by Rick LoBello
A growing number of people in El Paso are supporting a new conservation movement to protect the Castner Range area of the Franklin Mountains in northeast El Paso as a National Monument. The Castner Range is home to more than 650 species of Chihuahuan Desert plants, 33 species of reptiles, over a 100 species of birds and nearly 30 species of mammals. There also maybe hundreds if not thousands of species of invertebrates and microorganisms yet to be discovered. Supporting local conservation efforts is a high priority and many people in El Paso are involved with groups like the Sierra Club, Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition and the Audubon Society.
Last year El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke proposed legislation in concert with a current letter campaign asking President Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect the Castner Range landscape in western Texas as a national monument. The national monument would honor the cultural, historical, scientific and environmental connections to the region. Over 16,000 people have already signed letters to the President.
Support for the monument is coming from across the community and is growing by the day. This past January El Paso’s City Council unanimously approved a resolution urging that Castner Range be dedicated as a National Monument. School children are also getting involved and over a 1000 people attending the Poppies Fest this past April signed letters to the President.
One question that is often asked is why should the United States designate a Castner Range National Monument in El Paso? The answer is pretty simple. A national monument will help protect this large area of the Franklin Mountains and the wildlife that lives there for the enjoyment of current and future generations. It will ensure that the public can continue to enjoy these lands forever, and it will help the El Paso region maintain and build a strong, diverse economy by protecting important open space that creates new opportunities for economic development through tourism and recreation.