Monday, July 28, 2014

Open Space Equals Millions of Eco-Tourist Dollars

Picture of Franklin Mountains courtesy of Scott M. Cutler

Read the following press release dated July 18, 2014 from Karl Pierce of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Now imagine preserving more of our Franklin Mountains, saving Cement Lake, providing enough water for the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park and conserving Castner Range. Come on, El Paso! Good stewardship of open space means major eco-tourist dollars!

Tourism to Guadalupe Mountains National Park creates $8,500,500 in Economic Benefit

Report shows visitor spending supports 111 jobs in local economy

Pine Springs, TX – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 145,670 visitors to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in 2013 spent more than $8.5 million in communities near the
park. That spending supported 111 jobs in the local area.

“Guadalupe Mountains National Park is proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Dennis A. Vásquez. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides and to use the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy - returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service - and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

Vásquez continued “as we begin to wind down summer and head into fall, which is traditionally the busiest time for park visitation, people come from around the region to enjoy the colorful fall foliage in McKittrick Canyon, Smith Spring, Dog Canyon and Devil’s’ Hall during Fall Colors. In the coming weeks, we will open the new Salt Basin Dunes Day Use Area, near Dell City, and are confident that visitors will enjoy that unique area of the park, which contains the third largest gypsum dune field in the world. The park contains the largest Congressionally-designated wilderness area in the state of Texas, and we hope everyone will join us as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 this fall. We look forward to partnering with the Texas Mountain Trail, the Texas Master Naturalists and others on a variety of programs. We invite our neighbors, from throughout Far West Texas and Southern New Mexico, to actively participate in upcoming park planning efforts, such as a new wilderness stewardship plan,
through, through participation in public meetings, or by contacting your park with questions, concerns or suggestions, in addition to enjoying the wonderful natural, cultural and recreational resources that this park offers.”

The 2013 economic benefit figures are somewhat lower than the 2012 results. The 16-day government shutdown in October 2013, along with closures of the park, which resulted from historic
flooding and storms damage in September 2013, accounted for most of the decline in park visitation. The authors also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park
Service. The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees
(10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent). 

The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

To download the report visit The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. To learn more about national parks in Texas and New Mexico, and how the National Park Service works with Texas and New Mexico communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to or

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Economic Benefits from Parks and Monuments

Planning for Economic Growth of El Paso is in the news.  See El Paso Inc, 20-26 July article, “Borderplex Alliance wants regional plan” HERE.  I wonder if this Plan will consider the economic benefits of parks and open space….

Learn how National Parks and Monuments add to the economies in western states from the ABC News HERE. 

More HERE on Pine Springs, TX and how “Tourism to Guadalupe Mountains National Park creates $8,500,500 in Economic Benefit Report shows visitor spending supports 111 jobs in local economy.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Kids love bugs, big time!by Rick LoBello

