Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ardovino's Begins the 9th Annual Farmers Market

A steady stream of patrons enters the market or heads to the new brunch

The 9th Annual Farmers Market at Ardovino's Desert Crossing began today with good weather and a steady stream of crowds of people. The usual suspects were there: the Texas Master Gardeners, Watson Gardens, Cactus Mary's, Mysterious Horizon Farms and many other food, craft and art vendors.

Brent Pearson was selling trees from his farm: Mexican Plums, Chinese Pistache and other native and adapted species.

The Master Gardeners had huge squash. I asked Joe Faulkner what they were feeding the squash and he just chuckled, "Steer manure."

"Cactus" Mary Fountaine introduced me to her Desert Rain (Chaparral) and Desert Botanical (Tea Tree Oil and Patchouli) soaps.

Marcia Dowdy's cinnamon rolls probably won't last the day at our home. Watson Farms asparagus are on our dinner menu.

Robert Ardovino helps serve freshly made pastries and coffee at the CoffeeStream Trailer

The restaurant now offers a Saturday brunch that begins at 9 a.m. as part of Ardovino's new schedule. The line was also long at the CoffeeStream Trailer.

It was good to see friends and familiar faces. Besides being the farmers market of the region, Ardovino's is a social scene - a social phenomenon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Take a Lesson from Hunt Communities Marketing of Resler Ridge

Bird of paradise and yucca are in bloom now in Resler Canyon

Several of us hiked through Resler Canyon this morning. Scott Cutler, the manager of the Wakeem Teschner Nature Preserve, guided us. (Scott is also the Curator of Exhibits and Events at UTEP's Centennial Museum and the President of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition.) We saw Swifts, Quail, Mockingbirds and Pyrrhuloxia. Yucca, Western Bird of Paradise, White Thorn Acacia and Palo Verde were in full bloom.

Of course, it would not have been so beautiful if several years ago Hunt had succeeded in their plans to develop the canyon. That effort met resistance from the likes of Charlie Wakeem and his neighbors who really began the present day efforts to conserve open space in and around El Paso. Thanks to the generosity of UTEP renowned linguist and UTEP professor (now retired), Richard Teschner, Resler was purchased from Hunt Communities.

Since then, Hunt has developed an area on the north rim of the canyon, known as Resler Ridge. They now market that development as "an open, 45-lot residential community situated on a stately southwestern desert ridge. It overlooks more than 12 acres of gently sloping hillsides and a naturally-preserved arroyo, with the upper Rio Grande valley in the distance." [Emphases mine.]

Hunt now employs scenes of open space and concepts such as sustainability and smart growth as part of their advertising. Indeed they should. Natural open space adds to the value of neighborhoods and homes.

Now if only the owners and developers of Enchanted Hills and Desert Springs north of Transmountain would get the message! Indeed, it seems that some are already. Stanley Jobe preserved Arroyo 41A in his neck of the woods. How about preserving that arroyo as it goes downstream and other natural arroyos as they flow from the beautiful Franklin Mountains.

41A need not be radically reduced and dalloed as City engineers claim. The channel as it passes under the freeway was designed by TxDOT to manage much more flow. Retention pond or more homes and a preserved arroyo? Take a lesson from Hunt. Add value to homes that overlook "gently sloping hillsides and a naturally-preserved arroyo. . . "

Garden at Moor Children's Home To Be Dedicated Saturday

Click to enlarge

The Heinz Duerkop Hummingbird and Butterfly Habitat at the Lee and Beulah Moor Children's Home will be dedicated on Saturday, June 5, at 10:00 a.m.

The habitat has been designed and built by the El Paso Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico in cooperation with the El Paso Cactus and Rock Club, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, Franklin High School Junior ROTC, Ft. Bliss Sergeants Major Academy, the Franklin High School Business and Professional Class and Sam Jensen, Eagle Scout. Work has been going on for more than a year.

