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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Transmountain: Done

Here's a sad message from Lawrence Gibson, the Chair of the El Paso Group of the Sierra Club:


On October 23 the Environmental Law Office of Sierra Club national in San Francisco finally recommended dismissal of El Paso Group’s lawsuit against TxDot and the Federal Highway Administration over their overblown plans to expand Transmountain Road in Northwest El Paso. If approved as expected by SC leadership, this would mark the end of a 20-month effort by El Paso’s environmental community to get back to TxDot’s original 4-lanes-at-grade road improvement plan for this once-pristine drive past Franklin Mountains State Park and over the crest of the mighty Franklins.

The Executive Committee of your El Paso Group, already $38K in debt to its lawyers, decided in July to pull the plug on the lawsuit. The litigation has been fraught with delays, taking almost two months for approval in San Francisco to begin, with a three month delay by the Austin judge on our motion for a temporary injunction to halt construction, and finally another three-month delay in granting our wishes to halt legal action.

Fortunately, Lowerre, Frederick, et al;, our Austin lawyers, agreed to “stop the clock” in July after your Excom, intimidated by a debt that might take 15 or 20 years to pay off, felt it was hopeless to continue after the judge denied our request for an injunction to stop construction.

In retrospect (Hindsight is always perfect, yes?) we can say, even the lawyers say, that we got a “bad” judge, one unlikely to go up against the development community. Of course, the idea of filing in Austin was in hopes of getting our case heard in a more environmentally sensitive court.

There were several good things to come of this debilitating lawsuit effort. We actually did a terrific job of fundraising! For the first time the Rio Grande Chapter did a special fundraising mailing targeted just to El Paso. This netted over 30 donations, some for hundreds of dollars. Unfortunately they averaged about $20; not nearly enough to cover our five-figure debt.

We also inadvertently discovered a “high-value” donor in El Paso committed to the Lone Star Chapter (That’s the rest of Texas, folks). This person, a non-member, gave our top gift of $5000 and has promised to change donations to El Paso. We also were heartened by major gifts from our coalition partner Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and our Rio Grande Chapter overseers.

The national Sierra Club was, unfortunately for El Paso, MIA on this lawsuit, which was of course a civic effort. Its Bloomberg millions are committed to the transition away from coal. Efforts are already underway to find ways to replace that money when it is “used up.”

Many thanks to all of the donors to this cause, individual as well as institutional. The El Paso Group of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club appreciates your support! 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Great Hiking Weather

With great weather and the promise that our days will cool off even more beginning tomorrow, hiking events are in high gear. Again, just check out Celebration of Our Mountains,  El Paso Hiking Group, GeoBetty, Guadalupe Mountains National Park Meetup Group,  Las Cruces & El Paso Adventurists, Peak Fitness Challenge,  High Desert Hikers and Las Cruces Hiking Meetup.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is really popping with great events. Check them out. Public Information Officer Karl Pierce says, “I am trying to get all of our interpretive programs onto our Meetup page (www.meetup.com/Guadalupe-Mountains-National-Park-Meetup-Group/) , Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Guadalupe.Mountains/) and official web site (www.nps.gov/GUMO/).” Be sure also to visit Peak Fitness Challenge.

There’s another Celebration of Our Mountains beginners hike tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. beginning in NW El Paso. Led by Master Naturalist Tommy Young, you will see some good fossils primarily of prehistoric cephalopods. More information here.

If you are a dog lover and you are looking for a furry hiking buddy, mark your calendar now for Happy Tails and Happy Trails on Saturday, November 3rd beginning at 9 a.m. at the Tom Mays Unit. I’ve posted the info for this on my neighborhood association blog. Be sure to click on the image to enlarge and read all of the information. We just have to find Lambert (and his buds) a home. This event is yet another great brain-child of Park Ranger Adrianna Weickhardt. Kudos, Adrianna!
This Saturday if you aren’t out hiking anywhere else, come to the dedication of the Lost Dog Trail Head (also known as the Redd Road Trail Head). (Map) The Borderland Mountain Bike Association and benefactors have completed improving the trail head with gravel, parking spots and native Honey Mesquites donated by the West Texas Urban Forestry Council. Take time to hike or just be at the ribbon cutting ceremony from Noon to 12:30 p.m. Many of you know this trail head well. What you may not know is that it takes you into one of the very arroyos which many have fought to preserve in the Northwest Master Plan. Keeping that arroyo – that critical riparian corridor – natural is very important not just to environmentalists but to El Pasoans who love and take advantage of the recreational opportunities of our outdoors.  You can get a sense of the interconnectivity of these trails by viewing mountain bike maps and GeoBetty.com maps.

