New Fossil Bone Exhibit at Big Bend under review, a done deal?
by Rick LoBello
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will purchase a parcel of land that straddles Loop 375, also known as Trans Mountain Road, to further extend the Franklin Mountains State Park’s western reach into the surrounding high desert country. The acquisition will bring the state park’s total acreage to more than 26,000 acres.
The El Paso Public Service Board offered the desirable property to TPWD at a bargain sale price. The tract of undeveloped land will provide a buffer from pending new city growth and increase public recreational opportunities through the possible future expansion of the park’s trail system.
After much land use discussion about the environmental impact due to encroaching development on the western flanks of the Franklin Mountains, the El Paso City Council this past summer agreed to the sale. The TPW Commission’s vote was the final action required to consummate the land deal.
Big Bend National Park Tourism Creates $16,703,000 In Local Economic Benefit
A new National Park Service (NPS) report for 2011 shows that the 361,862 visitors to Big Bend National Park spent $16,703,000 in communities surrounding the park. This spending supported 234 jobs in the local area.
The information on Big Bend National Park is part of a peer-reviewed spending analysis of national park visitors across the country conducted by Michigan State University for the National Park Service. For 2011, that report shows $13 billion of direct spending by 279 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. That visitor spending had a $30 billion impact on the entire U.S. economy and supported 252,000 jobs nationwide.
Most visitor spending supports jobs in lodging, food, and beverage service (63 percent) followed by recreation and entertainment (17 percent), other retail (11percent), transportation and fuel (7 percent), and wholesale and manufacturing (2 percent). Learn more: Download the report on Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation, 2011.
The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.
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Conservation Issues Affecting Parks and Wildlife Habitat
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Conservation Issues Affecting Parks and Wildlife Habitat
Great Conservation Stories
Sign the change.org petition if you oppose this project at Big Bend National Park
January 11, 2014. NOTE: We heard this week from a leading member of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees who said "I detest any “short-circuiting” of the NEPA process, as onerous as it is and it sounds like that’s what happening here." He also encouraged our group to "press on." Rather than name this individual who made his comment in a personal email to Rick LoBello, currently our group is now made up of 146 people who have signed our petition to the National Park Service. On December 23 many of the comments made on this petition were sent to the National Park Service and we are awaiting their response.Until we have accomplished our goal, we will "press on."
Read what others are saying on change.org about the proposed Fossil Bone Exhibit
• Charlie Wakeem EL PASO, TX.
Natural parkland, such as Big Bend, should remain natural. Visitors centers and other buildings should be clustered in one small area as in most nature parks. The proposed artificial Fossil Bone Exhibit is contrary to the purpose of Big Bend.
El Paso conservation groups launch new campaign to save desert wildlife habitat
Conservation groups in El Paso say that preserving wildlife habitat on both sides of the Franklin Mountains will benefit El Paso in several ways: preservation will help us sustain the scarce resource of water - an effort which includes all El Pasoans not just those living closer to the mountains; continued enjoyment of hiking and biking trails already in existence and utilized by the public; improvement of our quality of life especially as El Paso seeks to reach its goal of decreasing obesity and diabetes; protecting wildlife and making sure that they have adequate habitat and range in order to survive; and, ensuring that millions of dollars annually will come into El Paso through ecotourism as more and more people enjoy mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking and other recreational activities in our mountains and the surrounding region. More
Big Bend Rio Bravo International Park Editorial
The recent re-opening of the Boquillas Crossing at Big Bend National Park is important not only to our neighbors along the Rio Grande, but also to the economic health of many people living in Brewster County and the Big Bend region. The village of Boquillas with its unique link to the area’s historic past had charmed and attracted thousands of visitors to the park every year prior to the border being sealed after 911. According to the National Park Service, Big Bend ecotourism revenues create $16,703,000 in local economic benefits supporting 234 local jobs. As is the case across the country, travel and tourism is one of America’s largest industries. It is currently generating $2.0 trillion in economic benefits and according to the U.S. Travel Association each U.S. household would pay $1,060 more in taxes if it wasn’t for the tax revenues generated by the travel and tourism industry.