The project includes two garden areas with seating. The gardens are designed as labyrinths - spiral paths based on Native American tradition that lead to the seating areas. Native plants, shrubs and trees that attract hummingbirds and butterflies have been planted and are blooming. A solar powered fountain provides a quiet background sound for visitors. Expansion and construction of an arroyo will help control water runoff on the property. The hummingbird and butterfly habitat and an earlier cactus garden have helped the children's home reduce the amount of grass requiring water and maintenance.

Heinz Duerkop died in a bicycle/vehicle crash last fall. His wife, Margo, and friends in El Paso and his native Germany provided financial contributions to create the Hummingbird and Butterfly Habitat as a lasting memorial commemorating his love of native plants and nature.

Mrs. Duerkop and their son will be at the dedication ceremonies.

Virginia Morris, president of the El Paso Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico spearheaded this effort. She coordinated the design and development and received donations of plants, construction materials and monetary donations for the project.

Protect Otero Mesa from Oil and Gas Development

Otero Mesa is an ecologically sensitive and endangered area just east-northeast of El Paso. It is directly east of White Sands, south of Alamogordo and the Lincoln National Forest and north of Dell City. It is west of the Guadalupe Mountains and the Brokeoff Mountains below which sits Dell City. Otero Mesa sits on a large aquifer and it is a target for oil and gas development even though there is probably not much of either in the area and exploration would extremely damage this pristine land.

Since 2001, the Southwest Environmental Center has been leading the fight to prevent any oil and gas exploration. Kevin Bixby, the Executive Director of the Center, recently sent out this urgent message asking for action before next Tuesday, June 1:

Ask the BLM to protect Otero Mesa from oil and gas development
As part of its “Tri-County” planning process, the Bureau of Land Management is crafting a management plan for Otero, Sierra, and Doña Ana Counties (NM) that covers Otero Mesa. The agency is accepting public comments until June 1 on how oil and gas should be addressed in the plan. Please take a moment to ask the BLM to protect Otero Mesa by closing it to oil and gas development.
It gets a little convoluted, but here is the situation. The BLM has proposed opening up 90% of Otero Mesa--one of the largest remaining desert grasslands in North America--to oil and gas development. The original BLM plan was shot down by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2009. Now the BLM wants to defer all decisions about oil and gas on Otero Mesa until some later date--even whether to close areas that they know should not be drilled, and even though it is in the middle of a big planning process that will determine how Otero Mesa will be managed for the next 20 years.
By contrast, SWEC and other conservation groups have proposed protecting approximately 600,000 acres of Otero Mesa as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, where oil and gas development would not be allowed. (We also support establishment of a national monument for the same purpose, but that is a designation only the President, not the BLM, can make.)

Send your comments to:
Attn: Dwayne Sykes (BLM, Las Cruces, NM)

Suggested message:

Dear Mr. Sykes,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Tri-County Resource Management Plan. I urge BLM to close Otero Mesa and other special areas in the Tri-County area to oil and gas development. Otero Mesa has too many other values that would be threatened by drilling, such as grasslands, wildlife, water, wilderness, recreational opportunities, and important Native American and historic sites. I urge the BLM to close Otero Mesa to drilling and establish an Otero Mesa Grassland ACEC, as proposed by conservationists.

You can see the same message online.

The video above is a bit dated (2007). For more updated info, go here and get to know the Southwest Environmental Center.

The Otero Mesa may be in New Mexico - but it is also part of our region of the Chihuahuan Desert. What happens there affects El Paso. Please take a moment to send a message to the BLM office in Las Cruces.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thank You, Stanley Jobe

The Public Service Board unanimously voted to allow CEO, Ed Archuleta, to sign an access easement with the Texas General Land Office for a portion of the land leased by Jobe Materials. That small area includes Arroyo 41A as it leaves the State Park. In essence, it preserves a very beautiful part of that arroyo. (There is one hitch: the GLO wants a $2 million dollar bond for insurance. The fact is that PSB has such protection and, the motion to accept the easement also asked Mr. Archuleta to negotiate with the GLO to waive that requirement. Let's hope that works out and we aren't back to some square one.)

