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BIG BEND SIERRANIssue 78
February 1, 2004
NOTE CHANGE IN MEETING NIGHT TO THIRD THURSDAY OF THE MONTH.
TOM BEARD FEATURED SPEAKER IN FEBRUARYTom Beard says all water issues are now on the table (see Water Study below) thanks to the Rio Nuevo proposal before the State Land Board. Beard will discuss such water issues as rule of capture (keeping it or changing it will be a particularly controversial issue in the next legislative session), local control, conservation, regional water plans, historical use, exporting water, and other issues The BBRSC meeting will be Thursday, February 19, 2004, 7:00pm, in Lawrence Hall 300, Sul Ross State University. (Take Entrance Two off of US 67and 90 and park behind or to the side of the building. Enter by the back doors-elevator at the middle door). The public is welcome. Tom will provide his perspective based on his longtime commitment to Far West Texas. His discussion should be particularly useful as water issues are generating lots of hostility in West Texas. (See below for a listing of public hearings on the issues.)
"Thank God for Rio Nuevo! Goofballs Have Their Roles"
Tom has been active for years on water issues having served as chair of the Far West Texas Water Planning Group since 1998 and the Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District, since 2001. He is currently chairman of the Texas Building and Procurement Commission, director of the Texas Wildlife Association, fellow, Texas Bar Foundation. In addition he is a sixth generation rancher and president of Leoncita Cattle Company as well as managing partner, Leoncita Land Company. He has played a leadership role with various cattlemen's association, and has also been chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, El Paso Branch. He is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Texas Law School
Tom has published articles about water issues in various magazines and newspapers and participated in a number of seminars and conferences on water issues.
UPCOMING MEETINGS: March 18th -- Superintendent John King, Big Bend National Park speaking on various aspects of the park. April 15th-- Mary Kelly, senior attorney for Environmental Defense in Austin, discussing border water issues.
A SORRY REPUTATIONShortly after moving to the South Double Diamond, I had gone for a walk, returning as it got dark. About halfway home, I encountered a small band of javelinas in the road. I had read that they can be dangerous; so I began whistling. Nothing happened. I picked up rocks and threw them. Nothing happened. I shouted and they finally moved off the road, but not very far. I continued walking but being alone in the semi-darkness, one large boar looked more like a fighting bull from Spain than a small pig that would not weigh over 60 pounds. This was my first encounter with javelinas.
by Jim Sage
Having now lived in the South Double Diamond for eight years, I have had many encounters with javelinas. They stand by the kitchen door and eat tunas from the prickly pear, red juice dripping from the corners of their mouths. They are not aggressive and contrary to many stories, they do no damage. They have never damaged a single plant nor do they root in the flower bed as they are supposed to do.
The javelina or collared peccary is a native of the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts and is the only wild, native, pig-like animal found in the United States. I say pig-like as they are related to pigs, sharing a common ancestry dating back several million years, but there are enough anatomical differences that they are placed in separate families. Pigs and hippopotamuses are the closest relations.
The javelinas are so-called because of their razor-sharp tusks (Spanish for javelin or spear). The tusks are about one and one-half inches long and point down rather than up like many wild pigs. Although javelinas are not dangerous when left alone, their tusks can be quite deadly. I have known of two dogs whose demise testifies to this.
Javelinas always travel in a band, usually from six to twelve, although as many as 50 have been seen together. They eat, sleep, and forage together and the babies grow up and die in the same band. No javelina is accepted into a band unless it is born there.
Javelinas cannot cool themselves by panting; so they tend to live where there is brush or trees and water. In the heat of the day they bed down in the shade and forage when it is cooler.
They forage for roots, bulbs, nuts, berries, fruit, and grass but their mainstays are the agaves and the prickly pear. How they can eat the pad of a prickly pear with those wicked spines, I will never understand.
Herds have a dominance hierarchy with a large male as the dominant figure, with the remainder of the order seemingly determined by size. The dominant male does all of the breeding. Breeding occurs throughout the year, depending upon rainfall. More young are born in rainy years and females usually have twins. The female separates herself from the band while giving birth so that the young won't be eaten.