Remember that Scenic Sunday at  Scenic Drive has changed now to its fall/winter hours.  The Drive is closed to motorists from 7 until Noon each Sunday but open to runners, walkers, bicyclists, etc. This coming Sunday, follow Rosario Walton on a backwards walk beginning at 7 a.m. Details here. “The challenge,” according to Rosario “is to walk the length of Scenic Drive backwards (2miles about 45 minutes) and return to staring point in a normal walking fashion.” Backwards walking, a huge sport in Japan and a growing interest in many European countries, has physical and mental benefits. Do watch out for rampant, errant Chihuahuas!

Finally, the new High Desert Hikers of Las Cruces have some great hikes and field trips throughout the week – all based on level of ability. To learn more and see their schedule, you need to register. So visit the site and take a look.

Excelsior!

Jim H. Tolbert
Publisher, Elpasonaturally and the El Paso Hiker
Leading the way for sustainable living in the El Paso Southwest


Get your friends and family outdoors in this beautiful part of the Chihuahuan Desert. Forward this message to them and suggest that they subscribe.
This email message is written and published by Jim Tolbert who takes sole responsibility for the content of the letter. To subscribe or unsubscribe, just reply to jimhtolbert@elp.rr.com and say “Unsubscribe Hikers”.

"A million tax-free dollars would probably tempt me to divulge your email address.
However, know that your privacy is safe with me . . . Nobody has offered me the million yet.”

The El Paso Hiker E-Letter Volume 2, No. 30, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rally to Put Kids First Tuesday 4 p.m.

Read Eliot Shapleigh's important message at ReformEPISD.org

Plan to attend the rally at 4 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, October 23rd) at the EPISD building, 6531 Boeing Drive.

It's time!


Plant Trees Now


Welcome to the first edition of The Tree Amigo©.  You are receiving this e-letter because of your current or past association with or interest in the West Texas Urban Forestry Council. If you do not wish to continue receiving this letter, please email me and say “Unsubscribe WTUFC”.  On the other hand, if you like the letter, please forward it to fellow professionals, friends, family and associates. Received duplicate emails? Please let me know.

Fall is the time to plant trees. WTUFC offers you good tree care advice including how to plant a tree and a tree selection guide based on landscaping and other considerations. The El Paso Water Utilities has a great plant list based on the need for water conservation.  You may also want to take a tour of the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens at the UTEP Centennial Museum.  Just a visit to their web page will give you much information about desert gardens and desert plants as you plan your fall gardening and landscaping.

Trees provide so many benefits to any urban environment. Read TreePeople’s Top 22 Benefits. Not just in spite of drought but because of drought and climate change, citizens and cities should be building their urban canopy. Trees add moisture to the atmosphere and reduce evaporation in the rest of the landscape. Trees help us adapt to a warming world. Not only do trees help conserve water, but newly planted trees only require 15 gallons or so of water each week. Strategies to keep and utilize rainwater where it falls (your yard, business location, city facility) are becoming better incorporated in landscaping and conservation and stormwater planning.  Take some simple steps or even bigger steps to harvest and manage rainwater.  Check out and surf Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s rainwater harvesting site.  Kudos to the City of Tucson for making rainwater harvesting a top priority.

Once planted trees play an important role in water conservation, stormwater management and urban cooling. By using rainwater harvesting techniques and employing low impact development strategies, planting more trees does not put an extra burden on cities dealing with drought and water scarcity.

So plant a tree . . . or trees. October is National Neighborwoods Month, a program created by  ACTrees, Alliance for Community Trees. Watch the U.S. Forest Service video about Neighborwoods Month. Associate Chief Mary Wagner talks about tree benefits as she encourages personal and community planting of trees.

Finally, this coming  Saturday, October 27th, the Lost Dog Trail Head (also known as the Redd Road Trail Head) will be dedicated. (Map)  The Borderland Mountain Bike Association and benefactors have completed improving the trail head with gravel, parking spots and native Honey Mesquites donated by your West Texas Urban Forestry Council from a grant from the Koontz Fund of the Texas Society of Urban Foresters as part of Neighborwoods Month. WTUFC is expanding the urban canopy in the El Paso region.


