VOTE! VOTO! VIVIR!

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by Laurence Gibson

We, as a world, are at all kinds of turning points these days. Scientists actually made the national news this weekend saying that it is now almost too late to save Planet Earth. Nationally, we have really important mid-term elections coming up, elections that will determine what happens to our “republic…if you can keep it” in the words of Ben Franklin.

Locally, we also have very important choices: Four districts of City Council are on the ballot. Check the candidates’ web-pages to see their platforms. Visit the League of Women Voters site, VOTE 411. Watch the KCOS debates and the various candidate forums.

City Council’s recent creation of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZ) is something new on the development front. Our view is that the TIRZ is a clever device to get citizens to pay developers to build houses on their own open spaces…which won’t be so open anymore, and wouldn’t otherwise be profitable for development, sort of a “pay for your own sprawl” scheme. City Council has now approved four of these, something voters may wish to consider. Also, the Bonarts (549-5585 and 549-8483) have a “Kill the TIRZ” petition that they must submit soon. The hotly contested Lost Dog Trail/TIRZ12 petition was recently accepted by council, and then put on hold for two years. This highly successful petition to put TIRZ12 on the ballot was not approved in time for this November’s election. Watch for it on the next ballot, in May.

Folks have been confused about Council’s needing multiple petitions for the same issue. (“I signed once, why do I have to sign again?”) Well, it seems that City Council can “deny” a petition to put an issue on the election ballot. If that happens, a second successful petition is required to overcome that opposition and force it to happen.
And, by the way, if you receive an absentee ballot, be sure to find the City Council races on the last page and be aware that a straight-ticket vote is not a City Council vote. If you should toss out your absentee ballot, (there are reports out there of unsolicited absentee ballots) you cannot vote at the polls November 6.

Sierra Smart Goals Update

Conservation Promo Card 1

The El Paso Sierra Club Group Executive Committee met this morning and reviewed the status of our five most important Smart Goals.   For questions about these goals contact anyone on our committee.  Volunteers to help with these goals are always needed.

SMART Goal #1 Blue Bin Contamination:
Laurence Gibson reported that the City is ramping up efforts to address contamination in the blue bins.  An article on his efforts will appear in the next Sierran.  Next Step – talk to staff at Senator Rodriquez’s office.

SMART Goal #2 Return of the Wolf to Texas Educational Initiative:
Rick LoBello reported that over 10,000 letters and nearly 5000 signatures on petitions were sent to Carter Smith on August 19, 2018 requesting TPWD support.  The cover letter was signed by Laurence Gibson as Chairman of the Executive Committee, El Paso Group of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. Laurence has not received a response to this letter and the 6 boxes of letters that were sent to his office.  Members are encouraged to reach out to Carter Smith at Carter.Smith@tpwd.texas.gov and express their support for our effort. Next Step – create a Take Action Tool Kit on our website.

SMART Goal #3 Outdoor Leadership Training. Next Step – in the process of getting members qualified.

SMART Goal #4 El Paso Group t-shirts:   Next Step – still working on a plan.

SMART Goal #5 Sierra Student Coalition at Americas High School:
Neysa Hardin reported a cost to Sierra Club El Paso Group of approximately $400 to sponsor the students to attend the Wolf Reading Camp at the Zoo.     On September 22 the group picked up trash on the southern end of the Ron Coleman Trail.  Next Step – we are planning a trip to a local national park.

 

Join the pack

by Rick LoBello
Vice Chair, Executive Committee

Last month the El Paso Sierra Club Group sent Carter Smith, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 6 boxes containing 10,372 letters plus a list of 4,628 names of people asking Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin, Texas to support a plan to return wolves to the wilds of Texas.   We are still waiting for a reply.

Most of our members know about our new movement to return the gray wolf to wilderness areas and protected areas of West Texas.  In our letter to Smith El Paso Sierra Club Group Chair Laurence Gibson, a former UTEP music professor and the former El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s longtime concertmaster, stated “We believe that it is critical to the future of our ecosystem and the citizens of our state to preserve and protect all parts of the ecosystem.” Gibson went on to urge Smith and Texas Parks and Wildlife to launch an effort to bring back the wolf to the wilds of Texas and to develop and implement a scientifically reviewed plan of action. Earlier this summer the Texas Parks and ‘Wildlife Foundation launched a We Will Not Be Tamed campaign. Bringing the wolf back to Texas will clearly demonstrate TPWD’s commitment to this important conservation initiative encouraging all Texans to get involved in conserving the wild things and wild places of our state. Ecological and economic benefits of this proposal are as follows:

1. The return of wolves to the Texas wild will help to maintain the current growth of our state’s dynamic travel and tourism industry, and its important contributions to the state economy. Texas is a premier destination for domestic and international travelers, where travel totaled an estimated $70.5 billion in 2014 and supported 630,000 jobs across the state. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.

