Sunday, August 31, 2014

El Paso Times publishes important Op-Ed on
Franklin Organ Mountains Conservation Cooperative

In case you missed it I want to make sure that all of our readers get a chance to read Janae' Reneaud Field's recently published Op-Ed on the Franklin Organ Mountains Conservation Cooperative published by the El Paso Times earlier this month on August 10. There are several easy ways you can show your support for this effort. If you are on facebook you can visit and like the page and or sign up for the email list. You can also make a phone call or drop a line or two in support of the effort to one or more of your elected representatives.

There are a number of important conservation efforts going on in our community at this time focused on protecting wildlife habitat. Others are posted on my website at Please become better informed and take some kind of action in support of these efforts.

Here is a copy of Janae' Reneaud Field's op-ed.

Janae' Reneaud Field: New tool helps ecology efforts

By Janae' Reneaud Field / Guest columnist

During the summer of 2012, the Frontera Land Alliance received technical assistance from the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.

In support of community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation, a national network of conservation and recreation planning professionals partnered with community groups, state and local governments in designing trails and parks and helping to protect special places.

Shortly after the award, Frontera helped to form The Franklin and Organ Mountains Conservation Cooperative (FOMCC).

Today, FOMCC is championing a community effort to develop a conservation inventory tool that will strengthen and provide scientific data to assist in managing Plan El Paso, the Northwest Master Plan, the El Paso Sustainability Plan, the El Paso Open Space Plan, Doña Ana County Comprehensive Plan and other regional efforts that identify preserving large, connected natural areas.

This tool will not revamp, replicate or replace existing plans, but will provide GIS data to assist in making sound decisions.

The tool will take a close look at our plant life, wildlife, soil, geology, arroyos, ranches, farms, etc. and rank undeveloped lands from high to least importance in conservation value.

The land conservation inventory tool is supported by the partnership and collaboration of federal, state and local agencies, local businesses including developers, Realtors and non-profits in New Mexico and Texas.

The FOMCC will work with people and organizations that have diverse interests yet share a common place and purpose.

The FOMCC will provide an interactive GIS-based map of lands ranked by their importance for further development and conservation.

Over the years we have seen the Southwest region work to offer a better quality of life through collaboration and partnerships with developers, citizens and environmentalists as referenced in the white paper found at or at

These entities and organizations have laid the foundation for growth and preservation. Still, the region is facing some tough issues.

For instance, there are just 1.38 acres of park space for every 1,000 persons in El Paso. We continue to experience flood damage that may result from the filling or alteration of arroyos. There is a loss of wildlife every time we level terrain.

Responding to these and other challenges requires concerted action and collaboration from all stakeholders.

Unless we work together as one region across political boundaries, we may be overwhelmed by the dramatic shifts in demographics and changes in our environment. 

Therefore we must create a framework which will give us and our organizations greater freedom to protect and improve the green spaces which are critical to our needs.

This framework must be based on firm science.

Whether we live in the city or in rural or wilderness areas, we rely on the natural systems that support us.

The health of natural environments affects our health and happiness and gives us a sense of place, pride and identity.

If you are interested in learning more contact Frontera at 915-351-8352 or email

Janae' Reneaud Field is executive director of the Frontera Land Alliance.

Monday, August 18, 2014

City Council Postpones Kern View Estates Item for 60 Days

I just got word from Ellen Esposito that City Council has decided to postpone the item about the Kern View Estates site plan for 60 days. I suspect that the great work by Esposito and Mission Hills, Kern Place and Sierra Crest neighborhoods is having an effect. I know that elpasonaturally's post the other day has led to action. Read that post again and follow the links. There isn't any need to go to City Council tomorrow morning but certainly emailing or calling your City Rep and signing the petition still will have a big impact. 

If you want to get involved or get on Ellen's email list, email her at

Friday, August 15, 2014

Opposition to the New Kern View Estates Development Grows

Click image to enlarge. Aerial view of location of proposed Kern View Estates along with other maps can be found in the back-up material for the proposed ordinance to approve the KVE site plan on the upcoming 08/19/14 City Council agenda.
Plans to develop land on the western slope of Crazy Cat mountain have been around for several years now. One would have thought that the matter was dead in 2009 when there was an elpasonaturally post on the subject. Developers have sought buyers who might preserve the land and are still interested in that possibility. The catch is that they reportedly want $750,000 for the 16 acres in question or close to $47,000 per acre.

