Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Before and After: Mountains and Quarries

In previous posts, I have pointed out the obvious: our mountains are not sustainable. Once mined, they are gone. I've also pointed out that our "zeroscaping", overuse of rock in landscaping our roads and homes, and overuse of cement - all contribute to the destruction of our mountains. No doubt we need materials for our roads and homes and businesses and services. No doubt we are overdoing it. We value our beautiful mountains; but see what we have done to them and are still doing to them:

Sugarloaf on far left of picture - no quarry below it (Circa 1947)

First McMillan, then Jobe, now Cemex - Sugarloaf sadly watches in background

Jobe's Hitt Canyon Quarry below NE Franklin Mountains

Arroyo 41A with Upper Sunset Trail and Franklin Mountains State Park in background

Jobe's bulldozing east of State Park

You've seen the quarries above. Now imagine what the pristine land and arroyos west of the Franklin Mountains State Park in NW El Paso will look like before long. The bulldozing has begun already. It is happening on land owned by we the people of the State of Texas leased to Jobe by the General Land Office. Is this what we want to happen to our land?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How Could the GLO Lease Land to Jobe?

Jobe Materials tags beautiful arroyo wall. Click to enlarge.

One big question emerges with the current destruction by Jobe Materials of land owned by the people of Texas next to a State Park: How could the GLO (General Land Office) lease the land to Jobe in the first place?
As far as we now know, there was no cultural or conservation evaluation made. Also an archaeological assessment should have been conducted by the GLO prior to releasing the site for use by Jobe. The assessment would have been done by an archaeologist on the "approved" list of the Archaeology Division of the Texas Historical Commission. Was it?

A long-standing leader in regional real estate commented:

With a planned Mountains to River Corridor running from the Franklin Mountains State Park to the Rio Grande River, why is it that the GLO allowed 480 acres in the middle of the proposed Corridor to be leased to Jobe for a new gravel and rock quarry in Northwest El Paso? Jobe has already posted no trespassing signs and begun grading dirt roads into the area and across the arroyos. Was there a public posting that I missed or was the land deal merely determined between the parties without the public's knowledge? It would seem to me that, where there are environmental concerns, the Public should have full knowledge of the GLO's plans before they're initiated.

Apparently, there was no attempt to make public this transaction between the GLO and Jobe . I would expect Jobe to remain silent as to their intentions. Jobe appears to have little, if any, concern for the environmental impact a planned quarry will have on this pristine area. It is, after all, a privately held company that is looking for the greatest financial return on their investment. Jobe is destroying the only chance for a Mountains to River Corridor that would link the Franklin Mountains Park to the

I am not against development. I am not against any company working to earn an honest dollar. I am against State Governnment Agencies working with private industry without regard for the People, the Environment, Open Space and for the Enjoyment of the Public for future generations. I want the GLO and companies like Jobe to look ahead to the consequences of their actions and work together to bring about responsible development.

I am trying to understand why the GLO allowed a 480 acre quarry to be situated in
such an environmentally delicate area so close to such a beautiful park. I am trying to understand how this could happen without any input from the general public. Isn't the General Land Office an agency of the Texas State Government, and as such, an agency of the People of Texas? Shouldn't the GLO have posted a Public Notice and asked for feedback from the People before allowing this travesty to occur?

By allowing Jobe to lease the land without public notice and feedback, the GLO must be held responsible for the destruction of an area that is a natural extension of the Franklin Mountains State Park and what could have been a beautiful trails system from the Mountains to the River.

As I write this, Jobe is bulldozing roads through the land and through the arroyos. Already, the destruction can be seen from the roads.

It is not too late to protest. It is not too late to bring to the attention of
the People just what is happening to their chances of a better life for themselves and their children, and their children's children.

Call you State Representatives. Call the Newspapers and the Television News. Make you views known. Do not let this irresponsible transaction by the State of Texas destroy your chances for a better life for you and for generations to come.

We can still stop the destruction. It's not too late.

I might add that I too have nothing against business. People need homes. Roads need to be built. Services need to be provided. Jobe Materials meets a demand. It should not meet that demand by destroying acreage that should stay in its natural state such as the land next to the State Park that should be developed into a regional park that preserves the Mountain to River Corridor.