2. Wolves provided important ecological services in helping to control prey species as well as ensuring biodiversity within Texas and the surrounding region.

3. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.

4. Wolves need wilderness areas to survive and making sure we have wolves in Texas will help to ensure that we have wilderness. The wilderness that remains in Texas is part of our “great Texas backyard.” Wilderness is a haven from the pressures of our fast-paced society. It provides us with places where we can seek relief from the noise, haste and crowds that too often confine us. It is a place for us to enjoy with friends and families – strengthening our relationships and building lasting memories.

5. Wolves will help to maintain the ecological integrity of one of the greatest gifts Texas has given the nation – Big Bend National Park. Unlike other large national parks that were established from lands already owned by the federal government, Big Bend was privately owned by 100s of land owners before it became a national park. Texans came together during the 1930s and 40s and raised the money to buy the land that was then deeded to the federal government to become the State’s first national park and one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service.

6. The preservation of our natural heritage in Texas is a sacred trust mandated by federal and state law. Texans from all walks of life support efforts to conserve our natural heritage, including endangered species that historically lived in the state.

7. Restoring wolves to Texas will help to bring back the balance of the ecosystem.

8. By chasing and hunting their prey wolves help to re-vegetate habitats impacted by herbivores. These restored plant habitats will benefit other species like birds.

9. There is growing evidence that some predators, such as wolves, may benefit public health by killing sick wildlife that spread infectious diseases from wild animals to humans and domestic livestock.

10. As dominant predators, wolves will help to keep other predators in check like coyotes, foxes and mountain lions.

 

Over 15,000 support Sierra Club campaign to return the wolf to Texas

El Paso Sierra Club Photo by Rick LoBello

A new movement to return the gray wolf to wilderness areas and protected areas of West Texas has been launched by the El Paso Sierra Club Group.  Last week the group sent 6 boxes containing 10,372 letters plus a list of 4,628 names of people asking Carter Smith, Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin, Texas to support a plan to return wolves to the wilds of Texas.

El Paso Sierra Club Group Chair Laurence Gibson, a former UTEP music professor and the former El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s longtime concertmaster, in a letter to Smith stated “We believe that it is critical to the future of our ecosystem and the citizens of our state to preserve and protect all parts of the ecosystem.”

Gibson went on to urge Smith and Texas Parks and Wildlife to launch an effort to bring back the wolf to the wilds of Texas and to develop and implement a scientifically reviewed plan of action.

Earlier this summer the Texas Parks and ‘Wildlife Foundation launched a We Will Not Be Tamed campaign.  Bringing the wolf back to Texas will clearly demonstrate TPWD’s commitment to this important conservation initiative encouraging all Texans to get involved in conserving the wild things and wild places of our state.

Ecological and economic benefits of this proposal are as follows:

  1. The return of wolves to the Texas wild will help to maintain the current growth of our state’s dynamic travel and tourism industry, and its important contributions to the state economy. Texas is a premier destination for domestic and international travelers, where travel totaled an estimated $70.5 billion in 2014 and supported 630,000 jobs across the state. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.
  2. Wolves provided important ecological services in helping to control prey species as well as ensuring biodiversity within Texas and the surrounding region.
  3. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.
  4. Wolves need wilderness areas to survive and making sure we have wolves in Texas will help to ensure that we have wilderness. The wilderness that remains in Texas is part of our “great Texas backyard.”  Wilderness is a haven from the pressures of our fast-paced society. It provides us with places where we can seek relief from the noise, haste and crowds that too often confine us. It is a place for us to enjoy with friends and families – strengthening our relationships and building lasting memories.
  5. Wolves will help to maintain the ecological integrity of one of the greatest gifts Texas has given the nation – Big Bend National Park. Unlike other large national parks that were established from lands already owned by the federal government, Big Bend was privately owned by 100s of land owners before it became a national park.  Texans came together during the 1930s and 40s and raised the money to buy the land that was then deeded to the federal government to become the State’s first national park and one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service.
  6. The preservation of our natural heritage in Texas is a sacred trust mandated by federal and state law. Texans from all walks of life support efforts to conserve our natural heritage, including endangered species that historically lived in the state.
  7. Restoring wolves to Texas will help to bring back the balance of the ecosystem.
  8. By chasing and hunting their prey wolves help to re-vegetate habitats impacted by herbivores. These restored plant habitats will benefit other species like birds.
  9. There is growing evidence that some predators, such as wolves, may benefit public health by killing sick wildlife that spread infectious diseases from wild animals to humans and domestic livestock.
  10. As dominant predators, wolves will help to keep other predators in check like coyotes, foxes and mountain lions.