The Big Bend country is sitting on a gold mine for ecotourism development, if the US and Mexico can get together and finish the international park project that was first proposed in 1935. During this period the National Park Service and congressional and civic leaders recommended to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that both countries explore the possibility of creating an international conservation area. The story was written up in major newspapers across the country including the New York Times with headlines like the one on May 17, 1936: “A Big Bend Park Plan – The United States Joins with Mexico to Create a Gigantic Preserve.”
The fact that Big Bend National Park was established in 1944 without Mexico joining the effort on the other side of the river is a long story. On the other side of the country, with the help of Rotary International, the United States and Canada put together an international park at Waterton-Glacier in 1932. The park on the US-Canada border is a perfect model for a US-Mexico border Big Bend Rio Bravo International Park. At the small Chief Mountain border crossing at Waterton-Glacier border security requires that international travelers have all required documents as they cross into either country. Both countries retain their own sovereignty and both parks are administered separately. Park managers work jointly on many issues such as search and rescue, publications, ranger led activities, exotic weed management, wildlife issues, research projects and native plant restoration. The international designation helps to insure that cooperative management and tourism development in both countries continues on into perpetuity.
Prior to the re-opening of Boquillas Crossing the US-Mexico international park effort was bolstered when Mexico’s President Zedillo established two protected areas south of the park in 1994 in establishing Maderas del Carmen and Santa Elena Protected Areas and President Calderon later issued a decree creating a third area, Ocamapo Flora and Fauna Protection Area in 2009. Now that all the pieces are in place for a major international conservation effort that would attract journalists and future tourists from around the world, what is keeping the Department of the Interior from moving forward? That is hard to tell when you talk to people working for the park and the Department of the Interior. On May 19, 2010, in a joint Statement from President Barack Obama and President Felipe Calderón it was announced that the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) and Mexico would work jointly in leading the development of an Action Plan for the Big Bend/Río Bravo Protected Area. Unfortunately the one page plan that was attached to the Department of the Interior press release did not include any goals that would lead towards the establishment of an international park and there was no reference supporting former Congressman Ciro Rodriquez of Texas introduced H.Res.695 – “supporting an international park between Big Bend National Park in the United States and the protected areas of the Coahuila and Chihuahua States across the border in Mexico. I have been trying to get an update on that plan for over a year now without success. I have communicated with every park superintendent about this project over the past 25 years. I could easily write a book about the effort and how so many people in Mexico and the United States support the original proposal. This is what I believe needs to happen to make this big dream for the Big Bend and the global effort to conserve ecosystems finally become a reality.
We need our representatives in Congress and the Senate to pass legislation in concert with the government of Mexico creating the international park for the purpose of and the need to promote the long term protection of the region's fascinating flora and fauna. The international park would permanently commemorate the long-existing relationship of peace and good will existing between the peoples and the United States and Mexico.
The establishment of the international park would not require new international bridges and crossings. All regulations governing travel between the two countries administered by the U.S. Customs Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry would requiring proper documentation for all travel between the US and Mexico.
The establishment of the international park would not require that new lands be acquired in either country or that land management practices in either country be changed. The establishment of the international park would help both countries better address key issues to the area such protection water and air quality, control of invasive species, and management of wildland fire.
The establishment of the international park would help to call international attention to the transboundary protected areas and the need to promote the long term protection of rare and endangered species.
The establishment of the international park would become a permanent monument and symbol of peace between the US and Mexico, one that will celebrate the friendship between the two countries and be a meeting ground where the people of both countries and citizens from all parts of the world could come together to learn about each other’s culture while coming to better understand the natural world that they all share.
The establishment of the international park will help to call the region's attention to the needs of people living in rural areas in Mexico without adequate running water, electricity, sanitation and educational opportunities.
