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Virtual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta planned for September 19

It’s going to be a very different Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta this year. Due to the surge in COVID-19 infections, fiesta planners have decided to offer a virtual fiesta as a precaution for the health and safety of our community.  The main goal of the event that was held 15 years in a row at Franklin Mountains State Park, has been to encourage people to connect with and appreciate the Chihuahuan Desert. This year’s 16th annual fiesta on Saturday, September 19th will be no different offering a variety of virtual educational experiences highlighting the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest and least known desert region in North America. 

Be sure to save the date and look for the schedule posted at chihuahuandesert.org.   Presentations this year will include a virtual tour of the Zoo’s new Chihuahuan Desert Exhibit, two different opportunities to learn more about current efforts to save critically endangered Mexican wolves including an effort to return the wolf to Texas, presentations with live animals from the Chihuahuan Desert living at the El Paso Zoo and a special presentation by Pam Agullo, Mrs. Texas Earth, on the impact of people on the environment and wildlife.

Carmen white-tailed deer along the Lost Mine Trail, Big Bend National Park

Nature club needs volunteers

 

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REGISTER AS A MEMBER BY LIKING US HERE – NATURE CLUB ON FACEBOOK

The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Club is a collaborative effort between the Zoo, local parks and the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition. The goal is simple, to help people connect with our desert and to encourage people to get outside and enjoy nature.

Last year we signed up hundreds of members at the Zoo when our team and volunteers invited Zoo guests to join while they played our Conservation Game.

Members can help us make the club both educational and fun by helping with social media posts, writing creative content focused on youth and more. Presently we are looking for adult leaders to help us expand the club and create more interactive educational opportunities. If you would like to help contact us and to set up a meeting to discuss how you can be involved.

DID YOU KNOW THAT THE EL PASO ZOO HAS A NEW CHIHUAHUAN DESERT EXHIBIT?

El Paso is located within the biggest and most diverse desert in North America, the Chihuahuan Desert. The Chihuahuan Desert covers more than 200,000 square miles and is home to thousands of different species of plants and animals.

The El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens is home to animals and plants from around the world including Africa, Asia and North and South America. The Chihuahuan Desert experience in the North America area of the Zoo highlights the wildlife and plants of the eco-region where the City of El Paso is located.  The exhibit has an arroyo helping people to better understand one of the desert’s important naturally occurring environmental features plus an exciting flash flood.   There is also a new Lobo Vista classroom with viewing windows looking into endangered Mexican wolf and Thick-billed Parrot exhibits where Education Specialists and Zoo Keepers present engaging programs for our guests and school groups. There are also new exhibits for prairie dogs, desert birds, bolson tortoises, jaguars and endangered peninsular pronghorns.  The ranch house exhibit is home to smaller animals of the desert that have moved inside.  Just outside the house we have a new exhibit for coatis, also called coatimundis. Coatis are very rare in the northern Chihuahuan Desert and are the only carnivore in the Western Hemisphere that lives in large family groups.

Speak out for the wolf in Texas with your message to the US Fish and Wildlife Service

 

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Mexican wolves in Texas survive only in zoos while hundreds of square miles of wolf habitat are available as reintroduction sites if only government officials would get their acts together.   

Act before midnight on June 15

THE CURRENT SCOPING PERIOD ENDS ON JUNE 15. ASK THAT THE US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE INCLUDE AREAS IN TEXAS AS PART OF THE RECOVERY PLAN.  

SUBMIT COMMENTS BEFORE JUNE 15, 2020

Comments can be submitted electronically at https://beta.regulations.gov/document/FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007-0001  Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007, which is the docket number for this Notice of Intent. Hard copy comments can be submitted by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/PERMA (JAO/1N), 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 15, 2020.

On March 31, 2018, the District Court of Arizona determined that the US Fish and Wildlife Service Final Rule of 2015 failed to further the long-term conservation and recovery of the Mexican wolf.  Today the Service is under a court-ordered deadline to address the remanded issues in a new revised rule by May 1, 2021. Texas wolf advocates are encouraged to ask the US Fish and Wildlife Service to include areas in Texas as part of the recovery plan. The deadline to comment is June 15.

Areas believed to have sufficient prey base to support a small population of wolves, pending a comprehensive reintroduction study, include Guadalupe Mountains National Park and surrounding National Forest and BLM lands, protected lands in the Davis Mountains and the Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park areas. Many of these areas are currently under tremendous ecological pressure from exotic species like feral hogs and aoudads. Bringing back the wolf to Texas could help control these species much more economically than methods like helicopter hunts currently being used by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Wolves can also be controlled to stay away from livestock areas using satellite tracking.

The next step for the wolf in Texas is to assemble a team of biologists to survey habitat in West Texas that can support wolves. During this survey the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife should meet with stakeholders who raise livestock near these areas to help identify livestock safe zones.  Livestock safe zones are land areas where wolves will not be allowed to live.  Buffer zones will be identified as wolf management zones where wolves may roam, but if they stay in these areas and do not move back to wolf reserves, they would be removed from the wild.

After meeting with stakeholders and identifying potential habitat, the USFW and TPWD should assemble a team of satellite tracking experts to put together a plan to monitor and control wolves with satellite collars that can inject wolves with tranquilizers if they move away from reintroduction areas.

