AUSTIN – West Texans who support the Biden administration’s commitment to conserve 30% of the nation’s lands, waters and ocean by 2030 want this to be the year Castner Range is declared a national monument.
Ángel Peña, executive director of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, said the area’s status should be elevated to protect its role as a water-conservation sanctuary and habitat for diverse mountain wildlife and vegetation.
“For a community that has seen, especially over the last four years, some brutal xenophobia, militarization of the border, a mass shooting and the continued separation of families, this acknowledges the communities that surround places like Castner Range,” Peña explained.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, who is from El Paso, re-introduced a bill in April to designate Castner Range as a national monument. The designation would protect the 7,000-acre area, formerly used by Fort Bliss, and conserve the “ecological cultural, historical and natural integrity of the land.”
Maryflor Garcia, member of the Frontera Land Alliance Initiative, a group gathering signatures in support of the monument status for Castner Range, said the area is a community gathering place, especially known for the annual Poppies Festival in the spring when desert flowers cover the hillsides.
“The Mexican golden poppy, and they make that whole side of the mountain yellow, and that’s one of the reasons this area is so important to our community,” Garcia remarked.
In addition to poppies, Peña added the area is known for its natural springs and complex geology.
“It’s exciting to hear that this administration is looking to see how they can leverage the Antiquities Act to really help redefine even what conservation looks like,” Peña stated.
The Castner Range National Monument Act would also require the U.S. Interior Department to create a management plan to protect habitat restoration, enhance recreational opportunities and remediate hazardous substances or munitions and explosives still buried at the site from its Fort Bliss training days.
Author: Roz Brown – Texas News Service
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