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.

The Tree Amigo© is written and published by Jim Tolbert who takes sole responsibility for the content of the letter.
Many of you belong to groups or organizations whose members will want to read this letter. Please forward it to others. Anyone may subscribe or unsubscribe at any time by emailing me. Your email address will not be shared or sold.

Please visit and bookmark www.wtufc.org.

This is Volume 1 and Number 1 published on October 22, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hueco Tanks State Park Fair Saturday and Sunday

Click image to enlarge.

This annual Interpretive Fair Weekend is also a Celebration of Our Mountains event.

Also see on  KCOS-TV, Channel 13 this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. "Hueco Tanks, Rock Art Reborn".

When it comes to rock art, Hueco Tanks, east of El Paso is in a class by itself. Unfortunately over the years, some of the pictographs have been damaged by graffiti. But now a new type of laser technology is about to turn back time.  It’s a laser light show that wipes away the graffiti but doesn’t affect the pictograph underneath. Tune in to see as Hueco Tanks rock art is reborn.

Positives from PSB's Strategic Planning Meetings


From the environmentalist/conservationist perspective, the PSB’s Strategic Planning sessions this year were quite positive. Here’s why:

1.       The debate over water for the Rio Bosque has dramatically shifted. The discussion is no longer about should it get water but rather how should it get water. Even in email chat yesterday and today over the central El Paso retention pond (some suggesting that water from there go to the Bosque), EPWU VP John Balliew was part of the discussion. (More on the new El Paso hole below.) The pond isn’t a solution as it is too far from the Bosque – but Mr. Balliew related that there may be ways to harvest that stormwater closer to the Bosque. Remember: the Rio Bosque is potentially an $18 million source for eco-tourist revenue for  El Paso.  It’s not just a “tree hugger” issue.

By the way, John Sproul, Director of the Bosque, wrote a white paper which included suggestions for storm water usage for the Bosque. Read Meeting Water Needs at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park: Strategies Involving El Paso Water Utilities. See items 4 and 5 on page 9:
Meeting Water Needs at Rio Bosque: Strategies Involving EPWU
Click on title or icon in bottom right corner to enlarge.


2.       It was suggested that the PSB swap the Palisades for the Rio Bosque. Indeed a motion passed authorizing Mr. Archuleta to begin a discussion with Joyce Wilson.  But why the swap? Perhaps because the City purchased a piece of the Palisades from the PSB at one time? Perhaps because the PSB failed to buy enough land with open space funds to begin with? No matter. Swapping land is akin to having an equal amount of money in two banks and writing a check from each account to the other for the same amount. It is all City land and which ledger for accounting and management purposes, doesn’t matter. What does matter, from my perspective as a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, is that El Paso’s Parks and Rec department doesn’t have the soul, the skill set, or the value system to manage open space. One will have to see a huge mindset change (perhaps in the next P&R Master Plan) before one can see P&R do more than plant and water sod in retention ponds.  The Open Space Advisory Board at its November meeting will consider whether the City should just turn over the Bosque to the PSB.

3.       Mr. Archuleta proposed last year and the idea got traction this year for a Water Smart Home and a public working committee of El Pasoans to look at more ways to conserve water. Making positive changes to building codes, the City’s design manual, and doing more with Green Infrastructure/Low Impact Development are all part of the mix. In short, rain water harvesting not just flood control have become part of the vocabulary, part of the strategic planning.

4.       Dr. Bonart has raised the issue of a water use budget. The idea is that only so much water can be allocated for certain uses. For example, the City’s Parks and Rec department gulps down nearly a fifth of the City’s allocation of river water each year. Certainly they will slurp down more now that they have instigated an over-seeding program during the winter. However, most on the PSB don’t think that, as sellers of water, they can regulate how much water a customer can purchase. This may be a good objection to implementing a water use budget from the supply side. However, implementing such a budget from the consumer side is not such a bad idea. It is time that the PSB, County, City, school districts, etc., sit down at a water summit/powwow and come to an agreement on values and policies regarding water use.  Somebody call Mayor Bloomberg. Not only would we be getting a 16 oz. cup, we won’t be able to super-size by buying two or three more cups.