Here's how the deal went down: Representative Ann Morgan Lilly (thank you, thank you, thank you) simply asked Mr. Jobe if he would grant such an easement. Mr. Jobe did not hesitate. He was not reticent. He did not have to be cajoled or offered a quid pro quo. He simply said "yes". His motivation could have been the price of doing business or corporate PR and good corporate citizenship - but it really seems to be the case that he did it because he too wanted to preserve that arroyo. He did not have to make such an agreement nor did he have to pay for the surveying to create the easement out of his own pocket - but he did.

What he did sets the standard and raises the bar for all of those who will be developing down stream. If Stanley Jobe can preserve the arroyo in its natural state, why can't everyone else?The Mountain to River Trail preserved in toto will be a huge asset to the City of El Paso.

But there is more to thank Mr. Jobe for. I don't know the exact current figures, but what I'm about ready to say I'm sure is consistent with any statistics. Jobe adds millions of dollars to the El Paso economy each year. He employs hundreds of people. I'm sure his sales figures must be in the hundreds of millions - which is a boost to our economy and a help to our government services through taxes he pays and sales and other taxes his customers and employees pay. Because he has strategically placed his mining operations in areas where El Paso is expanding, he can be competitive and offer materials at a reasonable price. (A large part of the price of rock, gravel, cement, etc. is transportation. He has minimized this.)

I will continue to write that tearing into the mountains at the rate that we are is not sustainable, desirable nor good. But, as I've said before, do we point a finger at Mr. Jobe who fills a demand, or do we do some sober reflection about our demands? Sustainable living isn't going to start with severely restricting quarrying. Sustainability begins with each and every one of us living, planning, deciding more sustainably. If I want the freedom to drive my own car on highways that are in good repair and can accommodate all of us who practice that same freedom . . . if I want to live in a bigger house or build better schools or more places to shop . . . then I had better accept the fact that my demand must be met in a free market economy.

I do think that we, as individuals, businesses and governments, can live more conservatively and that we should in order to be good stewards of our environment and ecosystem. I do think that there are wiser choices in building, developing, engineering, landscaping, etc. and that El Paso is only now beginning to become aware of these better practices.

If Mr. Jobe engages in unfair trade or violates environmental rules, then that is one thing. (I'm not saying that he is.) I do think that it is a huge stretch to raise money for a Commissioner whose agency grants his company leases - it's an ethical problem for Jobe and an ethical problem for Jerry Patterson no matter what the law says or permits. Perhaps that is the price of doing business - but it is also fodder for self-reflection and I say this knowing I have a plethora of things to do some soul searching about just on my own.

The main point is that Jobe Materials is creating wealth that benefits all of us. If we are willing to live with less (and, again, I think that we should personally contemplate the morality of our lifestyles), then the demand on our natural resources and the environmental cost will be less - not because we compelled someone to make it so for us, but because we were willing to make it so ourselves.

I often quote the 18th Century American Quaker, John Woolman: “May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.” I could paraphrase that and say: "May we look upon our treasures, our houses, our cars, all of our throwaways, and try whether the seeds of environmental destruction have nourishment in these our possessions." Afterall, we are responsible for our own behavior. We don't need scapegoats.

This is also why I like the approach of Quaker Earthcare Witness. It is "a network of Friends (Quakers) in North America and other like-minded people who are taking spirit led action to address the ecological and social crises of the world from a spiritual perspective . . . While QEW supports reforms in laws, technology, education, and institutions, its primary calling is to facilitate transformation of humans' attitudes, values, identity, and worldview that underlie much of the environmental destruction going on in the world today."