Make Plans to attend Bug Awareness Weekend at the El Paso Zoo – August 2-3
The harmless vinegaroon is found in the desert areas of El Paso.  It gets its name from a vinegar like smelling acid that it will squirt at its enemies.
The harmless vinegaroon is found in the desert areas of El Paso. It gets its name from a vinegar like smelling acid that it will squirt at its enemies.
Do you know of any children that like bugs? The El Paso Zoo does and every year we break out the bugs just for them. It’s a back to school “bug out” and our educators with lots of help from zoo keepers, volunteers and our resident chef, get all buggy just thinking about the fun weekend ahead. Bug lovers you say? Yep, kids love bugs; you can see it in their faces, no doubt about it.
Children at the Zoo enjoying a close up look at a tarantula.
Children at the Zoo enjoying a close up look at a tarantula.
Now if you are an entomologist, you know that of the more than one million different kinds of bugs scientists have described so far, “true bugs” belong to the insect order called Hemiptera. These are the oval shaped insects with flattened bodies and mouths that let them suck blood or juices from plants, animals or humans. They include cicadas, aphids (like the ones you find in vegetable gardens), leafhoppers, kissing bugs and bed bugs.
Here at the Zoo and pretty much across the country, most people refer to the entire world of creepy crawlers as bugs, no matter what order they are classified in. The Zoo’s bug collection is used mainly for education presentations called Zoo Adventure Programs offered to school groups. We also show them at special animal encounter programs for the general public in our discovery centers. The list of species living here includes tarantulas, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes and insects like whirligig beetles, diving beetles and water bugs. Most of what we have lives right here in El Paso, but they are rarely seen because of their nocturnal lifestyles.
The Zoo plans to feature an exhibit with bugs as part of a new Chihuahuan Desert experience exhibit expected to open in 2018. As you enter the area you will have an opportunity to go inside an abandoned ranch house where an amazing array of insects and small animals have moved in and taken over. Until then our educators will feature our bugs during special events and educational programs. Currently we maintain a collection of over 25 species including a new red clawed scorpion, Brazilian black tarantula and giant African millipede.
Our Bug Awareness Weekend will tie into the three geographic regions featured at the Zoo. In the El Paso Electric Kalahari Research Center we will have some bugs from Africa. In the El Paso Water Utilities Discovery Education Center we will have our largest collection of bugs from the Americas. Across the Franklin Canal we will have some bugs from Asia in the Asia Discovery Center.
Some zoo-goers can’t get enough of our cricket- chocolate-chip cookies.
Some zoo-goers can’t get enough of our cricket- chocolate-chip cookies.
You definitely will not want to miss the amazing bug dishes that our resident Chef, Miguel Guillen will be cooking up. Last year we had long lines of bug eaters from across the city coming by to eat up everything the Chef created including Grasshopper Stir Fry, Sweet Cricket Popcorn and Roasted Leaf Cutter Ants. Don’t say “ugh bugs”, all around the world people eat bugs as part of their daily diet. The term entomophagy is used to describe how people eat bugs. Did you know that people have eaten bugs including their eggs and larvae since prehistoric times? Eating bugs is rare in the developed world, but it seems to be growing in popularity here at the Zoo. Who knows, perhaps someday a major TV network will host a bug cooking reality show and we can host it right here in El Paso!
This year I am scheduled to tell some of my favorite desert bug stories in the Cisneros Paraje Discovery Center. Do you know about the amazing relationship between desert termites and spadefoot toads? Years ago a friend of mine who was making a documentary on the Chihuahuan Desert discovered an insect using a tool! At the time I thought only higher primates like humans had that kind of intelligence. During my presentation I will show an amazing video clip of his discovery.
For more information on the event visit our website at
Bugs to look for at the Zoo during Bug Awareness Weekend:
Asian forest scorpion
Bahia scarlet bird-eating spider
Bark Scorpion Centruroides
Black velvet spider
Black Widow Spider
Brown tarantula
Centipede (Vietnamese)
Chilean Rose Tarantula
Cobalt Blue Tarantula
Common Emperor Scorpion
Desert Hairy Scorpion
Flat rock scorpion
Giant Sand Scorpion
Indian ornamental tarantula
Madagascan Hissing Cockroach
Pink-toed Tarantula
Sonoran Centipede
Sunburst Diving Beetle
Tailless Whip Scorpion
Tanzanian blue legged centipede
Texas Tan Tarantula
Whirligig beetles
Green diving beetle
Water scorpion
Ferocious water bug
Giant water bug

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Overdevelopment is sucking Texas dry

I've been meaning to link to a Men's Journal Magazine article. (The e-zine doesn't have a re-post feature.) This is definitely one to read as it applies (even though we aren't on their map) to El Paso, Texas - home of the mindless sprawl: Who Stole the Water? How greed, drought and rampant overdevelopment are sucking Texas dry.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sign the Franklin Mountains Conservation Petition

The new Initiative Petition (the Franklin Mountains Conservation Petition) reads as follows:

