Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Back when I was a boy growing up in El Paso, KTSM produced a show that I believe was called "Look to the Mountain". El Paso icon, Conrey Bryson, hosted the Christmas Star program each year when the star on the mountain was lit for Christmastide. That was when the star meant something besides an energy burning fetish and the sacred cow of El Paso politicians. Famed American artist/author and El Paso resident, Tom Lea, read from his essay, "Old Mount Franklin". Lea wrote this inscription to Bryson when the essay was published in 1968: "There is a deep happiness in sharing this old town and this old mountain with friends like you." All of us who have or who now treasure the mountain and enjoy its trails, ridge and arroyos, know that deep happiness.
"Above the Rio Grande's ribbon of green, forming one side of the portal of the Pass of the North, Mount Franklin is a presence and a personality. Standing above us, above the build of our town, Mount Franklin is the landmark and the trademark of where we live."
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Mr. Tolbert, I want to thank you for your call this morning to ask about the comment period for the environmental assessment for the Loop 375 Transmountain project. As I explained, the document has not been released by the Federal Highway Administration for further processing. In fact, we are still addressing comments and the document that you have was for coordination among state agencies and the Federal Highway Administration. Until FHWA releases the document, it is considered to be a confidential work product.
I don't want to put you on the spot and ask outright who has copies, but obviously, it is important to us that the public understand that the copy that was put into circulation by some unknown person/agency is not an official copy and is still being revised. If you could let the people you are aware of know that a revised copy will circulate later, when it is officially released for further processing, I would really appreciate it. The process I explained in an earlier email will still be followed, once we are authorized to release the environmental assessment. A legal notice will be published twice, 30 days and 10 days before the hearing, to notify the public that the document is available for review and purchase at the district office. The hearing would be held, with an opportunity for public comment at the hearing after the formal presentation of the information on the project. A ten day comment period would follow the hearing. Letters are mailed out to the elected officials, property owners and interested public letting them know the same information that appears in the legal notice for the hearing.
Thank you and you know how to reach me if you have any questions. I appreciate your help!
Advance Transportation Planning
TxDOT - El Paso District
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
"The engineering, social, economic, and environmental investigations conducted thus far on the proposed project indicate that it will result in no significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and that a FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) is anticipated."
Much more later.
Below is an informative piece which is currently posted on ILoveParks.com, a site developed by Rick LoBello the author of the article. It was also posted at the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition site which set off alarm bells at EPWU/PSB, an organization represented in the membership of this independent non-profit organization. Mr. LoBello's essay shows why protecting the Transmountain corridor is not just a matter of scenery:
Largest urban park in the US threatened by urban sprawl
by Rick LoBello
El Paso, Texas. December 5, 2010. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department protects the heart of the Franklin Mountains range as part of the country’s largest urban park, Franklin Mountains State Park. One of the greatest challenges in protecting the park and its biodiversity is the ongoing destruction of the desert by urban sprawl developments in the surrounding lowland desert habitat. Over the past 100 years nearly the entire foothills natural landscape has been destroyed by developments from the historic Rio Grande and the downtown area for nearly 10 miles north towards New Mexico on both the east and west sides of the range.
The Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition has a grassroots effort underway to protect Public Service Board administered public lands as natural open space along the west side of the range along Trans Mountain Road and the Fort Bliss Castner Range in northeast El Paso. On October 6, 2010 the El Paso City Council voted to direct city staff to rezone 900 acres included in the Northwest Master Plan near the boundary of Franklin Mountains State Park so that they cannot be developed.
The El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board, of which the Mayor of El Paso is a member, passed a resolution stating they would pursue all available remedies of law in response to the City Councils action because of their concern that rezoning the land could kill a $80 million highway project in the same area which along with housing developments will end up destroying the last remaining wild and scenic corridor in this part of the Franklin Mountains. The PSB believes that there is no cause for concern highlighting how they have been proactive in protecting the mountains including the transfer of “nearly 8,000 acres to expand the Franklin Mountains State Park.” They also state that there is no mountainside development in the Northwest Master Plan; it’s all on the hillside lower elevation areas and that they are” leaving open space as a buffer between development and the state park.”
The issue was addressed again by City Planning Commission on November 18 when they voted unanimously not to recommend rezoning the Scenic Transmountain Corridor as Natural Open Space.
Many people in El Paso believe that if current efforts to protect the lower elevations of the Franklin Mountains fail the City of El Paso will be hard pressed to live up to an important goal in its Sustainability Plan adopted on September 15, 2009 to “achieve international recognition for successful preservation of our Chihuahuan desert heritage for all time” and many species that depend on these lowland areas will be displaced or die when their habitat is destroyed.