 

 

 

Join the Texas Wolf Pack

PHOTO OP – SATURDAY MORNING, AUGUST 11

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Did you know that over the past year the El Paso Sierra Club group has gathered over 15,000 signatures on letters and petitions to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department asking the agency to support a plan to return the wolf to Texas?   You and your family and friends can support our efforts and help send a message to TPWD by joining us for a group photo along with the boxes of letters we have been collecting on Saturday morning, August 11, 2018.  We will meet at the Ron Coleman Trailhead at Smugglers Pass on the Trans Mountain Road (Loop 375).   Please let us know if you can be there by texting 915-474-1456 or sending an email to ricklobello@gmail.com.

Prior to the extinction of Canis lupus baileyi in the wild, the last confirmed sightings of Mexican wolves in the United States were in 1970 when two wolves were trapped and killed in West Texas.  One wolf was documented on the Cathedral Mountain Ranch approximately 17 miles south of Alpine, Texas and 64 miles north of Big Bend National Park.  A second wolf was trapped and killed on the Joe Neal Ranch about 10 miles southwest of Sanderson, Texas about 60 miles northeast of the park.

CathedralMT
View of Cathedral Mountain south of Alpine, Texas on Texas Highway 118.

Returning the wolf to the wilds of Texas: Ecological and Economic Benefits

Wolf advocates in Texas urge the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to develop and implement a scientifically reviewed plan to return the Mexican wolf to the wilds of Texas as part of the overall recovery and re-population effort of this critically endangered species.

The return of wolves to the Texas wild will help to maintain the current growth of our state’s dynamic travel and tourism industry, and its important contributions to the state economy. Texas is a premier destination for domestic and international travelers, where travel totaled an estimated $70.5 billion in 2014 and supported 630,000 jobs across the state. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.

1. Wolves provided important ecological services in helping to control prey species as well as ensuring biodiversity within Texas and the surrounding region.

2. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.

3. Wolves need wilderness areas to survive and making sure we have wolves in Texas will help to ensure that we have wilderness. The wilderness that remains in Texas is part of our “great Texas backyard.” Wilderness is a haven from the pressures of our fast-paced society. It provides us with places where we can seek relief from the noise, haste and crowds that too often confine us. It is a place for us to enjoy with friends and families – strengthening our relationships and building lasting memories.

4. Wolves will help to maintain the ecological integrity of one of the greatest gifts Texas has given the nation – Big Bend National Park. Unlike other large national parks that were established from lands already owned by the federal government, Big Bend was privately owned by 100s of land owners before it became a national park. Texans came together during the 1930s and 40s and raised the money to buy the land that was then deeded to the federal government to become the State’s first national park and one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service.

5. The preservation of our natural heritage in Texas is a sacred trust mandated by federal and state law. Texans from all walks of life support efforts to conserve our natural heritage, including endangered species that historically lived in the state.

6. Restoring wolves to Texas will help to bring back the balance of the ecosystem.

7. By chasing and hunting their prey wolves help to re-vegetate habitats impacted by herbivores. These restored plant habitats will benefit other species like birds.

8. There is growing evidence that some predators, such as wolves, may benefit public health by killing sick wildlife that spread infectious diseases from wild animals to humans and domestic livestock.

9. As dominant predators wolves will help to keep other predators in checklike coyotes, foxes and mountain lions.

Join the Texas Wolf Pack

Photo op – Saturday morning, August 11

SONY DSC

Did you know that over the past year the El Paso Sierra Club group has gathered over 15,000 signatures on letters and petitions to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department asking the agency to support a plan to return the wolf to Texas?   You and your family and friends can support our efforts and help send a message to TPWD by joining us for a group photo along with the boxes of letters we have been collecting on Saturday morning, August 11, 2018.  We will meet at the Ron Coleman Trailhead at Smugglers Pass on the Trans Mountain Road (Loop 375).   Please let us know if you can be there by texting 915-474-1456 or sending an email to ricklobello@gmail.com.

