Because irrigation opportunities are few, most of the arable land is given over to grazing. There are many large ranches, with cattle and sheep on the open range year round. In the dry farming regions, the major crops are hay and sorghum grains. Onions, potatoes, and dairy products are also important. In addition, piñon nuts, pinto beans, and chilis are crops particularly characteristic of New Mexico. Pinewood is the chief commercial wood.
Much of the state's income is derived from its considerable mineral wealth. New Mexico is a leading producer of uranium ore, manganese ore, potash, salt, perlite, copper ore, natural gas, beryllium, and tin concentrates. Petroleum and coal are also found in smaller quantities. Silver and turquoise have been used in making jewelry since long before European exploration.
The federal government is the largest employer in the state, accounting for over one quarter of New Mexico's jobs. A large percentage of government jobs in the state are related to the military; there are several air force bases, along with national observatories and the Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories. Climate and increasing population have aided New Mexico's effort to attract new industries; manufacturing, centered especially around Albuquerque, includes food and mineral processing and the production of chemicals, electrical equipment, and ordnance. High-technology manufacturing is increasingly important, much of it in the defense industry.
Millions of acres of the wild and beautiful country of New Mexico are under federal control as national forests and monuments and help to make tourism a chief source of income. Best known of the state's attractions are the Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Thousands of tourists annually visit the White Sands, Bandelier, Capulin Volcano, El Morro, Fort Union, Gila Cliff Dwellings, and Salinas Pueblo Missions national monuments and Chaco Culture National Historical Park (see National Parks and Monuments, table). Several of New Mexico's surviving native pueblos are also much visited.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.