Just to the north of the site is an EPWU facility at the end of Piedmont. It has been a popular trailhead for hikers, mountain bikers, runners and other recreationalists who like the easy hike into open space where they can circle Crazy Cat and exit at the Palisades trailhead. 

It is not a very good location at all for a development because it is landlocked by the narrow street, O'Keefe, and further development in this location would negatively impact the intersection of O'Keefe and Stanton Street with added traffic congestion. The development would also increase stormwater runoff into the lower neighborhoods. The entire list of reasons NOT to develop is much longer than the 3 items I just mentioned.

The Fire Department has listed a number of changes that must be made for their approval. The City Plan Commission narrowly recommended the site plan by a 4-3 vote; but it is no secret that CPC has become in essence a second meeting place for  El Paso builders and developers and Five Points Business Association fellows - you know - the guys who would rather keep Central El Paso ugly rather than use more efficient planning as suggested by Plan El Paso.  

Kern Place and Mission Hills neighbors are quite vocal in their opposition. There is a petition circulating opposing the development and the number of signatures continues to grow. The Mission Hills Neighborhood Association even devoted their August newsletter entirely to opposing the site plan.

You can as a neighbor or as a citizen of El Paso who values open space and is fed up with tearing up our mountainsides with development do three things:

  1. Sign the Petition and ask others to sign it. Ellen Esposito has taken the lead and you can contact her at 915-274-2511.
  2. Email your City Rep. The MHNA August newsletter has contact info or look on the City of El Paso web site.
  3. Finally, join the crowd that will attend next Tuesday's, (August 19, 2014) City Council meeting. The matter (item 12.2) comes up quickly on the regular agenda. City Council begins at 8:00. See a map of City Hall's location. There's plenty of parking to the east of City Hall down Mills Avenue.

The best that can happen: Postpone the item. Know that Charlie Wakeem has added it to the agenda of the September 3rd Open Space Advisory Board meeting. 

I suspect that the developers really want to deal. City Council should do everyone a favor and give them that time.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bielek Backpedaling on State Park Entrance?

TxDOT Regional Engineer, Bob Bielek, appears to be backpedaling on his promises about a Franklin Mountains State Park entrance. A plan to connect the southern and northern sides of the park dissected by Transmountain Road was set to begin this fall. On April 11, 2014 at City Council Rep. Carl Robinson's breakfast meeting, Bielek said regarding the connectivity project: "Expect to start in Fall 2014.  Will take 3 – 4 months to complete.  Not a difficult project, because it is a short-span bridge.  Costs a bit over $1,000,000." His statement was not much different from what he indicated in November of last year to a group of park advocates prior to a public meeting in December. Bielek told the public that his discretionary funds would pay for the project.

Now Bielek is saying, as elpasonaturally has learned, that the project might begin in January and that he is looking for money for it.

The plan called for a new park entrance with a corridor under the Transmountain highway for animals, mountain bicyclists, hikers and other pedestrians. Conceptual drawings may be viewed at this post. The TxDOT page of the drawings is not loading well currently.

It seems that Bielek is backpedaling on the project which suggests that he was never serious about it before. "He often tells people what they want to hear," one observer mentioned. 

What's next? Perhaps like so many public projects the actual start date is actually much later than originally estimated. It may be prudent to wait until December to see what, if anything, happens. If nothing, then it will be obvious that once again TxDOT has been less than honest with Texas citizens they are supposed to be serving.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Impossible Dream?

The Rio Grande in Northern New Mexico, Photo album by Rick LoBello

I have this view of the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico on my website at  Every time I look at it I ask myself this question. Why can't we bring back the Rio Grande to look something like this around El Paso? Are we not smart enough to do it or do we lack the will? I think it is about will. We have to want it.

I will never forget July 21, 1969 when Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first to step onto the lunar surface. Heck if we can put a man on the moon don't you think we can restore part of the Rio Grande back to its original state?

I think it is possible, but only if the community, especially the millennials out there who have the most at stake, will get involved in supporting efforts helping to protect their environment.

I am disheartened by the number of people who are more connected to their cars and their fun activities inside buildings, who have no idea of how important our natural environment is to their quality of life now and in the future.

Join me in reaching out to younger generations. They need to know how to invest in their quality of life and their future.

On my website I have listed a number of things that people can do to get involved here in El Paso. If you have other items you want me to add let me know.