(ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico) — A joint news conference was held today in Albuquerque to emphasize that plenty of recreational opportunities exist in New Mexico even without precipitation. State officials attending included: State Engineer John D’Antonio; Secretary Designate John Bemis from the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department; Secretary Monique Jacobson from the New Mexico Tourism Department; State Forester Tony Delfin and State Parks Director Tommy Mutz.

The first three months of 2011 have been the second driest start to any year on record for New Mexico with statewide precipitation at just 30 percent of normal. Only 1972 saw a drier January through March period for the state since 1895. The state experienced similar conditions in 2006 which were then followed by a great monsoon season, but this year cool temperatures may set up a high pressure system, which could prevent moisture flows up from Mexico.

“New Mexico has experienced an active La Niña pattern this winter and spring, and precipitation so far has been well below average,” said State Engineer John D’Antonio. “Hopefully summer monsoon rains will help alleviate some of these dry conditions, but we ask that while New Mexicans enjoy their summer activities they also increase their water conservation efforts and have heightened awareness of the dangers that dry conditions can bring.”

“The Land of Enchantment offers every recreational pursuit imaginable, and I encourage everyone to make New Mexico the focus of their summer travel plans,” said Monique Jacobson, Secretary of the New Mexico Tourism Department. “Our vibrant cities, rustic villages and cool-mountain meadows offer family fun – from biking, rafting, horseback riding and fishing to golf, zoos, balloons, festivals, and food. There is no better escape than your own backyard.”

New Mexico is rich with abundant natural resources. Did you know that that 70 percent of New Mexicans live within 40 miles of a State Park? There are 35 diverse state parks to explore, including cool lakes, mountain forests, canyons, desert beauty, and fascinating historical sites—even dinosaur tracks! New Mexico State Parks offer family-friendly settings, endless recreational opportunities, and hundreds of special events and educational programs each year. Reservoir levels at state parks vary, but will provide superb water recreation this season.

“New Mexico State Parks belong to everyone, and we encourage you to vacation at home this summer and visit our parks,” stated John Bemis, Cabinet Secretary Designate for the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. “But remember, dry weather in the Southwest is a fact of life and New Mexicans must always be careful, a modest spark can quickly escalate into a blistering firestorm.”

The potential for destructive wildfire is increasing across New Mexico, as warm and windy weather continues to dry out vegetation already stressed from mild winter weather. Because of current drought conditions the New Mexico State Forestry Division is urging residents to establish defensible space to help protect their homes and property in wildland urban interface areas.

Defensible Space is the area around a structure where combustible vegetation that can spread fire has been cleared, reduced or replaced. This space acts as a barrier between a structure and an advancing wildfire. Defensible space can be anything from well maintained landscaping in a backyard to the significant removal of trees and flammable shrubs from around structures.

The possibility of wildfire is a very real concern. Fire danger in many areas across the state is extreme and State Forestry has imposed fire restrictions on all non-municipal, non-federal and non-tribal lands except for San Juan, Rio Arriba, Los Alamos, Taos and the western half of Colfax County. State residents and visitors should log onto www.nmfireinfo.com to see if any fire restrictions exist in the areas they plan to visit.

“I hope that all New Mexicans will join efforts to conserve water as they enjoy their summer activities,” said Governor Susana Martinez. “Dry conditions are already presenting drought and fire problems throughout the state, so we should all be aware of the importance of conservation as we take advantage of everything New Mexico has to offer this summer.”

The Office of the State Engineer is charged with administering the state's water resources.  The State Engineer has power over the supervision, measurement, appropriation and distribution of all surface and groundwater in New Mexico, including streams and rivers that cross state boundaries. The State Engineer is also Secretary of the Interstate Stream Commission and oversees its staff.

The nine-member Interstate Stream Commission has broad powers to investigate, protect, conserve and develop New Mexico’s water including both interstate and intrastate stream systems. It ensures the state meets its obligations under eight interstate stream compacts. The Commission was also given water planning responsibilities for the state.

The New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department works collaboratively with individuals, agencies and organizations on energy and natural resource management to ensure a sustainable environmental and economic future.

The mission of the New Mexico Tourism Department is to market New Mexico as an enchanting visitor destination to the world.