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BIG BEND SIERRAN

Issue 71
April 1, 2003
Website: http://texas.sierraclub.org/bigbend


PRESERVING THE PAST IN THE TEXAS BIG BEND
APRIL PROGRAM FEATURES BOB MALLOUF

The Big Bend Regional Sierra Club will feature a program by Bob Mallouf, Director of the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross State University, on archeological site preservation in the Texas Big Bend. The meeting is open to the public on April 15th at 7 p.m. in room 309, Lawrence Hall on the campus in Alpine.

Included in his discussion will be Rockshelter and Wolf Den Cave in the Davis Mtns., San Esteban Rockshelter on the Marfa Plain, Bee Cave in the Santiago Mtns., a few examples of open sites in the Terlingua Creek basin, and possibly a few sites in BBNP and Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Mallouf explains that archeological sites comprise unique, irreplaceable, and non-renewable resources that must be preserved if we are to scientifically reconstruct the human history of the Big Bend. Such sites are also often the best sources of data concerning past environments and changing climate through time, and thus are of great significance to the natural as well as cultural sciences.

He will also explore discussion of site preservation with regard to private and public ownership, and how the Center for Big Bend Studies meshes with the intent and goals of various private organizations such as the Texas Nature Conservancy, federal/state institutions, and landowner interests.

Mallouf has been conducting archaeological research and preservation works in Texas for over 30 years and served as Texas State Archaeologist from 1981 to 1995. He has authored numerous publications related to the archaeology of Texas, as well as western Kansas and northeastern Chihuahua, Mexico. Mallouf received B.A. and M.A. degrees in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, and also studied at the University of California at Berkeley and the American University of Cairo, Egypt. A native of Brownwood, Texas, his background includes work as variable as commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, marketing in California, and forestry and rescue work with the National Park Service in Arizona. In addition, Mallouf has led numerous archeological field schools in the Trans-Pecos, beginning in 1992 and most recently the 2002 field school at the Diamond Y spring in Pecos County, Texas.

THE SOUTH DOUBLE DIAMOND MYSTERY
by Jim Sage

Moving from Alpine to the South Double Diamond in 1995 was a new learning experience. I was confronted with exotic names such as sacahuista, lechuguilla, agarito, ironweed, and verbena. I learned to turn on a light at night so I didnıt step on a centipede or a scorpion. I had read about horse lubbers and spadefoot toads in Ann Zwingerıs books, but I had never seen one. It was all new and exciting. nest

Then sometime after May the first year here, I heard a new and strange noise. It sounded a little like a boom or a short blast on a trumpet. It occurred frequently and I scanned the hillsides searching for whatever was making the noise. The mystery went on for a while but one evening I was sitting outside watching a bird flying in an erratic zigzag fashion and suddenly the bird dove straight toward the ground. The mystery was solved.

When the bird spread its wings and pulled out of the dive, the wind rushing through the primary wing feathers made the short booming sound I had been hearing. I was both satisfied and somewhat embarrassed at my ignorance, for the bird was the common nighthawk.

"Nighthawk" is a rather curious name for a bird that is neither strictly nocturnal nor hawklike. Although it has very large eyes for seeing in the dark, it is also seen flying during the day. And unlike the hawk it has a very small beak unsuited for tearing its prey. In fact it is not a hawk but is a member of the nightjar family.

Though the nighthawk has a very small beak, it has a very large mouth which it uses as a scoop to catch flying insects. Its feet are small and weak without talons so that when it perches on a limb it sits in the direction of the limb rather than crosswise. I see them most often perched on top of a fence post or on the limb of a dead cholla, where, because they are so well camouflaged, they look more like a piece of bark than a bird.

The nighthawk is easily recognized in flight. It is about 9 1Ž2 inches with a wingspan of two feet. It flies somewhat like a bat, twisting and turning in an erratic pattern as it catches insects. Its capacity to consume mosquitoes and other insects is tremendous. It also emits a loud, repetitious, nasal peent as it flies high overhead and its dive, making the loud boom, is part of its courtship ritual. The courtship display is very impressive and I suspect the female must be dazzled by it.

Nighthawks breed throughout the United States, Canada and even Newfoundland. They nest on the bare ground, preferably on a burned-over area where the female lays two eggs. More and more they are moving into towns where they lay the eggs on flat rooftops and where there is an abundance of insects around the bright lights. Baby nighthawks make their first flight at around 15-18 days and they are fully developed in about 50 days. In late summer they migrate in large flocks as far south as Brazil and Argentina.

The nighthawks have not yet returned this year but I await their arrival with the same anticipation that I have each year for returning turkey vultures. And I hope I never forget the valuable lesson the nighthawk has taught me. ³If there is an unidentified noise that canıt be located, remember to look up.²

ORANGE ALERT FOR RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSAL BILLS
by Fran Sage

On March 25, 2003 both the House Environmental Regulation Committee and the Senate Natural Resource Committee considered the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal bill, HB 1567 and SB 824, identical bills. You will recall that these bills, subject of a special alert in March, require a private company to attain the license. That would mean, under interstate commerce laws that the company could contract for waste from federal, and even indirectly international sources. Speakers opposing the bills included Melanie Barnes from the League of Women Voters (Lubbock), ³Smitty² Smith from Public Citizen, Richard Simpson from Andrews County, Karen Hadden from the SEED Coalition, Erin Rogers of the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club, and several folks from Austin. Of course, several people from the Andrews Industrial Foundation spoke in favor of the bill. On March 31st the Committee met and passed out the bill without any amendments. By the time you read this newsletter, the bill may be scheduled for a House vote. The federal waste dump is still in and the license would pass from the state to a private company. If the bill passes the House, then it would go to the Senate. If the Senate passes the same bill passed by the House then there would be no Conference and it would go to the Governor. The bill is on the fast track and we MUST do our part in stopping it. What can we do to STOP THESE BILLS?

  1. Contact our Representative Pete Gallego, thank him for his opposition to the bill and ask him to please use his influence with any legislative groups he belongs to, such as the Mexican-American Caucus, which he heads, the Democratic Caucus, and with other individual legislators, to stop HB 1567. Tell him we do not want a federal waste dump in Texas, especially West Texas. The State MUST RETAIN THE LICENSE. Phone him at (512) 463-0566 or e-mail him at pete.gallego@house.state.tx.us. Phoning is best.
  2. Contact Senator Frank Madla, who has not yet committed to opposing the bill (SB824), though he is leaning toward opposing it. Tell him we do not want a federal waste dump in Texas, especially West Texas. The State MUST RETAIN THE LICENSE. Call him at (512) 463-0119 or e-mail him at frank.madla@senate.state.tx.us. Phoning is best.
  3. Finally, contact Representative Buddy West, the bill sponsor in the House, and tell him we do not want a federal waste dump in Texas, especially West Texas. The State MUST RETAIN THE LICENSE. Contact him at (512) 463-0546.
PLEASE ACT NOW!!!!

FACTS ABOUT LOW-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE
by Fran Sage

In a March 3, 2003 article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Tony Proffitt, former political consultant to former Lt. Governor Bob Bullock, and now a spokesman for Waste Control Specialists (likely private company to dispose of federal and compact waste in Andrews County), said, ³Itıs not going to be fuel rods or weapons-grade plutonium. Most of it is dirt.²

The following information came from Erin Rogers who is lobbying against the bill for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. All her information is documented.

Class A waste is not just dirt. It includes most of the type owned or generated by the Department of Energy. Many people think that Class A low-level radioactive waste is harmless and short-lived‹containing elements that are radioactive for only a couple hundred years. But the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ, and formerly the TNRCC) states that ³this statement is based on certain very restrictive assumptions about low level waste characteristics and is not generally true. Class A waste frequently has long-lived radionuclide constituents as well as short-lived constituents co-mingled in the waste stream. (TNRCC Texas Compact Low Level Radioactive Waste Generation Trends and Management Alternatives Study, pp. 4-19.)

Class A waste can contain plutonium, which remains radioactive for 250,000 years; Iodine-1297, radioactive for 160 million years, Radium-226, radioactive for 16,000 years; Nicoblium-94, radioactive for 200,000 years.

The bill also allows Class B and Class C waste. Some of the Class C waste is low-level radioactive waste owned or generated by the Federal Government as a result of any research, development, testing, or production of any atomic weapon. It is permitted to contain up to 4,600 curies of cesium-137 per cubic meter‹enough radiation to kill someone standing 3 feet away in 20 minutes without intervening shielding.

The above is part of what we would get if the private company holds the license and brings federal waste into Texas.

POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS

We need to be aware that the high power lobbying effort by Waste Control Specialists comes from 14 paid lobbyists including Jeff Saitas, formerly Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, former Speaker of the House Billy Clayton, Reggie Bashur, former aide to then Governor Bush and others who have connections with legislative members.

It is worth noting that Harold Simmons majority owner of Waste Control Specialists and Kent Hance, part-owner have contributed nearly half a million dollars to Texas legislators and state officials since last legislative session, including $150,000 to Governor Perry, $23,000 to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and significant sums to some legislators including some committee members.

STOP THE DUMP! STOP THE DUMP! STOP THE DUMP! STOP THE DUMP!

DON'S COLUMN

Legislative Day Notes

About 100 people from throughout the state attended. Many were new, especially at the nuclear waste session. The bill for this session of the Legislature had just been introduced, and it was very bad - explicitly called for a national dump, for a private company to hold the license, and the state to maintain liability. And later it was revealed that Waste Control Specialists, the company that wrote the bill, has donated nearly a half a million dollars to politicians this year. But we have fought bad bills and big money before. The difference I see this year is that our years of coalition building are paying off. While we in West Texas still need to fight hard, we will have more friends from throughout the state ­ Dallas, Fort Worth, Amarillo, Houston, San Marcos, Waco, and other places. Also, several groups, including the League of Women Voters and faith-based groups, were represented. And, for the first time I can remember, students from several colleges expressed concern and volunteered to help. So while the fight may seem to be harder, I came away with a sense that we are stronger at the start of a session than we have ever been.

Other issues that I was glad to hear about included Smitty Smithıs (Public Citizen) bill calling for an increase in alternative power from the currently mandated 3%, to 10 %. Pete Gallego has agreed to sponsor this bill in the House. It is nice to be able to support economic development in West Texas and environmentally safe projects at the same time. Another important bill in this session (HB 877) will encourage the TCEQ to make the fines they levy against polluters at least match the financial gains they receive from polluting. ³Right now it pays to pollute in the state of Texas," said Mary Kelly, Senior Attorney for Environmental Defense. "Weak fines are encouraging pollution and putting good businesses at a competitive disadvantage." In a report authored by Kelly, it was shown that deferrals of penalties and the use of Supplemental Environmental projects (SEPs) in lieu of penalties reduced the amount of penalties due the general revenue fund by approximately $22 million between FY 1996 and FY 2001. And although 56% of major facilities were found to be in violation of their Clean Water Act permits from January 2001 to March 2002, the average fine fell from $13,000 to $1,000. Again, this is a bill that will clean up the environment, and have a positive effect on state revenues, as TCEQ already calculates the ³benefits² of non-compliance.

Outing Musings

Just got back from our first outing in some time - at the Davis Mountain Preserve of the Texas Nature Conservancy (TNC). Special thanks are due to Marilyn Brady for organizing the outing, Scott May and Linda and David Hedges for leading hikes, and Karen Talley, and her dog Shep, of TNC, for serving as gracious hosts. Sitting around a campfire last night, several of us began reminiscing about how lack of wood, drought, and park policies have tended to make this an unusual occurrence. And then, since our group contained several ex-Boy and Girl Scouts, we began remembering all the fun and tasty stuff we had cooked over wood fires. As we talked, plans formed for a wood fire, cast iron cooking demonstration, eating extravaganza to be a part of TNCıs May open house, scheduled for May 16, 17, and 18. Come to our April meeting for an update - and check the website for updated information.

ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE WIN

Finally some good environmental news. The senate defeated a provision in the appropriation bill for next year that would have opened up the Refuge to oil drilling. The vote came on an amendment to remove the provision. It was 52-48. While it was mostly along party lines, eight Republicans and the independent joined with the Democrats while five Democrats joined with the Republicans. One can expect the provision to resurface, however, as it seems to be the centerpiece of President Bushıs energy policy. That policy significantly favors the oil and gas industry and is thin on energy conservation and alternative energy. The policy does not address reducing our dependence on oil. Apparently the administration and its supporters see no danger to the environment either. Interior Secretary Gale Norton is quoted as saying the area is ³flat, white nothingness.² Apparently if a refuge is not beautiful (in her estimation) or suitable as a tourist attraction, it does not need to be protected. -Ed.

STATUS OF THE BRAVO STUDY

In checking on the current status of the BRAVO study, I sent an e-mail to Jim Yarbrough of EPA, Region 6 in Dallas. Following is his reply:

"What we believe is the final set of modeling runs should (emphasize should) be done by the second or maybe the third week in April. However, juggling the calendars of 30-35 people for a final, big meeting to agree on the draft final report proved to be challenging. The earliest we can schedule this meeting is May 7-9, which we have done. Practically everyone that has been involved for the past 5 1Ž2 years wants to be at this meeting, which is scheduled for Austin.

"Our goal is to have as much of the draft report written prior to May 7 as is possible. The May 7-9 meeting will then serve to fill in the ³gaps² that require face-to-face consensus. The draft should officially be released shortly thereafter."

So now it will probably be sometime in May rather than April. Iıll keep you posted as this report drags to its conclusion. -Ed.

NEW REGIONAL EPA ADMINISTRATOR APPOINTED

Effective March 31, 2003, Richard E. Greene will head the Environmental Protection Agencyıs (EPA) Region 6, headquartered in Dallas. Region 6 encompasses Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Greene served as mayor of Arlington from 1987 to 1997, during which time he helped get the city of Arlington to help pay for the Texas Rangerıs baseball team to locate there. At that time the team was owned by now President George W. Bush. Earlier he served on the Arlington City Council for two terms, and was Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission for nine years. After leaving the mayorıs office, he was the associate publisher of the Arlington Star-Telegram. Recently he has served as executive director of the Arlington Technology Incubator, a joint venture between the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the University of Texas at Arlington, an organization created to move products from the lab to the market place. He has been an adjunct professor with the University of Texas at Arlington, though the press release does not specify in what field. He is a 1965 graduate of the School of Business at the University of Louisiana at Monroe with a B.S. in Business Administration. He also is a graduate of the School of Mortgage Banking at Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois. Greene is quoting as saying, ³As EPA Regional Administrator, I look forward to assisting local government leaders‹often the primary service providers of environmental protection to communities‹to identify new cost-effective ways of achieving the nationıs health-based standards."

No mention is made in the press release of what his environmental background is. His background does not seem to be scientific or regulatory. -Ed.

GALLEGO FILES RENEWABLE ENERGY BILL

Representative Pete Gallego filed HB2910 which would amend Section 39.904 (a) of the Utilities Code by increasing the total megawatts of generating capacity from renewable energy technologies required by 2019 to a total of 13,400 with incremental increases from now until then. HB2910 was referred to the Regulated Industries Committee.

While I have not yet been able to confirm a hearing time, I let you know next month how the bill is progressing. -Ed. See Don's column for additional information.

gallego

NEW BBNP SUPERINTENDENT

The National Park Service announces that John H. King has been appointed as Big Bend National Park Superintendent starting May 28, 2003. Karen Wade, Intermountain Regional Director, says, ³John is an effective communicator and manager who has demonstrated ability as a consensus builder with external organizations and groups. King is currently serving as superintendent at Virgin Islands National Park. He began his career with NPS in 1971 and has served in a number of administrative and managerial positions in various national park units including Big Bend National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area‹Nevada, Colonial National Historical Park‹Virginia, Isle Royale National Park‹Michigan, Chickamauga and Chattanooga Nation Military Parks‹Georgia, Blue Ridge Parkway‹North Carolina, and Natchez Trace Parkway‹Mississippi. He also worked as a Deputy Regional Director in the Intermountain Region (1995-2000) and Associate Regional Director for Administration in the former Rocky Mountain Region (1992-1995). King holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Mississippi State University. He and his wife, Martha, have three grown sons.

PUBLICATIONS

Following is a list of interesting publications:

Facts about Texas Water, a publication of the Texas Living Waters Project (representing a collaborative effort of the National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense, and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, and published by the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club. 2003. Free. 23 pages. The book is intended for the general public, and discusses such matters as the Water Cycle, Water Tables, where we get our water, with location maps for Texas Aquifers, Surface Water, and related matters. Contact Don Dowdey, Big Bend Regional Sierra Club (837-3210) or pickup a copy at BBRSC meetings, including one April 15th and May 20th. See back cover of newsletter for location.

Big Bend Gardener's Guide, A publication of The Native Plant Society of Texas, Big Bend Chapter. 2003. 34 pages. $9.95. There are many illustration drawings including those by Patricia R. Manning, Petei Zelazny, Ellen Ruggia, Beth Francell, Kate McKenna, Kathleen Romine, Carol Fairlie, Jean Watertson. Dallas Baxter, is Editor with additional contributions from Lois Balin, Jennifer Baur, Bill Carlisle, Linda Hedges, Scott May, Oscar Mestas, Brad Abromeit, and Sue Beach. The essays and charts cover a full range of useful information, told in a personal form in some cases. There is a reading list for additional information. A charming useful book, handsome on fine paper, and available at Front Street Books and Ocotillos Enterprises in Alpine, the Marfa Bookstore in Marfa, Front Street Books in Marathon, Limpia Hotel bookstore and Javelinas & Hollyhocks in Ft. Davis, and The Terlingua Trading Co. It is not yet available in Presidio and Big Bend National Park or in Ft. Stockton.

Wilderness and the American Mind by Roderick Nash, 4th Edition, published by Yale University Press. 2001 415 pages. $16.95. This is the classic of American history books on the topic. One could call it a history of rising awareness on wilderness and environmental issues. The new edition has a new preface and epilogue, incorporating Nashıs understanding of the rights of other species to habitat, spelled out in his earlier The Rights of Nature, A History of Environmental Ethics, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. Both books have bibliographies. I found both of them good reading. FS

SIERRA CLUB NEWS

Super FRIP or FRIP - that was the question! A membership program report from Lue Hirsch

The National Sierra Club organization has had incentive programs such as FRIP (Field Recruitment Incentive Program) for quite awhile. Until last month, the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club had been unable to convince the national office that we were being innovative and creative in our attempts to recruit new members and thus qualify for Super FRIP standing. Maybe it was our persistence, maybe it was pointing out that the geographic area we cover is approximately 13,000 square miles with about 1.4 people per square mile, compared with San Francisco County with 16,634 square miles and 47 people per square mile!

Whatever the reason we are now Super FRIP approved. This recruitment program means more of the yearly membership fee stays in the area. This program is for new recruits only, and only for members recruited during the designated Super FRIP outings/meetings. Without Super FRIP the local club received $1.50 per new member. With Super FRIP our club receives $12.00 per new member! If we are able to recruit 10 members (which is the goal we have set for ourselves) through the Super FRIP program that gives us $120 versus $15.00 to put to use here in the Big Bend on issues important to us.

If you have been thinking of joining please consider doing so at one of the Super FRIP activities. The next designated activity will be on the Sul Ross campus at the University Center on April 21st. We are also looking into having some information at the annual CDRI plant sale on April 25th and 26th.

New Members: Welcome to Mark Battista, Alpine. Apologies to anyone who has joined and not been acknowledged. We will catch up next newsletter.

Contributions: Thanks to Glenn Chappell, Pam Gaddis, Barbara Hazelwood, and Connie Vaugh, who gave in memory of Josephine E. Janczak, and to pledges from Virginia and Joe Campbell, and Linda and David Hedges. In addition we received $77.00 from tee-shirt sales and Lone Star Chapter subvention. Total for both February and March is $320.70. Year to date: $391.70.

Calendar Sales: Total calendar sales anticipated net income as of March 18th is $911.21. We expect additional income because of 1Ž2 price sales still to come. Many thanks to all who have worked to sell calendars, in particular, Ginny Campbell, treasurer, who organized the sales fundraiser.


Big Bend Regional Sierra Club 50 Sunny Glen, Alpine, Texas 79830

Don Dowdey, Chair, 50 Sunny Glen, Alpine, TX 79830 ddowdey@wildblue.net

Fran Sage, Newsletter Editor, P. O. Box 564, Alpine, TX. 79831
sage@brooksdata.net


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