One last word about today's PSB meeting. Board member, Dr. Rick Bonart, pointed out that 3 of the 7 principle agenda items were about open space. "El Paso," he said, "has come a long way."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

PSB to Vote on Access Easement over Arroyo 41A

Arroyo 41A, Mountain to River Trail, with boundaries of Jobe lease in yellow
Click to enlarge

There are two important meetings tomorrow: the regular meeting of the Public Service Board and the general meeting of the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

Once Arroyo 41A leaves the mountain at the Franklin Mountains State Park, a small portion of it goes through the General Land Office area now leased to Jobe Materials for quarrying. Of course, 41A is the key mountain to river trail identified in the City of El Paso Open Space master plan. Through the efforts of El Paso City Council Representative, Ann Morgan Lilly, Mr. Jobe has agreed to preserve that portion of Arroyo 41A. The Public Service Board is scheduled to vote on signing an access easement from the General Land Office that will preserve the arroyo tomorrow (May 26) at its regular meeting at 9 a.m. in the Public Service Board Meeting Room at 1154 Hawkins Boulevard.

"Palisades Nature Preserve Park"
Click to enlarge

Another item on the PSB agenda tomorrow will be the development of a Joint Use Agreement with the City of El Paso for management of the Palisades Nature Preserve Park. This is the newly acquired property on the southwestern tip of the Franklins with an entrance off of Robinson as it curves toward Scenic Drive. Most of you know the place. The idea is to share the management with the City of El Paso Parks and Recreation Department. However, there is some concern that the Parks and Rec does not have the expertise and that PSB should manage it alone with the help of experienced hiker/mountain biker volunteers. The Billy Rogers Arroyo Park is adjacent to Palisades and is under Parks and Rec. However, if it weren’t for the Environmental Club at Loretto Academy and Keep El Paso Beautiful, nothing would be done to maintain and manage the park.

Parks and Recreation is strapped with a tight budget now. At best, they could merely add Palisades to their inventory and nothing more. Currently, the trails in the Palisades are well-established and could be maintained with the help from local bicycle and hiking groups.

PSB has a solid record of performance when it comes to management. There is no reason to share the management of the Palisades with the Parks and Recreation Department which can't handle that now or for the foreseeable future anyway.

Finally, the local El Paso chapter of the Sierra Club is meeting tomorrow in the auditorium at the Downtown Main Public Library. Texas Parks and Wildlife Superintendent John Moses will speak about the Franklin Mountains State Park - Present and Future.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Will Wildlife Corridors Be Part of TxDOT's Long Range Plans?

As part of its effort to update its Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan, TxDOT is holding a second series of public meetings across the State. The El Paso meeting will be this coming Monday, May 24th from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the El Paso Greater Chamber of Commerce, 10 Civic Center Plaza.

Here is the announcement that they emailed:

The El Paso District will hold a second open-house public meeting on Monday, May 24th at the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce.

As previously noted, we at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) are updating our Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan, and are asking for your help in developing this blueprint for how Texas addresses its future transportation needs.

This plan will provide a framework for developing and implementing a multi-modal transportation system through 2035, including highways, rail, water ports, airports, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, pipelines and Intelligent Transportation Systems. The Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan is the foundation for many planning efforts underway at TxDOT.

Next Monday's meeting is designed to give you an informal venue for viewing informational videos and exhibits outlining the statewide initiative. Participants may ask questions and provide written comments on the direction of the plan is scheduled to be completed and ready for public hearing and Commission adoption this fall.

We hope you will be able to participate in this important planning process. Your input is vital for TxDOT to fulfill its mission of providing safe, effective and efficient movement of people and goods throughout Texas.

Please let your co-workers and friends know about the meeting, as well.

Again, the open-house public meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 24th from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the El Paso Greater Chamber of Commerce which is located at 10 Civic Center Plaza.

To read about the Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan and how you can get involved go to:

For more information on where and when open-house meetings will be held, go to:

And if you would like to receive future updates on the Plan, please sign up at:

Ecologist, Kevin von Finger asks: "Shouldn't this plan include 'transportation' for wildlife - wildlife corridors?