Some quick thoughts about El Paso’s newest hole: the central retention pond at Luna and Gateway West built for flood control and touted by the EP Times as Beautifying Flood Control. No doubt it is a solution to all that storm water rushing off the southeast slopes of the mountain (my neighborhood). I just wonder this: instead of one more hole in El Paso, why wasn’t the money spent doing some green infrastructure/low impact development up and down Copia and Piedras and beautifying those increasingly busy thoroughfares? In other words: keep the water where it falls or first runs off the mountains. Think of all the trees and landscape improvements which could have beautified central El Paso homes, businesses and streets. Think of all the contractors, landscapers and engineering firms who could have benefited and provided more jobs if the storm water solution had been green infrastructure and not just another hole in the ground.

There are too many holes in El Paso. In fact, I think that we can declare El Paso the hole capitol of the world where the wind flies our City’s flag, the plastic bag, in every ugly chain link fence surrounding these holes which are too often lined and filled with rock gouged from our gorgeous mountain. (Stand at the far north end of the Wyler Tramway parking lot or hike the Directissimo and see the CEMEX quarry devour the Franklins.)

The Frontera Land Alliance, the El Paso area’s only non-profit 501 c (3) land trust organization, is hosting a Conservation Workshop on November 2 at the downtown El Paso Doubletree Hotel, 600 N. El Paso Street, just south of I-10.  This is a great opportunity for advisors, landowners and anyone else interested in getting up-to-the-minute information on various ways to conserve land. Please join their guest speakers—several attorneys from Braun and Gresham, PLLC and Robertson/Smith Attorneys at Law—to hear all about the many conservation tools that are available.  More information online here and here.

Speaking about Frontera: congratulations to the newest Frontera Board member, Eileen Karlsruher. She is a tremendous asset on whatever board or in whatever capacity she serves. Super choice, Frontera!

Also speaking about Frontera, there will be a guided walk through the Wakeem/Teschner Nature Preserve at Resler canyon this Sunday morning beginning at 8 a.m. Information including where to meet-up can be found here.

Finally, multi-kudos for the Guru of Geology, Dr. Phil Goodell, Professor at UTEP since 1975. He and his lovely wife, Kathy, just donated $1million to the University for a new Center of Entrepreneurial Geosciences at UTEP.  The Executive Summary reads in part: “Exploration for natural resources, oil/gas and minerals, is a unique activity. Success means discovery.”  


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hike the Lost Dog Trail into the Heart of the NW Master Plan


There are many great hikes and events this weekend and next.  Please check out Celebration of Our Mountains,  El Paso Hiking Group, GeoBetty, Guadalupe Mountains National Park Meetup Group,  Las Cruces & El Paso Adventurists, Peak Fitness Challenge,  High Desert Hikers and Las Cruces Hiking Meetup. For solid information about hiking bookmark  El Paso Ridgewalkers.


Click on image to enlarge.

I want to call to your attention one extraordinary event next Saturday, October 27th, at the Lost Dog Trail Head (also known as the Redd Road Trail Head). (Map) The Borderland Mountain Bike Association and benefactors have completed improving the trail head with gravel, parking spots and native Honey Mesquites donated by the West Texas Urban Forestry Council from a grant from the Koontz Fund. Many of you know this trail head well. What you may not know is that it takes you into one of the very arroyos which many have fought to preserve in the Northwest Master Plan. Keeping that arroyo – that critical riparian corridor – natural is very important not just to environmentalists but to El Pasoans who love and take advantage of the recreational opportunities of our outdoors.  You can get a sense of the interconnectivity of these trails by viewing mountain bike maps and GeoBetty.com maps.

If one of the other great hikes next Saturday does not entice you, then plan to hike the Lost Dog Trail from 10 to Noon and then join the dedication ceremony of the trail head concluding with some good eats.

I also suggest that you plan to attend Coffee Time with Archaeologists this Saturday evening, October 20th, from 7 to 9 p.m. in McKelligon Canyon.  This is a Franklin Mountains State Park/Celebration of Our Mountains event not to be missed. Ranger Adrianna Weickhardt says,

“We have a great panel of Archaeologists all from different organizations lined up for a Fun and Free event this Saturday night at McKelligon Canyon!  Check out the posting for the event if you haven't already.  It'll be from 7 to 9 p.m. with free coffee, cocoa and pastries.  Learn a little more about this important field of science, how it affects you, and come loaded with questions for the Q&A session of the program! We have plenty of room for more reservations,  We hope to see you there.  (If you don't want to sit on a metal chair, bring a nice comfy one with you as well as your jacket and blanket in case it gets a little chilly).”