Prior to the extinction of Canis lupus baileyi in the wild, the last confirmed sightings of Mexican wolves in the United States were in 1970 when two wolves were trapped and killed in West Texas.  One wolf was documented on the Cathedral Mountain Ranch approximately 17 miles south of Alpine, Texas and 64 miles north of Big Bend National Park.  A second wolf was trapped and killed on the Joe Neal Ranch about 10 miles southwest of Sanderson, Texas about 60 miles northeast of the park.

CathedralMT
View of Cathedral Mountain south of Alpine, Texas on Texas Highway 118.

Returning the wolf to the wilds of Texas: Ecological and Economic Benefits

Wolf advocates in Texas urge the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to develop and implement a scientifically reviewed plan to return the Mexican wolf to the wilds of Texas as part of the overall recovery and re-population effort of this critically endangered species.

The return of wolves to the Texas wild will help to maintain the current growth of our state’s dynamic travel and tourism industry, and its important contributions to the state economy. Texas is a premier destination for domestic and international travelers, where travel totaled an estimated $70.5 billion in 2014 and supported 630,000 jobs across the state. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.

1. Wolves provided important ecological services in helping to control prey species as well as ensuring biodiversity within Texas and the surrounding region.

2. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves to Texas provides an opportunity for the state to promote ecotourism while also educating visitors on the importance of environmental conservation.

3. Wolves need wilderness areas to survive and making sure we have wolves in Texas will help to ensure that we have wilderness. The wilderness that remains in Texas is part of our “great Texas backyard.” Wilderness is a haven from the pressures of our fast-paced society. It provides us with places where we can seek relief from the noise, haste and crowds that too often confine us. It is a place for us to enjoy with friends and families – strengthening our relationships and building lasting memories.

4. Wolves will help to maintain the ecological integrity of one of the greatest gifts Texas has given the nation – Big Bend National Park. Unlike other large national parks that were established from lands already owned by the federal government, Big Bend was privately owned by 100s of land owners before it became a national park. Texans came together during the 1930s and 40s and raised the money to buy the land that was then deeded to the federal government to become the State’s first national park and one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service.

5. The preservation of our natural heritage in Texas is a sacred trust mandated by federal and state law. Texans from all walks of life support efforts to conserve our natural heritage, including endangered species that historically lived in the state.

6. Restoring wolves to Texas will help to bring back the balance of the ecosystem.

7. By chasing and hunting their prey wolves help to re-vegetate habitats impacted by herbivores. These restored plant habitats will benefit other species like birds.

8. There is growing evidence that some predators, such as wolves, may benefit public health by killing sick wildlife that spread infectious diseases from wild animals to humans and domestic livestock.

9. As dominant predators wolves will help to keep other predators in check like coyotes, foxes and mountain lions.

 

 

 

 

Public Service Board Land Sales

KSteinerS0177672m
by Laurence Gibson

On the heels of the city’s recent $3.5 million open space purchase of 366 acres in Northeast El Paso, the old conversation about selling PSB land has been reignited in the form of a new report from El Paso Water’s Public Servce Board Preservation and Conservation Planning Committee. This is a comprehensive 66 page document which may be seen online at Preservation Committee Report.

Your El Paso Group has been active in the PSB land sale story for almost 20 years now. See these headlines from previous Loraxes:

April ‘01: Resist the Proposed PSB Land Sale
May ‘01: PSB Land Sale Update There’s Still Hope
June ‘05: Open Space Tempts El Paso Developers

Those were Mayor Raymond Caballero days when we counted on his mayoral presence at PSB to temper the developers’ requests to sell chunks of our open space under the “good ‘ol boy” system. The land sales guy at PSB was on a first name basis with El Paso developers who were able to say “I want you to sell me this (or that) parcel”of open space.

If you are new to El Paso you may not realize that our water utility purchased thousands of acres around El Paso in the 1900’s. This was to protect our aquifer from being paved over. Even back then there was a realization that we needed to have that land for recharging the aquifer!

