National Monument, the Sandia Mountain Wilderness, and the Valle de Oro National Urban Wildlife Refuge. But even with this rich variety of nearby public lands, it can be difficult for many people in and around Albuquerque to get out and enjoy outdoor spaces. A shortage of transportation options and a lack of outreach and information provided by land management agencies makes it particularly challenging for people to take advantage of nearby trails and campgrounds.

It’s clear there is an urgent need for equitable access to healthy outdoor activity. Many Albuquerque residents struggle with health challenges, including high rates of obesity and diabetes. But too often, the communities with the greatest need are left out of conversations and decisions about parks, public lands and open space.

To address this, we’re partnering with local officials, youth advocates, community groups, and federal land managers across Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and neighboring Pueblos, to give local residents a greater voice in park funding and management issues. Through these partnerships, we hope to understand and break down the barriers that prevent families with lower incomes, children, seniors and other underserved groups from accessing parks, open space and nearby public lands.

Why this issue matters

While New Mexico boasts some of the nation’s most spectacular scenery and public lands, too often barriers - like a lack of public transportation and a shortage of information and outreach - prevent local residents from reaching and enjoying these places.

By addressing these challenges, we can help make public lands part of the solution to building healthier communities and bring life-changing outdoor experiences within reach.

35th in park access
Local residents face serious access challenges, with Albuquerque ranking 40th among America’s 100 largest cities.
A transit score of 30/100
Data shows an urgent need for transportation solutions to help people reach parks and hiking trails.

The threat

In Albuquerque and communities across New Mexico, accessing parks, trails and open spaces can be a major challenge, especially for communities with lower income levels and for people who depend on public transportation.

Lack of opportunity for healthy outdoor activity can translate into major public health problems. For example, just 31.8% of New Mexico children ages 6-11 meet the CDC-recommended one hour of physical activity every day. Improvements in park access could lead to better health outcomes.

What we're doing

  1. Protecting parks for all

    We are engaging in local, state and federal land use planning to ensure parks and public lands in and around Albuquerque are protected and accessible to all. Our goal in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County is to ensure that all New Mexicans equitably benefit from our public lands, including the enjoyment of nature and healthy outdoor activity.

  2. Ensuring local involvement

    We will support the participation of local stakeholders in planning, program development and management of nearby federal public lands - including the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge and Petroglyph National Monument.

  3. Developing more public transit options

    We have initiated outreach to local elected officials, promoting efforts to secure better public transit options meeting the needs of underserved communities within Albuquerque. This includes publishing a report mapping transit routes and identifying “opportunity areas” for improvement.

  4. Supporting community outreach

    We will support local parks and open-space advocates by providing mini-grants to fund advocacy work and community outreach. This effort will include engagement with elected officials and public land managers to promote programs and policies that recognize the vital role of parks and open space within healthy communities.