New Mexico Outside Recreation Division Director Axie Navas Leaves Legacy Of Fairness And Stewardship


axie navas

EDD news:

SANTA FE — Axie Navas, whose efforts as the first director of the Outdoor Recreation Division have made New Mexico a national leader in the field, is leaving the state government.

Expanding New Mexico’s outdoor recreation assets is a priority for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who signed legislation creating the state’s first Outdoor Recreation Division (ORD), a division of the Department of Economic Development, just months after taking office in 2019. Navas, a former editor of Outside magazine, was appointed New Mexico’s first ORD director.

“In less than four years, the state has demonstrated that strategic investments in outdoor recreation create jobs and help grow businesses across the state,” said Alicia J. Keyes, Cabinet Secretary for Economic Development. “Axie has led this cause with innovative and groundbreaking work, delivering many accomplishments for New Mexico. We thank her for her service and wish her the best of luck in the next phase of her career as she balances her new commitments as a new mom.”

Annual Report of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The study, released in early November, showed New Mexico to rank fifth in the United States for outdoor recreation job growth in 2021, with an 18.2 percent increase in the sector from a year earlier. The data also showed that the state outperforms the nation in terms of GDP, employment and rewards generated from the outdoor recreation economy.

Key achievements of the Office since 2019 include:

  • Creation of the first-of-its-kind Outdoor Equity Fund, a grant that has funded 128 organizations with $2 million and brought nearly 40,000 young New Mexicans closer to the outdoors;
  • Awarded over $5 million to 66 outdoor infrastructure projects statewide through the Outdoor Recreation Trails+ Grant program. These projects will create or support a total of 959.6 miles of trails and 1,115 jobs;
  • working with the confluence of states; a bipartisan collaboration to ensure the outdoor recreation industry protects and sustains the economy and environment, state after state for generations to come. Navas was elected Chair and Vice-Chair of the Confluence of States in 2021 and 2022 respectively;
  • Sponsoring a paid high school outdoor internship program that placed 29 students with nine New Mexico outdoor recreation employers and catalyzed over $90,000 in funding for interns to help underserved and nontraditional students better engage with college and careers in to connect;
  • Introducing the first-ever Outdoor Pitchfest, now the annual Adventure Pitch, which this year recognized three entrepreneurs with $15,000 in cash prizes;
  • sponsorship and production of first incubators and accelerators for outdoor recreation;
  • Ensuring access to outdoor recreation is being considered under Governor Lujan Grisham’s 30×30 Executive Order;
  • Participate in a state-led coalition to develop permanent, robust funding for conservation and outdoor recreation at the state level—an initiative that will go to the legislature in 2023; and
  • Received a $1.985 million Economic Development Administration grant to help the outdoor industry recover and thrive after the pandemic.

Under Navas, ORD also successfully led a petition for outstanding national resources protecting 125 miles of New Mexico rivers due to their “outstanding” recreational importance to the state, ensuring exceptional water quality for hunters, anglers, acequias, bird watchers and everyone else at their Live and relax on the shore.

Outdoor leisure industry events have also seen an upward trend with Navas at the forefront. Annual state conferences, such as the ORD-sponsored Outdoor Economics Conference, and outdoor events in tourist destinations have increased nationwide. The office continues to work with industry leaders to drive development in this target industry.

“I am so proud of what the Outdoor Recreation Division has accomplished since Governor Lujan Grisham established the office in April 2019,” said ORD Director Navas, who is leaving at the end of the year. “To cite just a few accomplishments, we launched the first outdoor equity fund of its kind, developed robust outdoor infrastructure financing for communities across the state, and increased career opportunities in the outdoor industry by nearly 20 orders of magnitude. I am confident that this is just the beginning and that the momentum of ORD will continue to gather momentum from here under the leadership of the next Director. It’s bittersweet to go, but I know that ORD will thrive in this next chapter as an established and powerful advocate for the outdoor economy and equal access to the outdoors.”

ORD Deputy Director Alyssa Renwick will lead ORD until a permanent director is appointed. Individuals interested in the position should submit a resume and an expression of interest to Secretary Keyes, via Westlee Painter, Executive Assistant to Deputy Secretary Jon Clark, at [email protected].