Reservations are required so contact Adrianna Weickhardt at 915-566-6441 or Adrianna.Weickhardt@tpwd.state.tx.us or just RSVP at El Paso Hiking.


Know that Scenic Drive is closed every Sunday morning now through March from 7 to Noon.   This is a change in hours for this 4.1 mile hike from one side of the drive to the other and back. This walk takes in a dazzling panorama of El Paso and Juarez and a display of 500 million year old fossils! It’s a good recreational walk and can be done in an hour and a half.

If you are on Facebook, check out and like Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

Finally, multi-kudos for the Guru of Geology, Dr. Phil Goodell, Professor at UTEP since 1975. He and his lovely wife, Kathy, just donated $1million to the University for a new Center of Entrepreneurial Geosciences at UTEP.  The Executive Summary reads in part: “Exploration for natural resources, oil/gas and minerals, is a unique activity. Success means discovery.”  

Excelsior!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Conservation Easement Workshop November 2


The Frontera Land Alliance
Conservation Easement Workshop
November 2, 2012

The Frontera Land Alliance, the El Paso area’s only non-profit 501 c (3) land trust organization, is hosting a Conservation Workshop on November 2 at the downtown El Paso Doubletree Hotel, 600 N. El Paso Street, just south of I-10.

Please join our guest speakers—several attorneys from Braun and Gresham, PLLC and Robertson/Smith Attorneys at Law—to hear all about the many conservation tools that are available.  Two sessions will be offered. The first (8 a.m.-4:00 p.m.) is aimed at advisors; the second (8 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) is oriented toward the needs of landowners and the general public eager to learn how a conservation easement can be of use to them. 

Half-day Landowner Session (8-1:00): This session is for landowners and the general public. Topics: What landowners need to know about intrusion on surface use – Oil & Gas, Pipelines, Power Lines, and Condemnation; Wildlife Management for Property Taxes; Estate Planning; Introduction to Conservation Easements; Landowner comments about experience on donating conservation easements; Farm and Ranch Properties—Family Legacy or Liability; and Closing Comments.
·         Admission is free for owners of ranches, farms or natural areas. All others please pay $30.

All-day Advisor Session (8-4:00): This is a full-day workshop for attorneys, estate planners, CPAs and appraisers, who will learn how conservation tools can benefit their clients. (All participants earn continuing-education credits.) Topics: Estate Planning; Conservation Easements 101; Farm and Ranch Properties: Family Legacy or Liability; What Landowners Need to Know about Intrusion on Surface Use – Oil & Gas, Pipelines, Power Lines, and Condemnation; Wildlife Management for Property Taxes. Cost to each advisor: $80.00, which includes breakfast, lunch, and all materials, in addition to earning continuing-education credits.

·         6.5 attorney/estate planners  (To clarify: An estate planner doesn’t get credit unless they are an attorney or a certified financial planner);
·         4.0 for CPA’s,
·         7.0 for CFP’s  
·         6.0 for real estate 

Over view of topics:
Estate Planning
This course examines the issues and strategies for asset protection, limiting liability, planning for mental disability to avoid conservatorship, dealing with probate, minimizing or eliminating federal estate tax, and the options for leaving land to heirs. The impending end of the Bush-era tax cuts makes these issues more challenging for landowners. This overview of issues and strategies will equip you to identify issues related to estate planning and  answer initial questions from your clients.

Conservation Easements 101
This introductory course covers the nuts and bolts of this topic, including conservation easements basics, how they generate financial benefits, such as federal income and estate tax savings, how best to structure transactions; practical considerations in negotiating conservation easement terms, selecting and working with land trusts, and the use of conservation easements with other planning strategies.

Farm and Ranch Properties — Family Legacy or Liability?
Review of strategies and tools for estate planning that involve significant rural land holdings. Farms, ranches and recreational lands present unique challenges to estate planners if the family wishes to keep land undeveloped. Tools such as conservation easements, sale of development rights, sales of ecosystem services, tenants in common and management trusts will be covered.


Seating is limited. For more information or to register please contact Janaé Reneaud Field, Executive Director, The Frontera Land Alliance, 915-351-8352 or janae@fronteralandalliance.org.

