Monday, June 27, 2016

Animal Corridor Close to Being Finished

Photo by Rick Bonart 6/16

We've been following the progress of the animal corridor/underpass at the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park. The photo above is taken looking south. The project should be done by September just in time for Celebration of Our Mountains.

The corridor is envisioned by some as a part of a new Mountain to River trail. It includes the hike bike trail along the Transmountain frontage where currently some trees have died and are being replaced by cacti - something not originally planned. More on that later.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dia de San Juan

Eve of St. John by Peter Hurd

For many in the southwest, especially those in Sonora, today marks the beginning of the monsoon season. The celebration really begins on the eve (June 23rd). Today is Dia de San Juan, the day the Church commemorates the birth of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of water. Some traditional peoples say prayers for rain to water their crops. 

St. John's Day may have been the Church's way of "baptizing" the older pagan holiday of Midsummer or Litha, the Solstice. For European pagans long ago and still today, Litha is a time for bonfires. It is the power of light over darkness. But people of this continent observed the day as a time to water the earth: the Aztecs with the blood of human sacrifices, their northern cousins in the Pueblos with the blood of roosters. Animal activists have recently decried the sport of rooster pulls where horsemen pull a rooster which has been buried up to his head in the ground. The custom is dying out. 

Rooster Pull by Pablita Velarde

Coronado and the Spaniards brought Christianity and Dia de San Juan to the southwest. The Saint's festival is popular in Sonora as well as in Tucson and is also the celebration of the beginning of the monsoon season. Blessings with water, bathing, splashings, rodeos mark this day. 

Throughout the Southwest and here in El Paso the monsoon season generally falls between June 15th and the end of September although it may not get started until July. Monsoons are driven by solar energy warming the land and the ocean at different rates, producing winds and rain and violent thunderstorms. It's all very scientific.

Whatever the science, clouds began to gather yesterday on the Eve of St. John and there was distant thunder to the south of us. I asked St. John to bless my gardens and I planted teparies, the beans that fed the ancient Pueblo southwesterners. Late last night the thunder drew closer. This morning my rain gauge showed .03" of precipitation. 

I love Peter Hurd's painting, the Eve of St. John. A print actually signed by the artist hangs in my den room. A young girl holds a candle, a minature bonfire. A horseman rides in the distance. The darkening sky shows just a hint of virga.

Feliz Dia de San Juan!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Arroyos Safe Near Cement Lake

Cement Lake

Recently on social media there has been some concern expressed about what TxDOT might be doing to some arroyos. Is TxDOT filling in the arroyos as it continues its massive freeway building project, Go 10 El Paso? The answer is "NO".

TxDOT Regional Engineer, Bob Bielek, says that he is unaware of any arroyos being filled in. Doing so, he said, "would violate the environmental finding for either project."

I asked the Dean of Open Space, Charlie Wakeem, why are natural arroyos so important. Charlie cited an essay by Rex Funk: "Albuquerque's Environmental Story, Educating for a Sustainable Community, Environmental Topic: Arroyos" He paraphrased Funk in order to make the topic relevant to El Paso. Charlie used these words as an argument to preserve Resler Canyon, a natural arroyo. He says that they are the "best reason I've used for arguing for the importance of natural arroyos."

"El Paso is a unique place in many ways.  One contributing element is the natural drainage system of arroyos.  Most of these arroyos carry runoff from the Franklin Mountains and escarpments to the Rio Grande and are dry most of the year.  They flow most heavily from mid-summer to early fall, during a period we call our monsoon season.

"Originally these arroyos meandered freely across the land responding to the volume and velocity of storm water runoff, thereby creating large flood plains and alluvial fans.

"Natural arroyos are rich in plant life due to the soil moisture that remains after runoff events.  The abundant vegetation attracts a concentration of native wildlife in search of food and shelter."

Monday, June 13, 2016

Blue Bin, Gray Bin

There was a letter to the editor last week in the Times that I want to take issue with. The writer suggested that the blue recycling bin should only be picked up every other week and that the gray bin should be picked up every week. His reason? He had far more garbage and trash than he could manage and wanted to use the blue bin as an additional trash collector.

If anything, it should be the other way around. If the city wants to encourage recycling, then pick up the gray bin every other week and pick up the blue bin all of the time. 

I spoke with a lady who said that her gray bin is always half or less full and that the recycling bin is always full. Same at my house. It's how you recycle and recycle correctly. Check out El Paso Recycles and read each page. Note that you can recycle glass now as well.