Comments can be submitted electronically at https://beta.regulations.gov/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007, which is the docket number for this Notice of Intent. In your comments ask that the US Fish and Wildlife Service include areas in Texas as part of the recovery plan.

Mexican wolf advocates who support efforts to come up with a plan to reintroduce the Mexican wolf to Texas have a great opportunity to express their support during the current scoping period.   The Texas Wolf Pack encourages you to speak out on behalf of the wolf by letting the US Fish and Wildlife Service know that over 25,000 people in El Paso have either signed letters that have been mailed to Texas Parks and Wildlife or have signed an online petition to help save the Mexican wolf by encouraging Texas Parks and Wildlife to help reintroduce wild wolves to Texas.  No other Texas city has demonstrated as much support for helping to save this critically endangered species as El Paso.  Now is the time to make room for the return of the wolf to Texas!

TO LEARN MORE CHECK OUT THESE TWO PAGES OF INFORMATION.

Returning the wolf to the wilds of Texas: Ecological and Economic Benefits
Return the Wolf to Texas Education Initiative

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE PRESS RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is soliciting input from the public as it begins preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement (sEIS) on its 2015 revision to the nonessential experimental population of Mexican wolf. The scoping process gives citizens an opportunity to provide input on the range of issues that will be addressed in the sEIS.

On March 31, 2018, the District Court of Arizona remanded portions of the 2015 final rule to revise the designation of the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area in Arizona and New Mexico. The ruling directs the Service to redress several components of the rule to ensure the experimental population contributes to long-term Mexican wolf conservation and recovery. To comply with the remand, the Service must publish a revised, final rule by May 1, 2021. The geographic boundaries of the experimental population will not be altered by this action.

The Service is collaborating with states, tribes and other stakeholders to conserve and recover the Mexican wolf. Using science-based efforts, the partners can achieve recovery for the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and work towards future management by the states and tribes.

“The public scoping process is an important step in informing interested parties and gathering their input,” said Brady McGee, Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator. “Their comments will help us refine the scope of the supplemental EIS and identify significant issues to be analyzed in depth.”

Nonessential experimental populations are designated under section 10(j) of the ESA as a means to reintroduce a listed species to part of its former range without imposing all the restrictions the ESA mandates in other areas where the species occurs.

Revising the 2015 rule requires a reanalysis of specific aspects of the 2014 Environment Impact Statement for the Proposed Revision to the Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi). The Service tomorrow will publish a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare the draft sEIS and conduct public scoping in the Federal Register, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The Service will be working with its partners and other cooperating agencies on the EIS supplement.

The NOI initiates a 60-day comment period for the public to review and comment on any of the topics to be addressed in the EIS supplement. The NOI will be available at https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/listing10j.html.

Comments can be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007, which is the docket number for this Notice of Intent. Hard copy comments can be submitted by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/PERMA (JAO/1N), 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 15, 2020.

For more on the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, visit the Mexican wolf website: https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.

SUBMIT COMMENTS BEFORE JUNE 15, 2020

Comments can be submitted electronically at https://beta.regulations.gov/document/FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007-0001  Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007, which is the docket number for this Notice of Intent. Hard copy comments can be submitted by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2020-0007 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/PERMA (JAO/1N), 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 15, 2020.

 

 

El Paso Conference hears latest report on Return the Wolf to Texas effort

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Join the Texas Wolf Pack

Earlier this month on November 7, Rick LoBello, El Paso Zoo Education Curator and chair of Zoo’s conservation committee, reported on Sierra Club efforts to return the wolf to the wilds of Texas at the Chihuahuan Desert Conference at the El Paso Zoo.   Efforts to return the Mexican wolf to the Texas wild have been ongoing since 1982 when the US Fish and Wildlife Service published the first Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan.  In 2006 a Defenders of Wildlife report Places for Wolves: A Blueprint for Restoration and Recovery in the Lower 48 States, Defenders reviewed existing studies of wolf suitability for the continental United States and recommended a number of areas in the southwest including Big Bend National Park.

Over the past 37 years thousands of people have shown their support for a recovery effort in Texas including over 20,000 people in El Paso who over the past two years joined an El Paso Sierra Club letter writing campaign asking Carter Smith, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife, to help gain support for such a plan.  After sending ten boxes of letters to Smith and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Commissioners, there has been no response. LoBello’s report described Mexican wolf recovery advocacy in Texas since the formation of the Mexican Wolf Coalition of Texas in 1990.

The last two documented reports of Mexican wolves killed in Texas were made in 1970. One was shot from the Cathedral Mountain Ranch south of Alpine and one was trapped from the Joe Neal Brown Ranch located at the point where Brewster, Pecos, and Terrell counties meet.

Anyone wishing to help work on this project is encouraged to Join the Texas Wolf Pack.

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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

The Franklin Mountains Wolf Pack is working to help gain more public support for wolf reintroduction in Texas.  The group is working on a new strategic plan with the vision of helping stakeholders from across West Texas find a way to return the wolf as an apex predator in the Chihuahuan Desert of the Greater Big Bend region.  If you would like to be a part of the pack and help in anyway you can, send a message using our Contact Us Form.

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.