Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Hyder on Herpetofauna at SWEC

Gila Monster

[The following is a press release from the Southwest Environmental Center. Dr. Paul Hyder is actively involved in Celebration of Our Mountains, Master Naturalists, and frequently speaks to a number of El Paso's outdoors and natural history groups. Hyder's presentation is well-worth the trip to Las Cruces.] 

Herpetofauna of the Northern Chihuahuan desert

Did you know that the Chihuahuan Desert is home to over 170 herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians within a specific region) species? Though conditions in the desert can be harsh, that doesn’t stop a diverse array of species from flourishing.

Join us for a special presentation at the Southwest Environmental Center (MAP) on August 11th at 7:00 pm as Dr. Paul Hyder explores the various aspects relating to the ecology and biology of these animals within Dona Aña and Otero Counties in New Mexico and Hudspeth County in Texas.

The presentation is part of SWEC’s monthly Tuesday Talks series, and is free and open to the public. For more information, call (575) 522-5552.

Established in 1992, the Southwest Environmental Center works to protect and restore native wildlife and their habitats in the southwestern borderlands. Visit to learn more. Contact Tricia Snyder, 575-522-5552;

Monday, August 3, 2015

What El Paso Missed and What It May Be Getting

What fracking has done to the land around Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Please read Robert Gray's excellent story posted online on July 27th by El Paso Inc.: New tax credit sparks activity across state: El Paso’s historic survey debate gets attention. It's about the benefits of having historic districts have been in Georgetown and Waxahahie, Texas. It's also about El Paso's City Council saying "no thanks" to do an historic survey which leads to having an historic district which is both a plus for building owners when they remodel and a huge plus for the city's economy with ecotourism and a revitalized downtown. 

Gray gives a balanced view and gives a building owner's point about low rents in El Paso. (That can change.) I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: City Council's rejection of this gift of an historic survey is not because they don't see that an historic district can help revitalize downtown and draw more revenue to the city; their main concern is having an arena downtown that will fill 12 square city blocks.

Also read Gray's equally excellent story posted online today: Shale Oil in Hudspeth County? Results show possible ‘oil field discovery’. Be sure that you check out the images for the story. (I'm betting an elpasonaturally post led Gray to get more information.)

One of the more telling lines in the story I am hoping came from Torchlight Energy Resources COO, Willard McAndrew and not from Gray: "The Orogrande Prospect stretches from the Hueco Mountains to the Cornudas Mountains, and on the surface, it looks like empty desert grassland."

Empty desert grassland? Tell that to the pronghorn sheep, the unique species of yucca, and all the other plants and wildlife. Soon our view as we drive from El Paso to the Guadalupe Mountains will be like the picture at the top of this post. 

Would City Council pass a resolution opposing fracking next to El Paso - the kind of operation that may compromise our drinking water once EPWU begins importing more water from Hudspeth County? Our County Commissioners passed such a resolution. Our City Council rejected it.

An arena and fracking. El Paso - it's all good.

Please support elpasonaturally©. Go HERE to donate and help turn El Paso "green".

Friday, July 31, 2015

Save Our Sierras

[A new group has formed: Save Our Sierras. It consists of neighbors below the proposed Sierra del Puente and Stoney Hills developments. Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition is sending out a call to action in their newest e-letter. Below is a list of actions and how you can help.]

Development Next to Mountainside Neighborhood

Are you ready for a swath of new houses between your home and our Franklin Mountains?  The heirs to Dick Knapp are working on development plans for the hundreds of acres they own between McKelligon Canyon and Hondo Pass.  You may have seen bulldozers and graders “improving” roads so that surveyors will have access.  Land owners are carefully abiding by all regulations and are within their rights.

However, development of our pristine mountain sides is NOT inevitable.  Creation of our Franklin Mountains State Park (FMSP) in 1979 and preservation of Kern View Estates II in April of this year demonstrate that citizen action can result in critical land conservation.

To protect our mountains, all neighbors must organize and take action to inform City officials of their desire that the land at the eastern edge of the Franklin Mountains State Park remain in its natural state. 

Please attend the next Open Space Advisory Board meeting and bring your friends and neighbors.  Anyone can speak during “Call to the Public.”  The agenda should include items related to this development.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015, 3:00 P.M.
City 3 Building, 801 Texas Avenue
Basement, Thorman Conference Room

Other options to TAKE ACTION:

1.      Join the Mountainside Neighborhood Association.
2.      Join the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition at
3.      Stay informed with blogs such as
4.      Attend meetings such as City Council and Open Space Advisory Board.
5.      Make your voice heard!

YOU can help save our sierras!

To sign the petition and for more information contact judy Ackerman,, 915-755-7371.

Please support elpasonaturally©. Go HERE to donate and help turn El Paso "green".

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Holy Hot Concrete! Shade Trees Really Do Make a Difference

Our Texas Urban Forester, Oscar Mestas, just forwarded an email from San Antonio Master Naturalist, Lissa Martinez. She measured the heat of concrete underneath some live oaks and concrete exposed all day to the hot sun. Here are the pics:

"At 3 pm, I returned home and parked the car in the expansive shade of the live oaks.  Shade is also provided by the neighbors’ live oak tree."