Most biologists familiar with the Chihuahuan Desert understand the importance of protecting all elevations of the eco-region, not just the rugged mountain slopes and peaks. In El Paso many believe that as long as you protect the mountain vistas and have a park like Franklin Mountains State Park protecting 37 square miles of the higher elevations, protection of lower elevations is not a concern. This misconception if far from the truth since many desert species of animals and plants survive only in lower elevations while others with large home ranges need habitat at more than one elevation. For example, in the City of El Paso burrowing owls appear to be declining in numbers because of all the new housing developments being constructed across the city. These owls require low elevation areas where they can nest underground in abandoned burrows dug by mammals or if soil conditions allow in burrows they dig themselves.
In northeast El Paso the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition is partnering with the Frontera Land Alliance to protect the Castner Range at Fort Bliss. To help call attention to the importance of protecting this area from proposed developments the Coalition since 2007 has been sponsoring an annual Poppies Celebration in March on the grounds of the El Paso Museum of Archaeology in the heart of the Castner Range. The area is well known as one of the best spots to enjoy the Mexican poppies that bloom in this area.
Last year Congressman Silvestre Reyes secured funding from the Appropriations Bills in the amount of $300,000 to fund a Castner Range Conservation Conveyance Study aimed at preserving Castner Range for conservation purposes. This study will facilitate a conservation conveyance which is a first step for transferring responsibility of 11 square mile Castner Range to the State of Texas. This project will help preserve open space in the El Paso area and supports efforts to expand the Franklin Mountains State Park.
Achieving successful preservation of the Chihuahuan Desert within city limits and the surrounding region with the help of researchers and conservation educators will require the commitment of a wide range of stakeholders including City and County land management authorities, Texas and New Mexico state governments, private landowners and the surrounding community.
There are many reasons why protecting El Paso's Trans Mountain Scenic Corridor is so important to protecting Franklin Mountains State Park. Here are ten of them.1. The lowland desert areas surrounding Franklin Mountains State Park provide habitat for many species of animals and plants. To survive in this part of the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion many species require these lower elevations for food and protection. Other species require habitat at both low and high elevations.
2. As urban sprawl creeps closer to the boundaries of the park the area's nesting birds will be threatened by domestic cats that many people in El Paso allow to roam freely in their neighborhoods.
3. The new TX-Dot road project and related developments along the three mile corridor on the west side of Trans Mountain Road will destroy the last wild scenic view in this part of the city important to the quality of life for thousands of El Pasoans currently enjoying the area.
4. The loss of the last wild scenic view in West El Paso will hurt the city's ability to expand ecotourism important to the entire region.
5. Campers visiting the Tom Mays section of Franklin Mountains State Park plus those who will someday be able to camp out on backcountry trails will be affected by both light and noise pollution associated with developments included in the Northwest Master Plan.
6. Threatened Texas horned lizards living in the lowland areas of the Franklin Mountains will lose critical habitat which could eventually lead to extinction of the species in this part of Texas.
7. Golden eagles and other raptors in the Franklin Mountains will lose important lowland hunting and nesting areas.
8. Mule deer will not have as many lowland areas to use as part of their overall range important to seasonal food production and protection from extreme temperatures during winter snow storms.
9. Javelina or collared peccaries appear to be expanding their range in this area and developments associated with the Northwest Master Plan will hurt their chances of finding the habitat they need to successfully establish themselves in this part of El Paso.
10. The potential for any future efforts to restore extirpated species like desert bighorn and Mexican wolves to this part of the Franklin Mountains will be impaired by urban sprawl developments.
Toursof the of Archaeology El Paso Museum
for Families with Elementary-School-Age Children Tours
At 1:00 pm on Sundays, January 9, 23 and 30, 2011
At 1:00 pm on Wednesdays: January 12 and 19, 2011
These free one-hour, docent-led tours of the El Paso Museum of Archaeology will introduce participants to the people of El Paso’s ancient past from the Paleoindians who lived here 14,000 years ago to the Mescalero Apache people of today. Visitors will also see prehistoric artifacts from several regions of México. Reservations are not necessary but contact the museum if you plan to attend, 915-755-4332; firstname.lastname@example.org. To enjoy the gardens, wear suitable clothing, shoes, and sun protection.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
The first image above is the Scenic Transmountain Corridor as seen from Gas Line Road. The view at the bottom is that same corridor showing development per the PSB's Northwest Master Plan. It was created using Google Earth and then superimposing development based on the Master Plan on top of the Google Earth image.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Initiative Petition Form
Initiative Petition Form2
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Now develop and add traffic and here's your new view of the "scenic" corridor:
Now, here is the Scenic Corridor and the un-Scenic Corridor side by side: