Originally posted on El Paso Times on Dec 19th.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke and area environmental leaders have a promising idea in proposing Castner Range for national monument status.
The former Army training range on the eastern slope of the Franklin Mountains is an ecological treasure for El Paso, home to a variety of flora and fauna, including the Mexican poppies that carpet the mountainside each spring.
The land is still owned by the Defense Department, even though it hasn’t been used for weapons training in 50 years. The 7,081 acres are littered with potential unexploded ordnance, limiting the land’s uses.
The unexploded ordnance makes the land undevelopable now, but that could change as removal technology improves in future decades. Taking steps now to preserve this unique open space is warranted.
“We can enjoy it, enjoy the beauty, and know that the very rich ecology and cultural heritage are being preserved and not being paved over and developed,” O’Rourke said. “We also want to make sure that kids and their kids and their kids — generations to come — can enjoy a part of the mountain that we may have taken for granted a long time.”
The El Paso Democrat introduced the Castner Range National Monument Act on Wednesday. Its prospects in a Republican-controlled Congress, especially in an election year, are dim.
But President Obama could use his executive authority to create a national monument at Castner Range, much as he did last year with the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in south-central New Mexico.
Widespread community support for the designation could encourage Obama to designate Castner Range as a national monument…