Comments were made about such a corridor at a recent meeting in El Paso regarding the Trans Mountain Road expansion. The answer that TxDOT made was that it was too expensive. Texas Parks and Wildlife Urban Wildlife Biologist, Lois Balin, has not heard differently as of today.

Perhaps the Monday meeting will be a good time for many to re-raise the issue of wildlife corridors not just along Trans Mountain but throughout the State of Texas.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Puga Addresses Packed, Passionate Breakfast Meeting

Mr. Roberto Puga

At her public breakfast this morning, Representative Ann Morgan Lilly hosted Roberto Puga, the ASARCO Site Custodial Trustee. The meeting was marked by controversy and passion on all sides and what I am about to post is only a snapshot.

I do hope that readers will comment below. I certainly would like to get the views of those who have been involved with this issue much longer than I have. I wasn't even aware that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese owns the cemetery at ASARCO. One of my big concerns (and probably the concern of only a few others) is to preserve that sacred site.

Mr. Puga was very knowledgeable and very articulate. He understands his fiduciary duty to clean up the site with the money the bankruptcy court awarded for the clean-up. (Some at the meeting implied that the City had set the clean-up cost. I understand that the City was at the table during the bankruptcy proceedings but had no input. Instead the City paid around $100,000 in legal fees to keep ASARCO from re-opening again.) He is also keenly aware of his duty to sell the site.

The differences in opinion today centered around how well the clean-up will be or can be given the funds available. The contention of many is that the site requires far more remediation than scheduled before any demolition of structures may occur. Since it is now established fact that ASARCO illegally burned demilitarized hazardous wastes mainly from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (a fact established by the work of Heather McMurray), the question arises as to how much of the residue from that waste will remain and will get into the ground water. Those, who contend that the wastes are indeed substantial and have already caused harm to humans and the environment, do not want to see the main smelter smoke stack torn down. The fear is that demolishing the chimney will further spread the toxic residues already present.

Those who want the clean-up to begin as soon as possible want to tear the smoke stack down as soon as possible and get on with the process of remedy so that the land can be utilized for other purposes. The area can be occupied by commercial interests but not by residences, schools, hospitals or daycare centers. The $52million dollars that Mr. Puga has to work with can only contain the damage - it can never fully clean-up the site of all of the hazardous wastes.

I have often heard the contention that the smoke stack should be torn down so that it can never be employed again for any industrial purpose. However, in answering a question about this concern, Mr. Puga said that it could never be used again and, in fact, would have to be torn down in order for any industry to take advantage of the site.

Those who want to move the process along more quickly were encouraged by one attendee to write the EPA and the TCEQ. A sign-up sheet was passed around by someone wanting the process to move faster.

However fast it moves, Mr. Puga says that the time line is around 5 years.

There were those who accused Puga of not remediating enough and those who said that he was not moving quickly enough. The bottom line is that he says he has made no decision on the chimney yet. Throughout the process he answered questions calmly, amiably and without ever becoming flustered or rude. He kept his calm. I for one am glad that he is being deliberate.

I also don't understand why the stack can't be tested unless, as some contend, it must not be and it must be torn down quickly to hide any evidence of more insidious contamination that might keep commercial interests from going ahead faster. (I am always leery when I see developers and reps from Mr. Jobe's office present at these things.)

I'm also very concerned that toxic run-off can't be contained and that contamination of ground and river water is inevitable and indeed has already gone on for a long time. Has anyone tested the cotton and pecans in the lower valley for some nasty, toxic compounds? How's the honey bees make from those cotton flowers?

$52million dollars can only buy so much. The clean-up leaves much to be desired for sure. But can anything more be done?

To make an understatement, having ASARCO in El Paso was unsustainable from the get-go. Once poisons from the military were burned there, El Pasoans then and for a long time to come will be in harms way. There was one man present who said that he is in pain all of the time from having worked at ASARCO. Did the bankruptcy court address the medical debts he and others have most certainly incurred?