Click image to enlarge

What also should be is this: It is time for all of us to think long and hard about how we use natural materials and how much we use as individuals, home and business owners and as a City. Our mountains and deserts are limited. They are not sustainable. Once mined, that portion is gone forever. Just drive down any City of El Paso thoroughfare or see any "zero-scaped" commercial or residential property and note the overuse of large rocks and gravel in the landscaping. It doesn't have to be that way. But as long as it is, and as long as we want to build more than we need for ourselves and for the services we require, we will be gluttons of our environment.

I have two friends who are now selling their house. It is 2639 square feet. It has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The kitchen is huge. The living room has a cathedral ceiling. There's a pool. It is just for the two of them.

We want big box houses, rocked landscapes, roads going every which way. When a study shows that walkability will increase the value of our properties, then El Paso builders say such things are not feasible for El Paso because we don't have a thriving downtown or reliable mass transit. Huh? Neither has anything to do with building walkable communities. The fact is this: builders and developers in El Paso want all the land that they can get their hands on. The City has for too long accommodated them and taxpayers have paid for infrastructure including roads. Roads need materials from Jobe.

I too want responsible development: responsible and sustainable development.

We can still stop the destruction. It is not too late.

It is also not to late for each of us to ask how we contribute to that destruction.

A Desert Without Borders

The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition will hold the first annual desert conference in 2010. They are currently looking for sponsors, speakers:

Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition to sponsor Chihuahuan Desert
Conference, November 12-14, 2010“A Desert without Borders”

The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition (CDEC) is making plans to sponsor the First Annual Chihuahuan Desert Conference on November 12-14, 2010 at the Tech H2O Water Resource Center in E Paso.

The mission of the conference is to promote education about the Chihuahuan Desert and to encourage educators and researchers working in the Chihuahuan Desert to network and share knowledge. The Chihuahuan Desert Educational Coalition is a bridge-building organization that encourages people to come together on behalf of conservation and education of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Kelly Serio, a Park Ranger at Franklin Mountains State Park and a member of the planning committee said that "the goals of the conference include creating opportunities to learn about the Chihuahuan Desert, providing opportunities for people who are doing conservation work or research to network and providing a space and time for researchers to present their findings."

To learn about how to sign up to present a paper or poster at the conference a Chihuahuan Desert Conference Proposal Submission Form is available online at

For more information on the Conference contact Rick LoBello at For sponsorship information contact Judy Ackerman at

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Now Is the Time to Save Castner Range

Castner Range Poppies

Those who are interested in preserving Castner Range as open space will want to attend 3 meetings open to the public beginning tomorrow evening. The meetings are sponsored by the military and deal with issues impacting the preservation of Castner Range.

The Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition has worked tirelessly to secure Castner Range from the military and to preserve it as open space. The efforts of members, Mike Gaglio and Judy Ackerman, were recently written about in a story by Robert Gray for El Paso Inc: To clean and preserve: What's next for Castner Range.

At issue with Castner Range is the existence of unexploded ordnance from many, many years of artillery practice. Before any land can be transferred, it must be "cleaned" of all such "live" ammunition.

Efforts by Gaglio, Ackerman and others have been made through Congressman Reyes' office to convey the land for preservation. A recent update from El Paso Mayor Cook's office of those efforts states:

"There was an appropriations request made by Congressman Reyes for Castner Range. It was made to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee for $300,000 under the Frontera Land Alliance to maintain Castner Range. The project would focus on preserving open space. The House report does include a full request for the project - $300,000. There is no funding included in the Senate version of the bill. The conference report is not available yet but it is my understanding through conversations with Congressman Reyes’ office that there is a high probability of it being included in the final bill.

"Also, there was language included in the House Committee Report for the Defense Authorization bill. The language reads as follows:

'The committee understands that the Department of Defense ceased operations at the Castner Range Complex at Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1971. In testimony, the Army indicated that Castner Range is ‘‘wholly impractical to use for any range activity.'

"The committee is interested in maintaining this land for a conservation purpose. The committee encourages the Department to enter into a lease in furtherance of conveyance with eligible conservation entities."