"Driveway temp - 93°

"Exposed driveway surface in the sun, where no car has been parking since about 0845.  Driveway temp 144°"

"Holy hot concrete!  Demonstrating clearly why trees matter to all of us in this climate."

And that's just San Antonio. Try El Paso.

Go to Click on Tree Selection. In the box select Tree Shade Type. In the box after "Tree Shade Type", select Shade. When is the best time to plant a tree after late fall or early spring? NOW. 

"The mission of the West Texas Urban Forestry Council is to promote the preservation, health and expansion of community trees in the El Paso region. Together with the friends of WTUFC, 'Los Tree Amigos', we work to promote desert green—shade friendly and water smart." Go HERE to become a Los Tree Amigo and help West Texas Urban Forestry expand our community shade trees.

Please support elpasonaturally©. Go HERE to donate and help turn El Paso "green".

Hire Local!

Two factors led to the demise of El Paso's downtown. First, urban flight to the suburbs spurred on principally by the advent of the Interstate. Sprawl continues today and massive road projects only encourage it. The next reason why El Paso's downtown is now dominated by vacant, unmaintained buildings was the flight of wealth from local banks and investors to out of town megabanks. Thus, to rebuild El Paso, to increase the "common" wealth, local businesses should be favored by the City, especially local businesses who bank locally.

Noting what happens with financial drain, please read David Karlsruher's blog post today: City of El Paso cuts out local contractors again. David didn't just hit a homerun, he hit it out of the park. I just heard the loud bang of a baseball hitting the top of El Paso's downtown library.

Why should hiring locally and banking locally be important to environmentalists? With more money staying in town, there is more money for creating or buying areas with recreational opportunities, health benefits and sheer beauty: open spaces in other words. And open space benefits entire ecosystems and wildlife. 

If you are green, then every word of what Karlsruher wrote should make sense.

Please support elpasonaturally©. Go HERE to donate and help turn El Paso "green".

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Torchlight Energy Resources Isn't Going Away

USGS map shows Monday's quake centered 40 miles north of Oklahoma City. Click image to enlarge.

Two pieces of bad news for environmentalists on the fracking front just a few miles from the El Paso County line: Torchlight Officials “Elated” By Test Well Results – Company Seeks Partner to Develop “Major New Oil Field”. That's the headline and story from the Hudspeth County Herald less than two weeks ago. Now this from a stock risk assessment news site: Torchlight Energy - A NewCo Turnaround Story That's Been Derisked

In short: Torchlight has solved its financial problems and they have struck paydirt at their first test well just over the hill from Hueco Tanks. That's the first test well. They anticipate 2,499 more to go and they are seeking help from bigger frackers.

Keep this information in mind as you read about Monday's 4.0+ earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Please support elpasonaturally©. Go HERE to donate and help turn El Paso "green".

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Invest in FMSP and Animal Hiking Corridor OR the Trolley Folly?

Racetrack Drive to Spur 1966
Neighborhood Development Services sent out a pdf of a recent issue of the Border West Expressway newsletter showing how 1-10 and Spur 1966 will look once the job is completed. You can read that letter and see the pictures HERE. A prominent El Paso environmentalist commented: "Cement everywhere! How about some animal/hike/bike crossings?" She was referring to the long anticipated project at the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountain State Park - one that will benefit the park and spark ecotourism dollars for the city.

But the "cement" and the I-10/Spur 1966 projects are just really a part of the story. 

One wonders how much TxDOT Regional Engineer Bob Bielek's hands are tied when it comes to funding. We can interpret his delayed promises as deceit or we can interpret them as agony. Let's get to what is truly agonizing.

The mega projects such as I-10, the Spur, 375, 601, yada, yada, yada (not to mention the much less expensive animal corridor with a hike and bike trail that will connect the north and south parts of the FMSP at Transmountain) are not the first priority of the backroom movers and shakers of El Paso. What is? The trolley folly. Bielek has pointed out that El Paso may have the worst highways in the state. Yet, the priority is the $97 Million unnecessary trolley folly that will enrich a few, cost a bundle and will probably fail in a few years. (Or maybe it won't fail because "enlightened" city leaders like Niland, Romero and Noe will just vote to borrow more money and raise our property taxes more. We will subsidize the fat cats and a trolley system to nowhere.)

A trolley system (even with the expense of refurbishing our old Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars) might have had tourist attraction if built from the downtown historic district to the Magoffin House. However, you can forget that because there won't be a downtown historic district, there will be an arena taking over 12 blocks and paying lots of money to building owners who have never intended to renovate their buildings. That's my bet.

A trolley system at the airport could have been a tourist attraction or one through Segundo Barrio or one to the zoo. But no.

More people are leaving El Paso than other major cities in the nation. Passenger traffic at our airport is down 20%. And, according to Scientific American, our toxic air is harming our school children's progress. Yet, what's our priority? The trolley folly. It is this "priority" of our city policy makers that complicates funds for an animal corridor at Tom Mays.

So, my green friends, we can all blame Bob Bielek for the delay with the animal corridor, or we can blame the colonialism of our backroom wheelers and dealers who wield the power and bank the bucks in El Paso. As a linguist friend told me: "It isn't vox populi, it's hoax populi."

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