I'm probably preaching to the choir. However, pass the word on. It's not that hard for people to get educated. And, by the way, start a compost pile and compost all of that vegetable and fruit waste rather than throwing it away. (Never copost meats.) Learn more by just googling "How to Compost". Your yard and garden will thank you.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Friday Video:Escobar Speaks about the Economic Potetial of Our Cultural Assets

On May 27, 2016 County Judge Veronica Escobar addressed the Downtown Lions Club. A portion of her speech explained "how the County is supporting our local history and working to exploit the full economic potential of our cultural assets by (1) conducting a County historical survey of Downtown, Segundo Barrio, and Chihuahuita that will lead to a new National Register District and (2) developing the Mission Trail into a major tourist attraction," Max Grossman wrote in an email. Max also shared the video above with over 25,739 Facebook followers.

Be sure to visit El Paso County Historical Commission on Facebook. Tune into the El Paso History Radio Show on Saturday morinings on KTSM AM 690 10:05 AM to Noon MT and online at

[If you get elpasonaturally by email, the video won't be embedded. Just go to to view it.]

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Castner Range National Monument will help to protect wildlife habitat

The Gambel's Quail is one of two species of quail living in the Castner Range.
by Rick LoBello

A growing number of people in El Paso are supporting a new conservation movement to protect the Castner Range area of the Franklin Mountains in northeast El Paso as a National Monument.  The Castner Range is home to more than 650 species of Chihuahuan Desert plants, 33 species of reptiles, over a 100 species of birds and nearly 30 species of mammals.  There also maybe hundreds if not thousands of species of invertebrates and microorganisms yet to be discovered.   Supporting local conservation efforts is a high priority and many people in El Paso are involved with groups like the Sierra Club, Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition and the Audubon Society.

Last year El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke proposed legislation in concert with a current letter campaign asking President Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect the Castner Range landscape in western Texas as a national monument.  The national monument would honor the cultural, historical, scientific and environmental connections to the region.   Over 16,000 people have already signed letters to the President (sign the e-letter at 

Support for the monument is coming from across the community and is growing by the day.   This past January El Paso’s City Council unanimously approved a resolution urging that Castner Range be dedicated as a National Monument.  School children are also getting involved and over a 1000 people attending the Poppies Fest this past April signed letters to the President.

One question that is often asked is why should the United States designate a Castner Range National Monument in El Paso?  The answer is pretty simple.  A national monument will help protect this large area of the Franklin Mountains and the wildlife that lives there for the enjoyment of current and future generations. It will ensure that the public can continue to enjoy these lands forever, and it will help the El Paso region maintain and build a strong, diverse economy by protecting important open space that creates new opportunities for economic development through tourism and recreation.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Times Exposé Needs Our Attention

I hope that you have been reading the El Paso Times stories, especially yesterday's, about oil spills/runoff from oil industry platforms during the recent, devastating flooding in central Texas. It's not just oil but the fracking fluids which is probably worse. The Times followed up with an editorial to their first story. Times reporter, Marty Schladen, has done some great investigative journalism. It has been recognized nationally in pieces such as this one in Esquire.

It is egregious enough to have oil platforms spill toxic oil and fracking fluids into Texas rivers. What is even more appalling is that the Texas Department of Public Safety ordered the pictures of the spills to be taken off of the University of Texas web site once Schladen and the Times exposed what was happening. The TDPS said that the pictures had not been vetted for privacy. Yeah, sure. Don't expect the mis-named Texas Railroad Commission which regulates the oil industry to come to the rescue. 

Schladen reported what Lon Burnham, who ran unsuccessfully to become a member of the TRC, said about what's behind the censorship:

"He said that since the members of the Railroad Commission receive most of their campaign contributions from energy producers, they have little incentive to punish polluters — or even find that they’re polluting.

“'They don’t enforce,'” Burnham said. “'They don’t fine. But they do whine about needing more money from the Legislature.'”

I hope that the Times will do a follow-up about the Torchlight Energy Resources fracking platforms just across the city limits of El Paso in Hudspeth County during our monsoon season. No, the run-off of fracking fluids won't run into any rivers. However, they will spread a destructive sheen across the biocrust of the Otero Mesa/Diablo Plateau and seep into the ground. I say this especially noting that drilling there has been encouraging.