Contact:

Janae’ Reneaud Field
Executive Director
The Frontera Land Alliance
Janae@Fronteralandalliance.org
Office Phone: 915-351-TFLA (8352)
Fax: 915-351-8353
Office Address: 1201 N. Mesa St., El Paso Texas 79902
Mailing Address: 3800 N. Mesa, Suite A2-258,  El Paso, Texas 79902
www.Fronteralandalliance.org


P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for the November 2, ½ day or full day Conservation Workshop.
Advisors can earn continued education credits: 6.0 attorney/estate planners  (To clarify: An estate planner doesn’t get credit unless they are an attorney or a certified financial planner); 4.0 for CPA’s, 7.0 for CFP/estate planners, and 6.0 for real estate. Seating is limited. For more information or to register please contact Janaé Reneaud Field, Executive Director, The Frontera Land Alliance, 915-351-8352 or janae@fronteralandalliance.org.

Friday, October 12, 2012

More Petroglyphs and Barite to Boot

Again this weekend and for quite a while during this great fall outdoors season, there are a number of great adventures. Just check out Celebration of Our Mountains,  El Paso Hiking GroupGeoBettyGuadalupe Mountains National Park Meetup Group,  Las Cruces & El Paso Adventurists, and Peak Fitness Challenge.  Also take a look at High Desert Hikers. Read about their name change.  You will recognize them as the old Ocotillo Hikers – a still extant group.  Sign-up so that you can see their list of hikes and get involved.

Thanks to Val Provencio many of us identified petroglyphs at Alamo Mountain last weekend. You can see some pictures of that sacred rock art. Tomorrow, CARTA leads a group to Tonuco Mountain where you can see more petroglyphs and also explore some old barite mines. Barite (barium sulfate) is used in paint, X-ray diagnostic work, glassmaking and as a weighting agent in oil well drilling fluids. The hike is sponsored by Celebration of Our Mountains, the El Paso Hiking Group and the Las Cruces Hiking Meetup Group.

Veteran Sunrise Hikers and scholars, Tommy Young and Dave Webster, discuss the  cultural andspiritual meanings of rock art on Alamo Mountain.


Of course, Tonuco isn’t for everyone so look for some interesting hikes into Hitt Canyon or from the Palisades.  Unfortunately the Yoga in the Mountains event for Sunday has been cancelled.  Ranger Adrianna Weickhardt emails to say:

“It is with great disappointment that I must cancel the "Yoga in the Mountains" program for this Sunday, October 14.  No park staff were notified of the closing of Transmountain Rd. on Sunday, October 14th for the "Transmountain Challenge" Race.  Unfortunately, this not only means we will be unable to hold the Yoga program, but the Tom Mays Unit of the park itself will be closed  (the entrance will be blocked) until about 11:00 a.m. 

“We will be looking at a later date to reschedule another Yoga program - and of course when that happens it will be reposted on Facebook, Meetup.com, the TPWD calendar, and the Celebrations of our Mountains website.” 

I do suggest that you mark your calendars now for Saturday evening, October 20th, from 7 to 9 p.m. in McKelligon Canyon for Coffee Time with Archaeologists.  This is a Franklin Mountains State Park/Celebration of Our Mountains event not to be missed. Reservations are required so contact Adrianna Weickhardt at 915-566-6441 or Adrianna.Weickhardt@tpwd.state.tx.us or just RSVP at El Paso Hiking. October is Texas Archaeology Month.

Excelsior!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

EPWU Strategic Planning Day One Slide Show

Here's the slide show that accompanied today's first session of the PSB/EPWU 2013-14 Strategic Planning meeting. Comment later.


EPWU 2013-14 Strategic Planning Slide Show


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Texas Native Plant Appreciation Day

Click on image to enlarge.


At least 13,500 illegal wells in Chihuahua


Story from El Diario today:

El Diario 10/9/12

There are in Chihuahua at least 13,500 illegal wells.

The National Water Commission (CONAGUA) warned yesterday that there are at least 13,500 wells operating without title nor permit for agricultural use, hundreds of them extracting water from 19 over-exploited aquifers of the 61 identified aquifers in Chihuahua.

Of these 19 aquifers listed as “over-exploited,” the agency has further identified at least six as “severely over-exploited.”  According to a study by CONAGUA in September 2011, of the 20,943 wells registered by the agency and powered by the national electric agency, 13,500 … would be operating in 5 irrigation districts…the majority of all the irrigation districts are above “over-exploited” aquifers.   But according to these same irrigation districts, the 13,500 illegal wells that water thousands of hectares in the state, remove in one agricultural cycle the amount of water that should last for five.

