Castner Range National Monument | Photo courtesy Castner Range National Monument Act / Facebook
On Thursday, in commemoration of Earth Day, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) introduced H.R. 2752, the Castner Range National Monument Act.
According to Rep. Escobar’s office, this legislation will designate Castner Range as a National Monument to conserve and protect the ecological cultural, historical, natural integrity of the land for present and future generations of El Pasoans and Americans to enjoy.
“Castner Range is the crown jewel of West Texas and a source of great pride for El Pasoans,” said Congresswoman Escobar.
“As our nation takes unprecedented action to conserve public lands and water and address climate change, I am proud to re-introduce the Castner Range National Monument Act and very grateful for the grassroots community leadership that has been working tirelessly on this issue. Together, we can meet the moment by increasing equitable access to outdoor spaces and ensuring El Paso families can continue to make memories surrounded by the mesmerizing beauty and history of Castner Range.”
The Castner Range National Monument Act would:
• Designate the Castner Range federal lands within El Paso County, Texas as a National Monument to conserve and protect the integrity of the land.
• Protect the Castner Range’s role as a water conservation sanctuary, its significance as a habitat for diverse and uniquely mountainous wildlife and vegetation, and for present and future generations to enjoy.
• Require the Department of Interior (DOI) to create a Management Plan that will be used to protect habitat restoration and recreational enhancement opportunities and manage the remediation of hazardous substances or ammunitions and explosives by the Secretary of the Army.
• Call for the establishment of the Castner Range National Monument Advisory Council to advise in areas regarding the preparation and implementation of the management plan.
Below are local and national reactions to the proposed act:
“Establishing Castner Range as a National Monument is the right thing to do for the land and community in El Paso,” said Brian Sybert, Executive Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation. “We thank Congresswoman Escobar for her leadership and for collaborating with our community-based partner Frontera Land Alliance as she reintroduces this legislation and advances the effort to move it through Congress. This effort shows that local communities who are passionate about conserving their public lands can have a voice and make a difference in the future of the lands they love and care for and we are excited to work to make Castner Range America’s next national monument.”
“The El Paso Community Foundation and its partners applaud Representative Escobar for her actions today,” said Eric Pearson, President and CEO of the El Paso Community Foundation. “Castner Range is more than open space and quality of life – it is a large part of our identity, and it is a unique connection to our history and pre-history– and it is important to preserve.”
“For over 40 years, the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition worked for the permanent preservation of Castner Range, the crown jewel of the Franklin Mountains,” said Judy Ackerman, Secretary of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition. “Castner Range, where Mexican golden poppies bloom in profusion when the weather allows, has natural springs, fascinating and complex geology, rare natural habitat for native plant and animal habitats, spectacular scenery and rich cultural features. These factors make a unique opportunity for a classroom in the open at Castner Range. We are immensely grateful to Congresswoman Veronica Escobar for introducing this legislation to protect Castner Range in perpetuity!”
“A Castner Range National Monument recognizes a 21st Century conservation effort centered around justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Janae’ Reneaud Field, Executive Director for the Frontera Land Alliance. “Congresswoman Escobar’s introduction is another important step in our efforts to show our nation’s capital that the borderland region will do everything in its power to help this land become designated and therefor preserved.”
“We demand a 21st Century conservation movement centered on justice and equity. The Castner Range National Monument Act will bring protected wide-open spaces even closer to the growing city of El Paso, home to one of the nation’s oldest and largest Latino populations,” said Mark Magaña, Founding President and CEO of GreenLatinos. “By supporting Congresswoman Escobar’s legislation, Congress and the Biden administration will demonstrate their commitment to more equitable access to nature for all.”
“Border communities thank Congresswoman Escobar for her leadership in protecting one of El Paso’s most iconic and intact Chihuahuan Desert landscapes. The introduction of the Castner Range National Monument Act is of great significance to frontera residents, who over the last four years, have beared the brunt of xenophobia, mass shootings, a rampaging pandemic, and the militarization of our border,” said Angel Peña, Executive Director of Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project.
“The protection of the Castner Range will ensure that fronterizos have the opportunity to find solace, comfort, and equitable access to the outdoors, right here in our community. This monument proposal recognizes just how intertwined our public lands and the environment are with issues centered around justice, race, and equity. As an organization born on the border, Nuestra Tierra is proud to support this effort and looks forward to the creation of Castner Range National Monument.”
“Designating the Castner Range a national monument will benefit West Texas communities, increase access to the outdoors by extending protections for Franklin Mountains State Park, and protect public lands to fight the climate crisis,” said Athan Manuel, Director of the Lands Protection Program at Sierra Club. “Not only is Castner Range home to a rich ecosystem and a haven for recreation and retreat, its conservation can play a critical role in helping sequester carbon and fight climate change. With only 12 percent of lands currently protected in the United States, protecting the Castner Range will help us reach 30 percent protections by 2030 to prevent the worst of the climate and extinction crises.”
“The introduction of the Castner Range National Monument Act helps us move closer to enacting greatly needed protections for Castner Range, and we encourage Congress to pass Congresswoman Escobar’s bill,” said Dan Hartinger, Director of Government Relations for the Wilderness Society. “The U.S. is losing a football field’s worth of natural areas to development every 30 seconds, with communities of color disproportionately impacted by nature loss. This legislation represents an inclusive vision for conservation that should serve as a model for meeting the Biden administration’s goal of protecting 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, by supporting community-driven conservation proposals while expanding equitable access to the outdoors.”
According to Escobar’s office, the legislation is endorsed by the Conservation Lands Foundation, El Paso Community Foundation, Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, Frontera Land Alliance, GreenLatinos, Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, Sierra Club, and Wilderness Society.
To read the full bill text, click here. To read more about the proposed monument, click here.