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Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta Celebrates Natural Wonders of the Franklin Mountains Saturday

The 13th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta at the Tom Mays section of Franklin Mountains State Park is planned for Saturday, September 30, from 9am to 3pm.

The free family event helps people connect with the great outdoors of the Franklin Mountains and is sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the help of volunteers from the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition. Organizes say the annual event attracts hundreds of people to the desert mountain park in Northwest El Paso.

The outdoor venue celebrates the natural wonders of the Chihuahuan Desert and Franklin Mountains State Park. Local environmental education groups will be on hand to offer free demonstrations, guided tours, guest speakers and informational booths designed to introduce the curious to the wonders of our fascinating desert.

Schedule of Events at the Entertainment Stage Area – End of the Loop Road next to the Exhibitor Tent Area

· 9:00am-9:15am- National Anthem
· 9:30am-10:00am- Cheerleading
· 10:00am-10:15am Zoo Animal Encounter
· 10:30am-11:00am- Story Telling(Marylyn Guida)
· 11:10am-11:35am- Martial Arts Demonstration
· 11:45am-12:15pm-Keyboarding/Piano
· 12:30pm-1:00pm- Rondalla Estudiantil
· 1:15pm-1:45pm- Ballet Folklorico (Champion Studio)
· 2:00pm-2:30pm- Belly Dancers

More on Geosciences Education Activities – Mini-field trips will run from 9am to 3pm, and will last only 30 minutes, with one exception. The short time means you will not be walking far. The geosciences do not only about understand the earth at your feet, but the vistas in the distance, and the sky above us.

Many of the following field trips may include a walk to a nearby place of higher elevation to get a better view. Hikers are encouraged to bring binoculars for the picturesque hike.

All mini-trips with the exception of trips 4 and 6 meet near the Restrooms at the End of the Loop Road to the right of the main stage and exhibit area.

Trip 1- 9:45 am to 10:45 am – Agave Loop for hikers interested in connecting to Mundy’s Gap.  See Park Map for Location.

Trip 2-10:30 am to 12:00 pm- Aztec Cave Trail is a 1.2 mile out and back trail that features a cave and is good for all skill levels.  See Park Map for Location.

Trip 3 – 11:00 am- 11:30pm- Short walk to elevation change.  Meet at the Trail head at the end of the loop road.

Trip 4 -11:00 am – 12:30pm –  Underground Copper Mine Tour, a maximum number of 15 participants with flashlights or headlamps. Meet at the Cottonwood Spring Parking Area. The hike is 1 mile round trip uphill over a rocky trail. Bring sturdy shoes, sunscreen, water, and a working flashlight. We will explore an underground tunnel which was part of an unsuccessful mineral entrepreneurial activity. Check out the blue grotto! See Park Map for Location.

Trip 5 -1:00 pm – 2:30pm –  Underground Copper Mine Tour, a maximum number of 15 participants with flashlights or headlamps. Meet at the Cottonwood Spring Parking Area. The hike is 1 mile round trip uphill over a rocky trail. Bring sturdy shoes, sunscreen, water, and a working flashlight. We will explore an underground tunnel which was part of an unsuccessful mineral entrepreneurial activity. Check out the blue grotto! See Park Map for Location.

Trip 6 -1:30 pm to 2:30 pm Upper Sunset Trail; is one of the shorter ones (1.3 miles) and offered some great views of the valley below.  Meet at the restrooms at the end of the loop road.

Trip 7- 2:00 pm to 2:30 pm Short Hike.  No elevation change. Meet at the Trail head at the end of the loop road.

Exhibitors attending the festival this year include New Mexico Farm, Ranch and Heritage Museum, Chamizal National Memorial, Hueco Tanks State Park, Aerial Tramway, Franklin Mountains State Park, Mexican Gray Wolf,  El Paso Parks and Recreation, Tech H2O, El Paso Zoo, International Boundary and Water Commission, Sierra Club, Women’s Voting, Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, Greater Big Bend Coalition, Frontera Land Alliance, Texas Master Naturalist, UTEP, El Paso Fire Department, Sustainability and Resilience Office, Audubon Society, and Friends of the Rio Bosque.