Here is information about and a schedule for each of the meetings this week:

Wed Oct. 14, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. Restoration Advisory Board (RAB). 9600 Dyer, Northeast Regional Command Police Department.

Draft Agenda includes:

- Wide Area Assessment (WAA) of Castner Range
- Site Inspection (SI) of Former Maneuver Area 1 and 2 Between Loop 375 and
Hueco Mountains

Thurs Oct. 15, 1-5 p.m. Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP) Site Inspection Technical Project Planning Meeting. Embassy Suites, 6100 Gateway East.

The second Technical Project Planning (TPP) meeting for the MMRP of the Former Maneuver Area at Fort Bliss. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss any outstanding issues related to the Historical Records Review report and to discuss the approach that will be used to conduct the field work phase of the Site Inspection. Please contact Mary Franquemont ( or Gene Barber ( to RSVP for the meeting or if you need additional information. TLI Solutions, Inc., (303) 763-7188 (main), (303) 716-3724 (direct), (Agenda attached)

Fri Oct. 16. 1-5 p.m. Wide Area Assessment (WAA) of Castner Range. Radisson Hotel. 1770 Airway Blvd.

The U.S. Army will conduct a demonstration of “wide area assessment” (WAA) technologies to characterize the presence of munitions on Castner Range, Fort Bliss, Texas. WAA technologies rapidly collect large amounts of data about relative densities and distribution of munitions. The WAA field demonstration project will involve deploying multiple airborne and ground-based systems for detecting munitions and munitions related surface features. The Army invites you to participate in a series of Technical Project Planning meetings (TPP) for stakeholders and interested parties to discuss the project. (Enclosures with maps attached)

Judy Ackerman suggests that, if you can't make all of the meetings, then be sure to make the RAB meeting on Wednesday night especially. Next in importance is the Friday afternoon meeting which will deal with actual methods to clean the range.

Ackerman says:

"I believe that we need to ensure a conservation conveyance before the cleaning. Otherwise, clean land is subject to development. Perhaps we can get the Army to commit (in writing) to convey all cleaned land (some is already clean) to the Franklin Mountains State Park."

The Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition is urging all who can to attend the meetings to show support for preserving Castner Range as open space.
Click on image to enlarge

Help Keep Wakeem Teschner Nature Preserve Beautiful

This Saturday is the Great American Clean-up sponsored by the City of El Paso and Keep El Paso Beautiful. One good way to observe the day is to come out and help clean-up the Wakeem Teschner Nature Preserve in Resler Canyon beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturday the 17th.

Mike Gaglio, President of the Frontera Land Alliance, sent out this invitation:

Please join The Frontera Land Alliance and the Loretto Green Team this Saturday, October 17 from 7am to 11am for a clean up of the Wakeem Teschner Nature Preserve in Resler Canyon. This event is being coordinated as an El Paso Pride Day event in collaboration with Keep El Paso Beautiful.

As usual, we will set up in the Currey Adkins Parking lot at the end of Alto Mesa. Click here for a map.

We will bring tools, bags, water and a little bit of shade. Please bring your own gloves, hat, and sunscreen (or maybe a jacket).

If you have questions, you can call Scott Cutler at 747-6668 or 581-6071 through
Thursday evening. After that, please call Mike Gaglio at 490-8601.

Please feel free to pass on this information to friends.

See you there!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jobe Destroys the Mountain to River Corridor

The Lower Sunset Trail destroyed

Stanley Pruet Jobe has destroyed the Lower Sunset Trail and with it the cherished mountain to river corridor. With bulldozed trails he has marked his territory much like many male mammal beasts mark theirs with their odorous urine. His No Trespassing signs are aligned like a barbed wire fence over and around the hills above Arroyo 42 and dip down into what was once scenic walkways of sedimentary rock and animal habitat.

Just this past Monday evening Jobe met with the Borderland Mountain Bike Association who first discovered his clandestine slashings of huge swaths of desert. He told them pointedly that he intends to quarry 480 acres of the land that the State of Texas General Land Office leased to him. He is in the right place where transporting mountainsides of dirt and gravel to developers, road builders and landscapers will be cheap and easy and very profitable.

