Uniting the state’s out of doors business » Albuquerque Journal


Axie Navas, director of the Outdoor Recreation Division in New Mexico, with a brown trout in the middle box of the Rio Grande Gorge.

Earlier this month I caught a brown trout in the Middle Box of the Rio Grande Gorge.

The little silvery speckled fish wasn’t particularly noteworthy – shades of brown are particularly common in this stretch of the Rio that is part of one of the best cold-water fisheries in the US – save for a few personal novelties. I’ve never fished flies, I’d never climbed this stretch of the canyon, and I’d definitely never caught a trout. Ecstatic doesn’t begin to describe.

I would like to pretend I have latent fly fishing skills. But really, the location, the fishing gear and the trout all come from Nick Streit, the owner of Taos Fly Shop and Reel Life in Santa Fe. For a good four hours, Nick patiently read the seams, rifles, and lights in order to correctly guide my rod at the biting fish.

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I’m sure many of you know Nick personally, a Taoseño who grew up fly-fishing with his father Taylor in New Mexico’s waters. In addition to being a leading entrepreneur in New Mexico’s growing outdoor industry (a $ 2.4 billion powerhouse) employing dozens of local guides in Taos and Santa Fe, he’s also a tireless advocate of rivers, wildlife and Recreational athletes. He is a member of the state’s first outdoor recreational trade alliance, endorsed by New Mexico, and Taos Fly Shop is one of the earliest groups to appear in the Outdoor Recreation Division’s new business directory.

Nick’s holistic, proactive, and dedicated approach is a necessary asset needed by all outdoor businesses, organizations, and individuals in New Mexico to further advance the state’s outdoor economy. When Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Department of Outdoor Recreation two years ago, she knew that outdoor recreation was an important opportunity to diversify New Mexico’s economy, create jobs, and improve outdoor access – the key to our mental and physical health.

The middle box of the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos. (Courtesy Nick Streit)

So far, her move has paid off. Led by the Department of Economic Development Governor and Secretary Alicia J. Keyes, the state’s outdoor economy has grown nearly 6% since 2018 – about 60% faster than the whole country. The Outdoor Recreation Division’s budget for programs and infrastructure for 2021 has increased eight-fold from last year, which means more investments in the unique outdoor equity fund of its kind, as well as in hiking trails, boat ramps, bike parks and more across the state.

This massive investment speaks to a fundamental truth about the outdoor economy: we cannot focus myopically on percentage points of GDP when it comes to stimulating this sector. We also need to invest in equitable access to the outdoors, especially for children from underserved communities (as the Outdoor Equity Fund is doing). We must also invest in the countries and waters of the state through targeted funding and policies. We need to come together as employers, agencies and recreational athletes to build a sustainable economy that offers more New Mexicans jobs with living wages.

This is the work Nick leads along with other active outdoor business owners who have come together behind organizations like the Outdoor Recreation Division who are committed to the nature of the state. We need this comprehensive approach to keep the momentum going and ensure a people-centered movement for outdoor recreation now and in the future.

Where can you start as a business owner? First, register to be included in the Outdoor Recreation Division’s corporate directory (free of charge and takes about 30 seconds). Then visit the Efforts New Mexico website and read about how you can join the larger statewide movement. Tribes, nonprofits, and other agencies can apply for the outdoor program and infrastructure grants, which will be open to applicants on May 3rd.

And finally, if you are new to fly fishing, please hire a New Mexican guide to take you to the river!