After the meeting, three of us began to explore the arroyo on the other side of I-10 from the ASARCO plant - but land owned by ASARCO nevertheless. A number of El Paso storm water culverts flow into this arroyo and there is running water or stagnant water in several places. If indeed pollution from the smoke stacks settled in this area, then the chemicals in that pollution has already run down the Rio Grande.

For more information, visit Recasting the Smelter and the epgtlo blog.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mystery Person

Okay, Elpasonaturally readers. Can you name the mystery person in the photo and say why he is important?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mayor Cook Meets with Jerry Patterson

So, while Texas Land Commissioner, Jerry Patterson, was in El Paso on Monday for his big fundraiser hosted by pal, Stanley Jobe, he met with Mayor John Cook and other El Paso officials. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss communication with the General Land Office. The context for the meeting was a suggestion made by the Open Space Advisory Board to write a letter to Commissioner Patterson encouraging better communication especially when it comes to leasing critical naturally-important property such as that leased by Jobe near Avispa Canyon and Arroyo 41 A next to the Franklin Mountains State Park.

Following that meeting, Mayor Cook sent this letter to Patterson:

The letter is a well-crafted, tactful and champions El Paso’s environmental interests. In very polite terms, the Mayor firmly suggests that Mr. Patterson would do himself and El Paso a huge disservice not to consider El Paso's interests and and advises the GLO to be more open and forthcoming.

That letter speaks volumes about Mayor Cook's leadership and stewardship.

Speaking of 41A, Representative Ann Lilly met with Mr. Jobe and Mr. Ed Archuleta of the PSB this past Monday and agreed on the survey conducted by Cutts Land Surveying Inc. that Jobe had paid for so that there can be a buffer between the quarry and the important mountain to river arroyo. Apparently Mr. Jobe spent some valuable time with Commissioner Patterson to get the document moved forward. Representative Lilly calls it a win.

The issue of accepting an easement designated by the survey will be on the Public Service Board's May 26th agenda.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jobe To Host El Paso Fundraiser for Jerry Patterson

Tonight Stanley Jobe will host a fundraiser for pal, Jerry Patterson, the rootin' tootin' gun-totin' Texas Land Commissioner. It will be at the War Eagles Air Museum.

One industry insider told me that Jobe and Patterson are buddies and that is why Jobe doesn't have to go through the usual channels to get leases. I don't know if that is true but one wonders how ethical it is for Patterson to take money from the man who comes looking for State property to lease for quarrying. Certainly Jobe's raising money for Patterson and Patterson taking it is a big conflict at best. It's a win-win for these two folks. Meanwhile, our community has several of our greatest natural assets slowly taken from us.

This blog has recently pointed out that Jobe has been a big contributor to Patterson's campaigns and has even flown Patterson and an entourage to his ranch to discuss leases.

It is not surprising that Patterson's GLO leased property to Stanley Jobe's company that abuts the Franklin Mountains State Park and contains critical mountain to river corridors previously identified by the City of El Paso as part of its Open Space Master Plan. Patterson, along with Governor Rick Perry, continues to back offshore drilling even as the now infamous BP oil spill turns toward Texas. (Perry, by the way, packs a .380 pistol while jogging and recently killed a coyote within the Austin City Limits. He's rootin' tootin' gun totin' too.)

Patterson's opponent for Land Commissioner is Hector Uribe who has a solid record of public service and environmental advocacy. In fact, he wants the General Land Office to "become a major catalyst in moving Texas into the 21st Century renewable energy economy, by aggressively promoting wind and solar energy." He wants to provide incentives to private interests to lease state lands to develop renewable energy sources. Such a plan he suggests "will bring additional revenue to our cash-strapped neighborhood public schools, spur economic activity in Texas, and contribute to the production of more clean energy."

Apparently rootin' tootin' Jerry heard about Uribe's plan and adopted it as his own . . . sort of.

When I learn more about the fundraiser this evening, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I suggest that you go to Uribe's campaign web site, read through it, get on his e-mailing list and contribute.