On Tuesday, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed by the U.S House of Representatives. Locally, this means that El Paso’s Castner Range will remain entirely free of development and other commercial enterprise to the benefit of our community, borderland region and future generations.
Via a news release, officials with The Frontera Land Alliance, the El Paso area’s only 501(c)3 land-trust organization , said that “U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke and his staff were largely responsible for this victory.”
In the same release, Janaé Reneaud Field, Executive Director, said she was pleased to learn that Sec. 2846 will protect and conserve “the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational, and scientific resources” of the Range.
“Castner covers 25% of the Franklin Mountains, including much of their highest peak, and the protection afforded by Sec. 2846 goes a very long way towards conserving the Range for all time,” she added.
“Our Frontera community has long been working to protect Castner Range, one of El Paso’s beautiful backdrops. We thank the commitment of Congressman O’Rourke and his team for pursing our vision of a landscape that is accessible and is also an education resource for our regional youth,” said Scott Cutler, President of The Frontera Land Alliance (Frontera) and also the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition (FMWC).
“El Pasoans know and love Castner Range for its annual display of golden poppies. Together with Castner Range Coalition, which includes Frontera, FMWC and El Paso Community Foundation—have long been working to protect the Range as natural open space. El Paso has campaigned to conserve the Range since 1971, and now with the leadership of Congressman O’Rourke we are one step closer to realizing our community’s vision of a perpetually-preserved Castner Range National Monument,” said native El Pasoan Angel Peña, Rio Bravo Regional Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, a national group that has also been active in the Castner Range campaign.
Dozens of natural and cultural studies have led to the well-documented identification of a variety of plants, animals and archaeological sites that make the range’s 7,081 open-space acres more than worthy of protection as a National Monument.
Researchers have identified more than forty archaeological and historical sites on the Range including extensive collections of petroglyphs, remnants of failed tin-mining operations, and small stone structures and pottery.
By January 2017 more than 35,200 individuals from El Paso and surrounding areas had written letters asking then-President Barack Obama to designate El Paso’s Castner Range as America’s next National Monument.