With the adoption of our prizewinning Northwest and Northeast Master Plans we breathed a sigh of relief, naively thinking our open space was safe. Now, we seem to have forgotten the wisdom of our elders in setting aside all that land for water.
The consensus from environmentalists at the March 21st PSB meeting is that the committee report contradicts itself by recommending the open space be protected, THEN saying to develop half of it! That would be 3,500 of the approximately 7,000 acres we own around our mountains. The PSB has not yet taken action on that recommendation.

 

Photo Credit – Franklin Mountains, courtesy Ken Steiner

Americas High Sierra Report

prehistoric trackways

As a member of the Americas High School Student-Sierra Coalition, I have been delighted by the opportunity of participating in a multitude of environment-driven hikes in which we learn about the protection of the biome and the about the intricacy of the natural world. Moreover, our passionate organization has also been involved in local community service projects such as the construction of a wheelchair accessible trail within the Franklin Mountains State Park. One of the main goals of the Student Sierra-Coalition is to cultivate appreciation for nature and to make it accessible for everyone. Our main club sponsor, Ms. Hardin, has opened the possibility of sharing multiple outdoor experiences with members of the national park service, college science majors, and field experts, such as a paleontologist.

On January 2018, we were able to attend the Prehistoric Trackways National monument located near Las Cruces, NM.; we were given the rare honor of sharing the hike with a paleontologist who had as much passion and admiration for nature as the members of our group. From the rugged landscape of the Franklin Mountains to the developing wetlands of Rio Bosque, no previous hiking endeavors have deeply captured my interests. Although, nothing but positive memories have come from the outings provided by the Sierra Student Coalition, none have captivated my child-like innocence than laying my eyes upon the remnants of prehistoric organisms. From the bombardment of dates and eras of the geologic time scale, to the geology centered lectures, and finally to the main event being the impressions of beings which went extinct 250 million years ago. Observing the fossilized remains of these ancient creatures inspired my younger, and many others, growing minds alike. However, seeing this other portion of paleontology, being able to walk along similar paths as Dimetrodons, and learning about the possible behaviors of these organisms was an awe-inspiring experience of which I hope for more in the coming months.

-Lorenzo Gonzalez and Carlos Chavez members of the Americas High Sierra Student Coalition in El Paso, TX 

20,000 trees on the Rio Grande!

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The International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), has begun work at several habitat restoration sites along the Rio Grande within the cities of El Paso, Texas and Sunland Park, New Mexico. USIBWC requests visitors to take precaution, heed safety warning signs, and stay on trails and levees during construction.

Three sites are along recreational hike and bike trails. Two sites go through the Sunland Park trail (Anapra and Sunland Park Restoration sites), and the third site goes through the river portion of Valley Creek Park/Mary Frances Keisling Park in El Paso’s Upper Valley (Valley Creek Restoration Site). A fourth site south of the Country Club Bridge is not along a trail.

As a safety precaution during planting and site preparation, USIBWC contractor IDEALS-AGEISS will have temporary rolling closures of the paved hike and bike trail, in which pedestrians and cyclists should stay on levees and heed signs. Closures will take place only in small segments of a couple hundred feet at a time in the immediate vicinity of heavy machinery. All site prep and planting work is expected to be completed by March 30, 2018, with most work in the trail areas completed by March 1, 2018.

USIBWC contractors are using heavy machinery to remove non-native vegetation, particularly saltcedar bushes. Contractors will also be mitigating mistletoe damage on existing large native cottonwood trees, which may include pruning infected branches of large trees. At the Country Club East site south of Country Club Bridge, crews will be excavating the floodplain to create channel cuts and other areas for plantings. After the site preparation is complete, USIBWC contractors will be planting approximately 20,000 native trees and shrubs across the sites, including willows and cottonwoods. Some of the plantings will be transplants from vegetated islands that USIBWC will excavate from the Rio Grande channel as part of its routine maintenance program.

In addition, USIBWC has other active restoration sites in Vinton, Texas, and Shalem Colony, NM with similar work, although these sites are not located in designated trail areas.

These sites will also have several thousand trees and shrubs planted. The principal objectives of the restoration are to enhance the connection of the river and the floodplain; reduce exotic vegetation; restore endangered species habitat; and reestablish riparian habitat. Additional information about the USIBWC’s habitat restoration can be found at https://www.ibwc.gov/EMD/canalization_eis.html.