In a Wedensday afternoon Facebook post, El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced that he filed a bill to protect a wide swath of land in the city’s Northeast area, once used as a target range by the U.S. Army.
O’Rourke said, “Castner Range is the crown jewel of West Texas. It deserves to be protected and preserved in its natural state. Today I introduced the Castner Range National Monument Act. This bill would protect Castner Range in perpetuity by making it a national monument.”
The range, some 7,000-plus acres is surrounded by the Franklin Mountains State Park. According to the Department of Defense’s website, in 1926 the government first purchased 3,500, followed by almost 5,000 acres more in 1939. Once the range was opened, the Army set up several firing ranges for mortars, artillery, rockets and grenades fired by rifles.
By the mid-70’s, the Army began selling portions of the range to the City of El Paso, while sweeping the thousands of acres for unexploded ordnance. Signs still warn the public about the potential for some unexploded devices in the area, now within walking distance of homes and businesses.
In his Facebook statement, O’Rourke goes on to state that, “The bill is the result of a community effort led by the frontera land alliance, the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and other environmental community leaders who have been working to protect Castner Range since the 1970’s.”
On their respective websites, both the Frontera Land Alliance and the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition (FMWC) laud the introduction of the bill.
A statement on FMWC states, “Thank you Congressman Beto O’Rourke for introducing the Castner Range National Monument Act today! Everyone in our City and the country appreciates your help in protecting our natural world for future generations to enjoy.”
The video above was produced by the Frontera Land Alliance and local historian Jackson Polk in 2014.