The undersigned ask that the El Paso City Council pass the following ordinance:
The City of El Paso shall preserve, in its natural state and in perpetuity, all of the undeveloped land owned by the City of El Paso (including that controlled and managed by the PSB) on the western side of the Franklin Mountains that is north of Transmountain, east of the EPNG Pipeline Road and south of the New Mexico/El Paso boundary; and shall also preserve, in its natural state and in perpetuity, all of the undeveloped land owned by the City of El Paso (including that controlled and managed by the PSB) on the eastern side of the Franklin Mountains that is north of Transmountain, west of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and south of the New Mexico/El Paso boundary. The City shall take all steps necessary to preserve all of this land and to prevent it from being developed with either private development or major public roadways.

Where to Find the Franklin Mountains Conservation Petition

Join the effort to preserve land and water, make living in El Paso more affordable and create more space for wildlife habitats and corridors and outdoors recreation.  The Franklin Mountains Conservation Petition Calls for Saving Land on both sides of the mountain. Anyone who is a registered voter residing in the City of El Paso can sign it. Be sure to put your complete birth date and fill in all spaces. You do not need to fill in the VUID (voter registration number).  You can now go to any of these8 retail locations and find a copy of the petition to sign: Chuck’s Bicycle Repair, 700 East Yandell Drive‎ (MAP); The Bicycle Company, 3800 North Mesa Street (MAP); Crazy Cat Cyclery University, 2625 North Mesa Street (MAP); Crazy Cat Cyclery, 6625 Montana Avenue (MAP); Crazy Cat Cyclery Redd Rock, 5650 N Desert Blvd # B (MAP); Casa de Yoga, 2419 Stanton (MAP); Reliance Outdoor Supply, 1060 Doniphan Park Circle (MAP); Joe Vinny Bronsons Bohemian Café, 824 N. Piedras (MAP).  We need at least 2,310 signatures. We need yours!

For more information, visit the petition page on this blog.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How to Help Save Cement Lake

Last Thursday I posted that TxDOT recently purchased land that includes the natural lake and wildlife habitat known as (Portland) Cement Lake. The Lake was one of the top priorities for acquisition in the City's Open Space Master Plan. In the end, TxDOT's dollars were more attractive to Cemex.

The good news in all of this is that Bob Bielek, TxDOT's Regional Engineer, has let it be known that TxDOT would like to Master Plan the area which includes the lake and work with the City and PSB. He has made it clear that all he needs is an official letter from the City or PSB (or a Councilwoman perhaps?) in order to get the ball rolling on master planning.

Here's how youcan help now:

As a wildlife expert, open space advocate, conservationist, outdoor enthusiast or someone like me who just cares: please urge city officials to work with TxDOT and involve the conservation/wildlife/open space community at all stages of the discussion and in all phases of the planning. 

Cement Lake should not be destroyed and it should not become a public, recreational park. It should be preserved as an unusual ecosystem and habitat - a place to visit, view and study - and treasure.

Please urge the Mayor and others to work with TxDOT to preserve the lake as a wildlife habitat and a place for visiting and viewing.

I have discovered that the best way to contact Mayor Leeser is to email his Assistant, Taylor Moreno at Mr. Balliew's email is better known: Rep. Niland's is (Cement Lake is in her district. I spoke to her briefly and she is interested.) 

Please keep your messages positive. There is no itch at this point to scratch. Please make your title or position known whether it is Urban Biologist, Curator, former Curator, Secretary of FMWC, President of Audubon, OSAB member, Outdoor Enthusiast, Birder, Concerned Citizen - whatever. 

Please share this post with others and forward to your groups, friends, colleagues, etc.. This is a wildlife issue not a political one.  Let's be heard now and get the ball rolling and make sure that those of us who know about development, wetlands, wildlife, open space, conservation or those who simply love our outdoors are very much involved. Cement Lake is an El Paso Regional treasure. 

Let's save Cement Lake!