Special thanks to our volunteers from the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition, Franklin Mountains State Park, City of El Paso Parks and Rec, El Paso Zoo, University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

For more information contact Franklin Mountains State Park at (915) 566-6441 or contact CDEC Committee Chair Carlos Rodriguez at 915-240-3311.

Young Sentinels Watch Over NM Water

VALDEZ, N.M. – “Water Sentinels” is a volunteer monitoring program started by the Sierra Club to survey rivers and streams the Environmental Protection Agency has neglected. And in rural New Mexico, its membership is increasingly made up of school kids.

They inspect the Rio Hondo, Rio Fernando, Rio Pueblo and Red River for toxins that result from agriculture and mining and which can have serious health implications to humans. Retired organic chemistry teacher and program coordinator Eric Patterson leads and inspires these kids into keeping an important natural resource safe for all people to use and enjoy.

“Valdez, the town I live in, is right on that Rio Hondo, and I just love that river,” Patterson said. “It’s a beautiful mountain stream – it has cascades, it has rapids, it has trout. The biggest thing we check for is E coli bacteria, and we are concerned about aluminum.”

Waste runoff from grazing lands is the main contributor of E coli, according to Patterson, and they are monitoring aluminum from a mine in the town of Questa that extracts molybdenum, an element used for computer chips and in fossil fuel production.

There is some contention between the state environment department and the Sierra Club regarding the toxicity of aluminum as well as the necessity to test for it. That’s where the Water Sentinels come in.

With Patterson at the helm, his young apprentices monitor the waters where people fish, raft and play, especially at confluences of the Rio Grande which supplies irrigation and drinking water to millions. He said with the way environmental protections are being deregulated, it’s more important than ever to get kids into water issues.

“If people don’t love to love the outdoors and the environment when they’re young, they won’t fight to protect it when they’re old,” Patterson said.

The Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club is on the lookout for more students across New Mexico who want to learn about and protect water in their state. Interested parties can find more information at RioGrandeSierraClub.org.

Brett McPherson, Public News Service – NM

TransCanada seeks $15B from U.S. over Keystone XL

AUSTIN, Texas – The Canadian corporation behind the Keystone XL pipeline, is using provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to recover more than $15 billion in damages from the U.S.

Stephen Kretzmann, executive director with Oil Change International, says the move underlines the threats trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pose to the nation’s ability to combat climate change.

He says since at least 75 percent of remaining fossil fuels need to stay in the ground to meet goals set in Paris, deals that favor corporate bottom lines make it harder for governments to stand up to powerful companies.

“We are giving those entities rights and the ability to trump those government decisions,” says Kretzmann. “Or at least, extract ridiculous amounts of money in return for decisions they don’t like.”

Kretzmann notes TransCanada’s claim will be decided by a tribunal of three lawyers who are allowed to rotate between acting as judges and advocates for the investors launching cases. He says under the so-called “investor-state dispute settlement” rules, the tribunal has the power to order the U.S. to pay for preparation costs and projected profits.

According to the Sierra Club, TransCanada’s action is part of a rising trend. The group cites a U.S. company’s request for compensation from Canadian taxpayers after a moratorium on fracking in Quebec, and Chevron’s petition to keep from paying for damaging Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Kretzmann says so far, trade deals have fallen short of their promises.

“But the reality is, as we’ve seen from NAFTA, jobs leave the United States and there are not adequate environmental and consumer protections,” he says. “The only winners are the corporate backers of these trade deals, at the end of the day.”

Kretzmann adds since NAFTA only covers trade with Canada and Mexico, the TPP deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries could expose the U.S. to claims from more than 9,000 additional foreign-owned firms.

Author: Eric Galatas, Texas News Service

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