900,000 reasons why we need to protect the lower elevations of the Franklins

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Red-spotted Toad by Rick LoBello

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The vast majority of people living in El Paso can easily see that every minute of every day more and more of our natural landscape it going under the blade of the bulldozer to make way for new roads, build more Walmart’s and more.   I am all in favor of progress, but is this the kind of progress El Paso needs to have a sustainable future?   Why can’t we build away from lands that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and build upward like we see happening downtown and in places like the Venue at Montecillo on Mesa?    We are running out of water too so what’s going on here?

Did you know that some of the oldest organisms in the world live in the lower elevations of the Franklin Mountains?   One creosote bush in the Mojave Desert was found growing in a single clonal colony up to 67 feet in diameter and was estimated to be 11,700 years old.  Who is to say some creosote bush rings right here in El Paso may be older.  We may never know since no one will have a chance to find out as every square inch of desert is destroyed and covered with concrete.

Here is what is going on, special interest groups with lots of cash are making lots of money destroying El Paso’s natural heritage.  We are talking about the southernmost region of the Rocky Mountains in the United States of America – they’re called the Franklin Mountains.  These mountains cannot survive ecologically with only high elevations intact.   The lower elevations are important too and it is in these lower elevations that many wildlife species spend their entire lives in or travel through to get from one part of the mountain range to the next.  Some species survive only in the lower elevations.   How many jackrabbits for example do you find climbing a cliff face?   Who eats the jackrabbit?   The Golden Eagle does.   Golden Eagles have long been admired by people around the world and are one of best known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere.  They live in the Franklins and beyond and hunt in the lower elevations for rabbits and other small prey species.

Everyone in this city now and in the future needs to be connected to the natural world, for their physical and psychological well-being.   The estimated population of El Paso, County is now nearly 900,000.   The Franklin Mountains are home to thousands of species of animals and plants.    Looking for some good reasons to protect our natural environment?   If you count every person and add up every plant and animal species there may now be over 900,000.

Now that you have read this what are you going to do about it?     Need some ideas?   Contact organizations like the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and Frontera Land Alliance for some guidance.   Both are very active in trying to find solutions to ending the war against the natural environment in El Paso.  You can also form your own group and make your own noise.  Don’t just sit there and watch it happen.

Look into the face of a child if you need some motivation and ask yourself, is it worth it for their sake?

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The Earth does not belong to us: we belong to the Earth

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All across America and around the world a growing number of people are getting involved with global conservation.  In response to information they hear and see on radio and TV and from print and social media, people of all ages are signing up to help protect our only home, planet earth.   They share in common many beliefs including what Chief Seattle said many years ago: “the Earth does not belong to us: we belong to the Earth.”

Balancing the needs of nature and people on a finite amount of land presents challenging choices. We make those choices every day.  Helping people get involved is the driving force that motivates me.

The challenges are great, especially in finding ways to encourage people to see how their lives are connected to nature and how sitting back and waiting for others or the government to solve the world’s problems is not a realistic solution.  We all need to get involved.  Soraya Romero and I got together earlier this year and put together an El Paso Nature Survey.   The purpose of the survey is to find out how people in El Paso are already connected to the natural world, what they are doing and to find out who is interested in getting involved.

Are you interested in getting involved with people in El Paso who are trying to make a difference?   Let me suggest a number of efforts already underway.   For more information on how you can participate contact the respective organizations below or drop me an email at ricklobello@gmail.com.

El Paso Sierra Club Group

The El Paso Sierra Club Group has identified a number of goals on their website at elpasosierraclub.org.   I am directly involved with two of those efforts.  Both have been high priority projects that I have been involved in for nearly 40 years.   One is to put the return of the wolf to Texas back on the conservation radar screen in North America.  The other is to gain public support for an international agreement establishing a Big Bend International Park with Mexico.  Two committees have been organized and each committee needs more members.   To learn more about the wolf effort go to https://ricklobello.wordpress.com/texas-wolves and https://www.facebook.com/returnthewolftotexas.   To learn more about the international park effort go to greaterbigbend.org.

Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and Frontera Land Alliance

Addressing conservation issues in and around El Paso has resulted in both victories and defeats.  What is happening along the Trans Pecos Road leading up to Franklin Mountains State Park is an enormous and inexcusable destruction of the city’s natural resources.  Many people spoke out against the current plan for this project when hearings were held in 2010, but TX-Dot had more resources and was able to overcome even the objections of members of the City Council.

Over 20,000 people in El Paso have signed letters and petitions over the past few years expressing their support for protecting public lands adjacent to Franklin Mountains State Park.  The Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and Frontera Land Alliance have been leading the way with the support of a small group of concerned citizens.  Now with the help of Congressman Beto O’Rourke, the community has put together a plan of action to protect the Castner Range area as a National Monument.

To support efforts to protect public lands adjacent to Franklin Mountains State Park visit franklinmountains.org (contact Judy Ackerman at jpackerman53@gmail.com) or http://fronteralandalliance.org (contact Janae’ Reneaud Field at janae@fronteralandalliance.org).

Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition

The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition supports programs that enhance conservation and education of the Chihuahuan Desert. The goals of the organization include: serving as a resource on information about the Chihuahuan Desert, encouraging lifelong learning about the Chihuahuan Desert and collaborating efforts among public educators, the public and CDEC.   CDEC teams up with Franklin Mountains State Park every year in hosting the Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta, sponsors a program encouraging people to landscape with native plants and hosts a very informative website on the natural resources of the Chihuahuan Desert.   For more information on how you can get involved contact Dr. Gertrud Konings at cdec.elpaso@yahoo.com or visit the organization’s website at chihuahuandesert.org.

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