Good morning honorable County Commissioners and Judge Anthony Cobos.
I speak as a board member of the Frontera Land Alliance and a frequent hiker in the Franklin Mountains. Frontera’s mission is to protect in perpetuity a network of lands in our region chosen for their natural and cultural values. I want to discuss briefly three reasons why I believe it is important to preserve Castner Range.
First, these majestic mountains are a deep part of the natural and cultural heritage of El Pasoans. I came to El Paso 7 years ago and fell in love with the rugged desert landscape. I did and still do find the Mountains of Castner Range breath-taking. There is a sense of wonder and mystery that I feel when I drive on Trans-mountain Road and look up at these ancient peaks. They are a part of what gives me pride in our city. If I ask other El Pasoans what they think of these mountains, their eyes light up as they talk.
Second, preserving Castner Range is an investment in El Paso’s future health and prosperity. I believe that, as in the words of the noted biologist and author, David Orr (1994), “climate stability, the resilience and productivity of natural systems, the beauty of the natural world, and biological diversity” are critical to the welfare of humankind. We take an important step in support of these elements in keeping Castner Range wild.
Lastly, we demonstrate our values and priorities as a city when we choose to preserve a part of the landscape that is such a treasure. Visitors to our city and potential new residents take note of this and sense a deep commitment to meet the human need for something beyond growth and development, elements that are important, but something more that I call the need to see and experience wilderness. The human spirit yearns to see the natural world. This is what preserving Castner Range is about. Great thanks to Commissioner Dan Haggerty for his proposal to preserve Castner Range.
The $300,000 appropriated for preservation must be obligated by the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2010) or it expires.
The current hold-up is the lack of certainty about the status of
. Is Castner Range excess, surplus or other status? The conservation conveyance law says that “surplus” land may be transferred. When the Army does not need land, the first step is to declare it “excess” to the needs of the Army. At that time, other Federal agencies that are interested have an option on the land. If no Federal agencies are interested, then the land is declared “surplus” to Federal needs and State and Local entities have an option to the land. At that time, the land would go to General Services Administration (GSA) for disposal. Castner Range
Although it has been declared "excess" (see document), that status may have expired. If so, it may be necessary to start over to declare Castner as excess.