Bears of Big Bend at the Zoo

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Mexican black bear in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, by Rick LoBello

The El Paso Sierra Club will kick off its 2019-2020 Kevin von Finger Speakers Series at the El Paso Zoo Wildlife Amphitheater on September 24 at 7:00 pm.  The illustrated lecture will be free and open to the public and will feature the story of how Mexican black bears successfully returned to the mountains of Big Bend National Park during the 1980s.  It will be presented by Raymond Skiles, a wildlife biologist from Alpine, Texas.

“The natural recolonization of the black bear to Big Bend National Park from the cross border population in northern Mexico is one of the most important conservation stories in Texas,” said zoo Education Curator Rick LoBello.  Earlier this year the El Paso Zoo piloted a Zoo-Park partnership with Big Bend National Park to coordinate efforts to help conserve black bears in the park after being awarded a $10,000 Winter America’s Keystone Wildlife Grant (AKW). The grant partners zoos with National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges to help America recover the wildlife legacy lost during the fur trade and westward expansion era of the United States.

The lecture series is named in honor of Kevin von Finger, a well-known El Paso naturalist and environmentalist.  The El Paso Zoo will host the first lecture in this year’s new series at the Zoo’s state of the art Wildlife Amphitheater.

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Raymond Skiles grew up in Langtry, Texas and recently retired from the National Park Service after over thirty years of service.   While working as the park’s wildlife biologist, Skiles was at the forefront of proactive management, instituting programs to make Big Bend an exemplary “bear park.”

 

 

 

Howling for wolves

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Last month the El  Paso Zoological Society invited the Sierra Club to partake in Earth Day at the Movies held at the Alamo Drafthouse in celebration of the re-released movie, “The Lion King.”  There were several educational booths set up and we were thrilled to be a part of the program.  It was an educational event to help bring awareness to adults and children of all ages on the importance of conservation.  We jumped on the opportunity to talk to as many people as we could to include getting signatures on our letter writing campaign to help return the wolf to Texas.

 

Join the Franklin Mountains Wolf Pack

Sierra Club wolf card for print

Our new Franklin Mountains Wolf Pack had its first meeting earlier this month to discuss how people can help gain more public support for wolf reintroduction in Texas.  The group discussed a vision and goals and will meet again to review a strategic plan in May.  If you would like to be a part of the pack and help in anyway you can, send us a message using our Contact form.   We will add you to our email list to and notify you when we have our next meeting.

Last chance for Lost Dog Trail. Vote yes on May 4. Early voting starts on Earth Day, April 22

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Volunteers are needed to help get out the vote to protect the Lost Dog Trail and the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert landscape.   Contact Dr. Rick Bonart today for more information at 915-549-5585 or by email at rickbonart@earthlink.net.

What are Lost Dog Trails

Lost Dog is an amazing 1000 acre natural park located in northwest El Paso. Lost Dog is a place where anyone can hike, mountain bike, walk a dog or trail run. The trails and trailhead are 100% free to use and were built at no cost to the taxpayers.

The May 4 election represents a very rare opportunity to demonstrate your support for protecting our natural environment in El Paso.   Your vote will count on May 4.    Early voting starts on Earth Day, April 22.

Join the Franklin Mountains Wolf Pack

A Mexican wolf pack made up of the “two legged kind” is forming in El Paso this month as part of a new effort in El Paso to help return the wolf to the wilds of Texas. Everyone is invited to learn more by attending a special community meeting at the West El Paso Regional Command Center at 4801 Osborn at 7pm on Wednesday, April 10th.

Prior to the time when Mexican wolves went extinct in the wild during the late 1970s, the last wolves in West Texas were killed east of El Paso just north of Big Bend National Park.  Today this iconic symbol of the wild and important apex predator, survives in Texas only in zoos.  How can Texas sit back and allow the powers that be in Austin continue on the anti-wolf path that they are on today. Over 20,000 people (most from El Paso) have signed letters and petitions asking Texas Parks and Wildlife to support a plan to return the wolf to the wilds of Texas.

Seven months ago the El Paso Sierra Club sent the TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith 10,000 of those signatures. The response has been the same as it was over 25 years ago – totally negative and offering no hope for the return of the wolf.

El Paso Sierra Club Group Chair Laurence Gibson, 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.  

Last 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.

To learn more, check out the Texas Wolf Take Action Center at elpasosierraclub.org.

 

Executive Committee Update

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Above – A TV monitor in the El Paso Water Discovery Education Center at the El Paso Zoo loops several videos about the Mexican wolf with a scrolling message informing guests of El Paso Sierra Club efforts in Texas.

 

The El Paso Sierra Club Group Executive Committee met earlier this month and reviewed the status of some of our 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 #5 Sierra Student Coalition at Americas High School: Neysa Hardin was not present however; an update via e-mail reported that the students will help out at polling locations to assist with the Lost Dog campaign. Over the past months, in conjunction with a campaign of the Center for Biological Diversity, students collected over 800 letters to send to Trump to request the Mexican gray wolf and the Rocky Mountain gray wolf be maintained on the endangered species list.

SMART Goal #1 Blue Bin Contamination: no discussion      

SMART Goal #2 Return of the Wolf to Texas Educational Initiative: Rick LoBello reported greater than 20K petition letters have been signed.  The zoo has pledged $300 donation to Sierra Club for efforts toward reintroduction of the wolf to Texas.  There is a Chihuahuan Desert exhibit in the works for the zoo.   The KCOS digital video about the Mexican Wolf for the series “Only in El Paso” has brought more recognition to the reintroduction cause.

SMART Goal #4 El Paso Group t-shirts: Francesca Wigle reported a plan is in the works.

SMART Goal #3 Outdoor Leadership Training: This goal will be retired at this time.

New SMART Goals

Discussion of including a SMART goal to preserving undeveloped the area of the TIRZ12 which includes the Lost Dog Trail.

Discussion to reactivate the SMART goal to promote the US/MX International Park. Reference was made to the March 14 op-ed in the New York Times: Forget Trump’s Border Wall. Let’s Build F.D.R.’s International Park.

 

 

Lost Dog – City Council Tuesday

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by Don Baumgardt

There is work to still be done to save the Lost Dog Trail area!  On Tuesday, February 5th, El Paso City Council will take the next step in letting the voters decide.  We need supporters to come to that city council meeting at 9am to make sure things move forward.  Our goal is to see that city council puts this item on the ballot for the May election.  Please come out to let the mayor, council, city manager and staff know that we’re still active and organized.

The meeting starts at 9am.  We’re going to try to get this moved toward the beginning of the agenda so we hope to be out by the middle of the morning.

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Sharon Miles-Bonart, Ph.D. says:

The agenda item is 24.1.
The meeting begins at 9 a.m., On February 5th City Council chambers.
They will discuss whether or not to put saving Lost Dog (our resolution generated by petition) on the May ballot.

Link to agenda:  Agenda Item for February 5

It appears as though Council will be discussing a bunch of different options for us, as the posting includes the following: resolution / ordinance / lease to do what / authorize the City Manager to do what.

It is important that we have lots of our supporters attend this meeting.
Sign up to speak: 

SUBJECT:
APPROVE a resolution/ ordinance/ lease to do what?   OR AUTHORIZE the City Manager to do what?

Be descriptive of what we want Council to approve. Include $ amount if applicable.
A Resolution ordering a Special Election in the City of El Paso for the submission of a measure to be held on May 4, 2019; making provisions for the conduct of the election; and authorizing a contract with the El Paso County to furnish election services and equipment.

SECTION 3 – BALLOT LANGUAGE
The Proposition on the May special election ballot will permit the qualified voters of the City of El Paso to vote for or against the adoption of the above-quoted ordinance, which will be stated on the ballot substantially as follows:

City of El Paso Proposition A
Shall an ordinance be approved to preserve, for all time, the l,l07 acres owned by the City of El Paso and referred to as “Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Number Twelve” and to prohibit, for all time, any private development and any major public roadways on said I,I07 acres?
YES ()
NO()

Trans Mountain Clean Recap

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by Erica Rocha

Thank you to all who participated in the El Paso Transmountain Cleanup Event this past Saturday.  The community’s response was remarkable!

There were 135 volunteers that signed in, plus a bus full of students from America’s High School that were not on the main Highway, but did clean a hiking trail and 6 Constables and deputies keeping us safe.  Not to mention the dozens if not hundreds of commuters who drove over the mountain and were faced with a sea of orange vests.  Without a doubt the sight left them curious.  Some cyclist and hikers that ran into some of the groups stopped to ask what was going on.  When informed that there was a huge community cleanup they put in their part and brought trash over to the volunteers.

Volunteers went to great lengths to show up or drop off participants despite the frigid temperature.  One volunteer rode his bike up the 5 mile ascent to be able to join the cause.  Others organized entire groups of children and youth with parental consent, rides, pick-ups and drop-offs to ensure their participation.

The energy was palpable.  Good cheer and incredible willingness to help in any area where there was need was seen throughout the entire event.  There were volunteers who used their own vehicles to bring trash bags back to the meeting site and others that made round after round in their pickup trucks collecting heavier, bagful of trash as well as other large debris.  When trash bags ran out, volunteers didn’t stop, they waited until more were brought and continued to pick up trash.

In all, the 10 miles stretch between I-10 and US 54 was covered, over 100 bags of trash collected, including larger rubble such as 2 orange construction barrels, car bumpers, sofas cushions, ladders, tires, and other very strange garbage was picked up.

Albertson’s on Redd, Wal-Mart at West Town and Sam’s on Mesa provided a generous amount of snacks and drinks; TxDot provided vests, trash bags and picked up the pile of trash collected and disposed of it.  Also, Franklin State Park granted us permission to host this cleanup.

Through it all, the true heroes of the event were every individual, every couple, and every group small or large who made this event possible; and most importantly delivered greater results than I could have ever imagined.

I hope that the impact of this event reaches beyond those who took part in the cleanup.  I hope that there is an infectious spirit of pride spread among your friends and family.  Although it is a shame that we have to pick up other’s trash, it is truly inspiring to see so many good willed people of all ages come together to leave nature and our city a cleaner and better place.

Below is a small list of groups we were able to confirm participated in one form or another:

Ft. Bliss Soldiers, West Texas Young Marines, Girl Scouts Troop 53020, El Paso Eastside Rotary Club, El Paso Executive Women Lion’s Club, America’s High School, Creosote, Sierra Club, Frontera Land Alliance, Franklin Mountain Wilderness Coalition, Celebration of Our Mountains, Constables, Sergeants and Deputies of Precincts 2, 3 and 7, Franklin Mountain Life, Meet Up EP Hikers,  and Border Patrol Explorers.

 

THE WALL…once more, with feeling!

by Laurence Gibson, Executive Committee Chair

Check out these El Paso Sierra Club Group Loryx newsletter headlines from the past:

April 2008
BorderFence Opposed
In dramatic fashion the El Paso City Council refused to have anything to do with federal plans to build new spans of 18-foot high fencing along the border through El Paso.

May 2008
Fence Threatens Rio Bosque
Homeland Security is waiving environmental regulations to hurriedly build over 600 miles of fence in 2008.

Why is it that one of the safest cities in the USA should have to put up with this kind of interference from the feds? It isn’t as though our local lawmakers have not spoken out and protested long and hard.

I do find it interesting that 10 years ago it was a fence and now it’s a wall. Perhaps it really is just a “man thing.”This is one of those times when local control would be a really good thing. Anyway, my buddy who owns a welding supply is licking his chops at making another fortune selling machines and helmets and, and so on. I keep telling folks we already have our wall.

The Border Network for Human Rights, BNHR, founded in 1998, is one of the leading human rights advocacy and immigration reform organizations located at the U.S./Mexico Border. BNHR has over 7,000 members in West Texas and Southern New Mexico.
On Saturday, January 26 at noon, BNHR and border families held a massive mobilization protesting the border wall and advocating for a Humane Immigration Reform.

The mobilization will started at San Jacinto Plaza, stopping at the Santa Fe International Port of Entry to denounce Trump’s Zero Tolerance policy and ending in Chihuahuita with a rally and demonstration near the site of ongoing border wall construction.

In Chihuahuita, marchers denounced construction of Trump’s Border Wall and militarization of our region, calling instead for a humane and inclusive immigration reform that protects and integrates Dreamers, TPS beneficiaries, domestic violence victims, and the millions of undocumented Americans who live and work in these United States.

Trans Mountain clean up planned for January 19

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Save the date and sign up today

by Erica Rocha and Yadira Arellano

With the support of Adopt-A-Highway we are organizing a community cleanup of the highway that crosses our Franklin Mountains.  Our purpose for organizing this event has many aspects.  We want to bring neighboring Adopt-A-Highway holders together as well as extend the invitation to those who live around the area, use its designated trails to bike, hike or walk, and others who care about our beautiful landmark. The mountains are home to countless wildlife, vegetation and provide us with an admirable landscape.  Many times we forget how vulnerable nature is, therefore we want to use this event to reminded us all of how important it is to care for our mountains.  We want to raise awareness and give the community an opportunity to give back.

So far we have gotten the following groups to join us in our efforts:

East El Paso Rotary Club
Border Patrol Explorers (Hondo Pass)
Creosote
Claudia Delgado
Friends & Family

The event will take place on January 19, 2019 from 8:00 am – 12:00 pm.  We cordially invite the public, clubs and any organization to join us in our efforts and give back.

Everyone will meet at the top of Smuggler’s Pass on the Trans Mountain Road (Loop 375) at the Ron Coleman Trailhead.   We will provide trash bags.  Please wear gloves if you have them.

Please sign up by sending an email or text to Erica Rocha at erocha.er77@gmail.com or (915) 873-4393.