New Mexican talks special wildlife program for veterans

New Mexican talks special wildlife program for veterans

One New Mexican is providing veterans with a chance to experience wildlife and rediscover their purpose in life.

SANTA ROSA, N.M. — Some may not notice the rivers, lakes and wildlife in New Mexico while others push for better appreciation and protection of it all.

That includes Matthew Monjaras. Monjaras founded Impact Outdoors, a nonprofit working across our state to bring education, conservation and outdoor opportunities to young people.

“Our youth play a critical role in outdoor education. When they are working on habitats like this marsh, they are becoming invested in the community. They recognize the resources that are available in their own backyard, which gives them pride in their community. Then, they work with different agencies like New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish,” Monjaras said.

It isn’t just young people, either. Many veterans returning home looking for a sense of purpose after their service are also a key focus for Impact.

“We do once-in-a-lifetime experiences. From angling, to hunting opportunities, to workshops, [these experiences] utilize the skills or background that you may have received in the military,” Monjaras said.

Matthew Fuentes can relate closely to veterans. For six years, he was in the Marine Corps, deployed as a recon sniper. Currently, he is in the New Mexico National Guard.

“I think it [the program] helps bring veterans back to a place where we felt like we had a lot of purpose. Sometimes the daily 9 to 5 doesn’t give us purpose. It gives us a paycheck to make sure we’re doing something every day, but it doesn’t always give us a reason to wake up in the morning. In the military, we felt like we had a purpose,” Fuentes said.

Finding a purpose is the goal of the program. The nonprofit works with landowners and private entities across the state to make this happen.

Among them is Dennis Houlihan, a landowner near Santa Rosa. Houlihan recently offered part of his land to the mission.

“The place had been used as a dumping ground for a long time and it was a mess,” Houlihan said. “Matt had about 30 people last spring with tractors and dump trailers. They cleaned it all up.”

Now, Impact members can use the land for hunting, fishing and conservation.

“If you don’t have people who are cheerleading and going to bat for the resource, then you lose that and those resources no longer have a voice,” Monjaras said.

If you are interested in joining, would like to learn more information or donate, send an email to