The remaining 7,443 wells are under municipal water and sanitation departments.  They are used for provision of drinking water to cities and rural communities.   Ten of the most important cities, with 82% of the population, are supplied with water from these over-utilized aquifers.   This past June 1, the national CONAGUA Inspection and Measurement director, Roberto Merino Carrión, asserted that “for every authorized well there are at least eight taking the water clandestinely.” It is estimated that only 3.5% of the annual rainfall filters to the aquifers to recharge them  (646.34 million cubic meters of the 18,467 cubic meters possible).


Friday, October 5, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Petroglyphs and an Andesite Core


There are three great Celebration of Our Mountains events this Saturday – something for everyone.

First, take a trip to Alamo Mountain on the Otero Mesa to see ancient Petroglyphs beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.  Details and meet-up information about the excursion are online. Val Provencio, an archaeologist with EPWU, is the leader.  She is a member of the El Paso Mineral and Gem Society. Check out their School page on Facebook. Also be sure to check out El Paso Rockhounds on Facebook. Alamo Mountain has spiritual and cultural significance to the Tiguas. In recent years it has, along with other sites on the Mesa, been a focus of controversy between conservationists and mining companies interested in the rare earth metals available in that area.  Here are some pictures of the petroglyphs.

As part of Celebration of Our Mountains, a number of groups will converge on Cristo Rey beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. You may find that the CARTA group will be the most interesting.  Look for their table at the trail head.  Cristo Rey is an igneous intrusion of hot magma which pushed up through Cretaceous sediments and finished forming about 47 million years ago.  Afterwards some of the Cretaceous rocks were eroded to expose the andesite core.  All these different strata through which the intrusion rose bear fossils. Even dinosaur footprints can be found at the base of the mountain.  Although the elevation gain is 820 feet to the top of the peak 4,675 feet above sea level, the well-maintained trail zigzags. Round trip is just 4.4 miles – about 2 or so hours for most folks.  You can learn more about the history of the mountain and the world famous Urbici Soler limestone monument to Christ the King at the Restoration Committee web site.

For sheer hiking fun, join the Dean of Hiking, Carol Brown, for a Northern Pass Loop Hike beginning at 8 a.m. at Anthony Gap on Saturday morning. Directions and details are here and here.

Fall is the best time to plant trees and shrubs. Of course, the best plants for your yard and garden are those that are native to our part of the Chihuahuan Desert. Keystone Heritage Park is having their annual native plant sale this Saturday. Here are details. Here are good reasons to plant natives and avoid invasive species.

There’s another Thursday morning Beginners Hike next week, October 11 – this one with geological interest and on the west side. 

Do see El Paso Hiking Group, Guadalupe Mountains National Park Meetup Group,  Las Cruces & El Paso Adventurists, Celebration of Our Mountains and Peak Fitness Challenge for great hikes and other adventures.  Remember that Scenic Drive is open to all hikers, bicyclists, walkers, strollers (with attached parent), even Chihuahuas (with attached human) every Sunday from 6 to 11 a.m.

Next weekend, Sunday October 14, is the 35th Annual GECU Trans Mountain Challenge half marathon and 5K run/walk.  Register online at Race and Adventure.  Race packet pick up is on Saturday, Oct 13.

Excelsior!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Garden with the Native Plants You Buy at Keystone this Saturday

The moral of the video below is this: Plant native species in your garden. This Saturday is a great opportunity to buy native plants at Keystone Heritage Park. Check out the details. The video actually uses Keystone as an example of replacing invasive species with native. You will see El Paso conservation/environmental legacies Kevin von Finger and Lois Balin:




Map to Keystone Heritage Park


The Bosque and Untied Blue Ribbons

Begin the countdown: T minus Eight days until the beginning of the 2012 PSB Strategic Planning meetings on Thursday and Friday, October 11th and 12th at the TecH20 Center starting at 8 a.m. each morning. Environmental/Conservation community members: Big Red Circles on your calendars for these upcoming days.  PSB/EPWU: extra coffee and Krispy Kremes, s’il vous plait.