He did promise to build a new trail for the mountain bikers. He has after all proven himself adept at the art of public relations, the price of doing business. Convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud, Stanley Pruet Jobe served time, was paroled and then pardoned by President Clinton on his last day in office - the same day that the former President pardoned the notorious Marc Rich. Jobe has learned how to curry favor with charities, contribute to politicians and political organizations (including Mayor John Cook) and advertise well with local news publishers.

The Lower Sunset Trail is one of the best loved, often frequented trails with trailheads in the Franklin Mountain States Parks. It has utilized bike trails through beautiful arroyos that begin in the park and flow toward the Rio Grande.

Jobe's extensive bulldozing from the air

A recent aerial surveillance of the destruction by Jobe revealed that Jobe cut into FEMA #42 at Trail Marker #6, the Mountain to River trailhead. At the time of my first post about Jobe's full frontal assault on the arroyos, an effort was being made to convince him to leave alone a portion of Arroyo 41A that straddles the southern General Land Office property line with the Public Service Board. Jobe wouldn't deal.

Of course, the General Land Office is probably just as complicit as Jobe. They leased their land with Planned Mountain Development Zoning on it - the toughest zoning in the City of El Paso. This parcel of land is one of the most pristine in the City and it will now be subjected to the worst possible land use. Arroyos and mountainsides will disappear as Jobe's No Tresspassing markers and bulldozed roads foreshadow. The GLO is exempt from local zoning ordinances and they knew that when they leased the land to Jobe. The right thing would have been to sell the land to State Parks or even a developer. The land then would have come under tight development restrictions which would have enabled the City to regulate the mountain to river corridor on that land.

Jobe had told public officials that he would not do anything with the land next to the State Park for five years. It is not certain why he changed his mind. However, his actions have destroyed the mountain to river corridor.

He currently operates a quarry to the northwest of the area.

GLO leased land owned by the People of the State of Texas

Throughout the summer, my hiking group (the Sunrise Hikers) often enjoyed treks on the Lower Sunset Trail. The beauty of the rock, the hills, the plants and animals added to our adventures. Soon, very soon, unless something is done - Stanley Pruet Jobe will decimate this land as he has done and is still doing around the City.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Parks Department Protects Trees During Construction

The Parks and Recreation Department of the City of El Paso moved quickly recently to protect mature trees at a City construction site. Parks Superintendent Sam Calhoun made sure that stands of mature Afghan pines and mixed deciduous trees were fenced off at the construction of a new Cielo Vista Library at Vista del Valle Park on Hawkins Blvd.

What has happened too often in the past is that the root systems of mature trees are not protected during construction. Contractors too often allowed their heavy machinery to drive over the area of the root zone of mature trees and to park in the same area. Soil is severely compacted this way thus preventing any air to reach the roots. In addition, leaks of fuels and oils from the equipment also would damage the roots. In short time the trees would die.

Urban Forester, Oscar Mestas, was ecstatic over the protection of the trees. In an email distributed this afternoon, Mr. Mestas wrote:

"I want to give major big KUDOS to the El Paso Parks Department. I have been here 18 years and this is a first. Other than what Sun Metro did back in 1998 to protect the State Champion Aleppo Pine tree downtown, I have never seen fencing around mature trees on a construction site. This simple easy step is doing great things to protect the root zones of these trees.This is in my opinion a major milestone. It looks to me that El Paso is making great strides in public tree care."

Kudos to Parks and Recreation led by Nanette Smejkal and to Sam Calhoun.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Scenic Sundays Move to 7 AM

Representative Beto O'Rourke strolling with family at the recent Scenic Sunday "Walk through Time" event

Beginning this Sunday, October 4, Scenic Sundays will run from 7 a.m. until Noon. The new time will be in effect until next spring.

Scenic Sunday is a year-round program sponsored by District 2 of the City of El Paso and the Newman Park Neighborhood Association. Scenic Drive is closed to all vehicular traffic from Richmond to Rim/Robinson during the posted hours. El Paso Police Department officers are on hand to block the road to vehicles and provide security for all participants.

District 2 Representative Susie Byrd says: "Now that the weather is cooler, it's a a great opportunity to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the views of El Paso."

Most Sunday mornings Byrd is found walking along Scenic Drive.