***UPDATE*** Our provision to permanently protect Castner Range in the Franklin Mountains of west Texas became law on Tuesday, Dec. 12 as President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Castner Range is a 7,081 acre open space surrounded by the Franklin Mountains State Park in the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert. You would recognize Castner by its annual display of golden poppies. But this crown jewel of West Texas also helps us conserve El Paso’s precious aquifers that lie beneath it, preserve more than 40 archaeological and historical sites that date as far back as 10,000 years and safeguard its one-of-a-kind vegetation and wildlife. On Nov. 14, the House of Representatives passed my proposal to protect Castner Range for generations to come.
The provision will conserve ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational and scientific resources within Castner Range. The legislation also ensures that there will be no commercial enterprise, permanent or temporary road, use of motor vehicles or aircrafts and structure, building or installation of any kind on the land. And it preserves an important former military training facility — a reflection of El Paso’s strong relationship to Fort Bliss and its longstanding military and veterans’ community.
Working with the House Armed Services Committee, I advocated for a provision protecting Castner Range to be added to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). What is now spelled out in Section 2846 of the NDAA began as a proposal this past summer, passed the Senate in November, and was signed by the president on Dec. 12 — making our protection law for generations to come.
Our community in El Paso has been fighting to conserve Castner Range since 1971. This victory for Texas couldn’t have happened without the work of environmental advocates throughout the state. I want to leave you with a few of their thoughts on today’s news:
“At a time when the White House is rolling back conservation efforts, threatening to scale back our national parks and working to confirm climate change skeptics to environmental councils, today’s news about protecting Castner Range for generations to come is the example we need. Conserving Castner Range not only shows the power of grassroots environmental groups but the determination of our advocates like Representative O’Rourke to forge ahead with environmental protections during a hostile Trump administration.” — Elizabeth Doyel, Executive Director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters
“For over 30 years this borderland community has been pushing for the protection of an iconic El Paso landmark, our Castner Range. With the unwavering commitment of Congressman O’Rourke, Castner can no longer be sold off to the highest bidder but rather will continue to educate El Paso youth and the surrounding communities of its rich history.” — Angel Pena, Rio Bravo Program Director for the Conservation Lands Foundation
“El Paso has been seeking to conserve Castner Range since 1971, and now with the help of Congressman Beto O’Rourke we are one major step closer to realizing our community’s vision of a preserved and intact Castner Range National Monument.” — Janae’ Reneaud Field, Executive Director of the Frontera Land Alliance