One item certain to be on the Strategic Planning agenda – water for the Rio Bosque. Let’s do some catching up since elpasonaturally reported some dramatic revelations at the September PSB meeting. Last week EPWU Vice President, John Balliew, briefed Open Space Advisory Board members about the Rio Bosque and set the record straight. In summary, here are the facts:

1.       The water which the Bustamante plant currently empties into the Riverside canal (or drain) is slightly treated effluent which is permitted by the TCEQ.
2.       That water is returned to the Water Improvement District without charge by conditions set in the Rio Grande Project Implementing Contract among the Bureau of Reclamation, the WID, and the PSB.
3.       One strategy for getting water to the Bosque was to use the Bosque as part of a larger water treatment scheme – the multi-million dollar seeming Rube Goldberg devised by Malcolm Pirnie. That was “Plan A”. Unfortunately, salts and metals in the Bosque soil would have added additional long-term expenses to water treatment.
4.       Thus “Plan B” created by Balliew – a $440,000 pipeline to the Bosque with several outlets to spread the water more evenly. Construction could begin soon.  But what kind of water would flow through the pipe?
5.       Slightly treated effluent is permitted to be returned to the river. It would not be permissible to use this water directly on the Bosque. Permissible water must be purple pipe quality – reclaimed water, i.e., effluent that has been filtered and re-disinfected.
6.       New problem: by the rules and regulations of bond covenants, our water utility would have to sell the water to the Bosque as it does to other City’s parks. There is some debate here, but an easy solution would be to transfer the Bosque from the City inventory to the PSB inventory. If there are measures (say a conservation easement) which guarantee that the Bosque would remain an educational/research wetland preserve with UTEP as a partner, that transfer should be attractive to conservationists.

Elpasonaturally doesn’t just see light at the end of the tunnel  - but sunrise on the wetland alive with the melodies of many merry species of birds. One can even begin to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.

What’s driving water to the Bosque? The question is better asked “Who’s driving water to the Bosque?” Elpasonaturally has learned through the engineering grapevine that John Balliew has been pushing for a solution and is making it happen. Bringing much needed water to the Bosque efficiently, is not just a matter of turning a valve. The question is whether there can still be a temporary solution that can bring water there now and relieve John Sproul from his Sisythusian task of hauling water by truck day after day. What’s in it for El Paso if Balliew succeeds – an $18Million eco-tourist bonanza.

One other little tidbit: the EPWU person most trusted by conservation groups: John Balliew.

Click on title or icon on bottom right-hand corner to enlarge.

One last matter to catch up on – the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee, now untied from their task since a joint meeting of the City Council and PSB last week approved their proposals. Just read the Chris Roberts EP Times story, Rules for PSB land sales clarified. In essence there is really not much difference between what was and what will be. The PSB will continue to determine when land is inexpedient and can be sold. Sections “D” and “E” of the new provision spell out more specific goals and guidelines for determining inexpediency.  Of importance to conservationists are two provisions. In the provision for land sales of more than 25 acres (Item “C” in the revised provision), “open space” is defined as one of the public facilities that the PSB must transfer to the City without cost. This is huge. Moreover, in Item “D” “preserving open spaces and critical arroyos” is listed as a goal when considering land sale opportunities.  Elpasonaturally believes that PSB Chairman and Blue Ribbon member, Ed Escudero, was very helpful in adding this important verbiage. Making open space a criteria for inexpediency all by itself would have been the giant leap – but this one small step should be appreciated by El Pasoans who cherish their natural heritage.

You can view the slideshow Recommendations from the City of El Paso Advisory Committee on PSB Land Management presented to the joint meeting of the City Council and PSB last Wednesday.

Next to finally for this e-letter: there have been expressions of optimism about our ongoing water supply. Caution may be the better attitude. Please read some thoughts by PSB member (and the doctor of Copernicus, my Flame Point Siamese), Dr. Rick Bonart.

And finally, finally: fall weather is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, climbing, planting and just getting outdoors. There are so many great, organized hikes now. Celebration of Our Mountains is in full swing. Also check out El Paso Hiking Group, Guadalupe Mountains National Park Meetup Group,  Las Cruces & El Paso Adventurists, and Peak Fitness Challenge. See the Franklin Mountains State Park October hiking and events schedule.  Scenic Drive is open to all hikers, bicyclists, walkers, strollers (with attached parent), even Chihuahuas (with attached human) every Sunday from 6 to 11 a.m.  One not-to-miss educational lecture this week: Dr. Paul Hyder will be talking about rattlesnakes on Thursday, October 4th, at 6:15ish (following a Master Naturalist chapter meeting) at the El Paso Garden Center, 3105 Grant Avenue. (Map).  And take an arroyo walk, visit archaeological sites and buy native plants for your garden at Keystone Heritage Park this Saturday, October 6th.