Over the past few years I have been working with our elected representatives in El Paso asking them to support this important conservation effort. They have passed a number of resolutions and contacted the Secretary of the Interior. I am confident that there is a great deal of public and political support for this effort. I encourage all of your readers to contact their elected representatives and urge them to support his long overdue dream for both countries and the Big Bend Country. To learn more I have created
-Friends of the Proposed Big Bend Rio Bravo International Park webpage.
Speak Out for Parks!
Vista Del Aguila National Wildlife Refuge Proposed for El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson Counties
Effort to create the first National Wildlife Refuge in West Texas will help meet the growing demand for access to lands to experience nature
The Southwest Region of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) is proposing a new National Wildlife Refuge in the Trans-Pecos region of far west Texas near Sierra Blanca and Van Horn, Texas. Support for the effort is growing where members of local and regional conservation organizations including the El Paso Chapter of the Sierra Club are getting behind the proposal. Individuals and organizations are encouraged to offer their support by contacting Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest Regional Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service by email at RDTuggle@fws.gov.
The proposed National Wildlife Refuge would be a USFW contribution to a multi-agency/multi-landowner conservation partnership in the Trans Pecos and would support coordinated efforts of resource management activities through strategic landscape- level conservation planning within the northern Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion. In 2010 the USFW signed on to a Memorandum of Understanding supporting a new Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative and President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative. The MOU between the USFW, U.S. National Park Service (NPS), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is collaborative effort benefiting research and management activities of the natural and cultural resources in the Rio Grande Basin and Chihuahuan Desert of the Trans-Pecos region.
The establishment of a refuge in the Eagle Mountains of the Trans-Pecos is a proactive conservation endeavor aimed at strategically preserving a representative example of the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion currently underrepresented within the National Wildlife Refuge System. The entire Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion consists of approximately 148 million acres. The U.S. portion consists of approximately 38.5 million acres within the states of Texas (23.6 million acres) and New Mexico (14.9 million). Currently, less than I percent (or approximately 281,000 acres) of Chihuahuan
During the 1970s, the Service attempted to establish a refuge in the Trans-Pecos, but was unsuccessful. Since the creation of Big Bend National Park in 1944, unified landowners have opposed and prevented the establishment of additional federal lands within this region. The majority of the Trans-Pecos remains in private ownership in the form of relatively large ranches. However, the profile of the typical landowner in Texas is changing. The large ranch tradition is giving way to subdivided properties allowing more landowners to own smaller parcels. Increased development and population growth in the Trans-Pecos, especially near urban areas, is reducing large-scale areas of biologically sustainable habitats and creating additional habitat fragmentation. The City of EI Paso, the nation’s largest border city, is experiencing continued development and population growth. In addition, the Fort Bliss Army Air Base located in EI Paso, will experience an increase of about 20,000 soldiers along with their families in 2011
Given the growth and population trend in the bi-national metropolitan cities of EI Paso-Juarez and the surrounding communities of west Texas, pressure continues to be placed on the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem and its limited resources. In a state where 80 percent of the population lives in urban areas, there is a growing demand for access to lands to experience nature. In addition, there is a need to provide more opportunities for outdoor recreation near major population centers and adequate conservation of the state's natural regions and cultural heritage.
The establishment of the first Refuge within the vast expanse of the Trans-Pecos would serve the following purposes: I ) reduce ongoing habitat fragmentation by protecting a large expanse of the Chihuahuan Desert not currently represented in the Trans-Pecos within the National Wildlife Refuge System; 2) provide an area within proximity to a metropolitan center for the public to engage in positive outdoor experiences and; 3) in collaboration with other stakeholders, provide a link to existing conservation areas to preserve the biological diversity within the Chihuahuan Desert. Conservation and heritage education, particularly for the next generation, is vital to the future.
Establishing a refuge within the core of the northern Chihuahuan Desert would not only protect one of the natural treasures of Texas, but preserve the cultural heritage of the region.
Source – from Preliminary Project Proposal: Vista Del Aguila National Wildife Refuge, El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson Counties, Texas. US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System, Southwest Region, April, 2011