The javelinas have a rather sorry reputation. They have a strong musk gland on the top of their rump and when excited, give off a powerful odor. They have small beady eyes and are very nearsighted. They are rather barrel-shaped with short legs; so they have none of the sleekness or beauty of deer or antelopes. Their hair is bristly and dark gray, but mostly they just look like a pig. They are favorites for hunters to kill. But rather than considering javelinas stinking, ugly, dangerous beasts, I consider them one more bonus of living in the magnificent Chihuahuan desert.
DON'S COLUMNI attended the Lone Star Chapter's strategic planning meeting in Kimberly the weekend of January 17 and 18. We met at the Living Waters Retreat Center, on the banks of Jacob's Well, a limestone spring feeding the Blanco River. Representatives from Sierra Club groups in Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and Big Bend participated, along with Lone Star Chapter staff, a representative from the Sierra Club's Southern Plains Field Office (which covers Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas), and a facilitator from the National Office - who had traveled through Alpine on the train to attend.
by Don Dowdey
The two day procedure of creating the first steps toward a two year strategic plan was exhilarating and exhausting. One of the first exercises asked us to identify the strengths and challenges of the Chapter. Two of the strengths identified were Ken Kramer, Chapter Director, and the staff he has assembled. Many of the Sierra Club's 60 plus Chapters have no paid staff at all - we are indeed fortunate to have such fine folks working with us in Austin.
Other strengths mentioned focused on the large membership in the Chapter (currently about 27,000) and the fact that Texas has environmental significance because of its size and influence, and areas of great beauty worth protecting. The Chapter is also fortunate in the expertise of many of its volunteers, and the fact that this has been the case for many, many years. In fact, many of the Chapter's awards are named in memory of volunteers. Another strength is a good working relationship with other environmental organizations in the state, including Public Citizen, Environmental Defense, the SEED coalition, the National Wildlife Federation, and others. This is reflected in the way these groups are able to prioritize issues during the short legislative session, and in the ongoing collaborative organizations, the Alliance for a Clean Texas (with over 21 organizations as members), and Texas Water Matters. Unfortunately, other Chapters are not so fortunate. Other strengths of our Chapter include a large and loyal donor base, effective use of electronic communications, and a strong and growing environmental education program focusing on school children.
While it's always more fun to talk about strengths, several challenges confront the Chapter as well. Like the national Sierra Club, and environmental groups generally, membership in Texas is aging and lacks diversity. We also need to seek new members, strive to encourage existing members to become more active at the group and chapter level, and cultivate new leaders. Related to this is a feeling that we are spread too thin, which can lead to a lack of focus. The Chapter also needs to expand its presence in West Texas - as I pointed out, the Big Bend group is the only one between San Antonio and El Paso, and between Amarillo and Del Rio. Other challenges facing the Chapter include a lack of long term financial viability, a sense that many group members don't understand what the Chapter does, and a lack of volunteers from Texas participating in the Sierra Club at a national level.
Many of the discussions focused on ways to build on our strengths while facing the challenges. As the process goes forward and decisions are reached, I will report them to you.
NEW EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE FORMEDThe newly formed Executive Committee (ExCom) met January 28th, electing Don Dowdey for another term as chair, Scott May for another term as Vice Chair, Barbara Novovitch as Secretary, and appointing Ginny Campbell for another year as treasurer. Other ExCom members are the newly elected Bennye Meredith and Jeanne Sinclair.
Dowdey says that Barbara Novovitch will be the new chair of the Water Committee. Lue Hirsch will continue with Membership, Fran Sage with the Newsletter, Program, and Conservation Chair. Jeanne Sinclair will work on International Trade and Transportation because of La Entrada. Fran Sage and Don Dowdey will continue to focus energy on air quality and radioactive waste issues.
ExCom Donates to Bentonite Permit Fight
Dowdey also reported that the ExCom approved a $200 donation to the Big Bend Air Quality Group to support its work fighting the U. S. Clay application to permit a bentonite rock crushing plant near Alpine.
VOLUNTEERS NEEDEDWe are in need of committee members! Jeanne Sinclair is heading up a new committee on International Trade and Transportation, specifically focusing on Las Entrada. If you have an interest in this area please lend your time to this committee.
Barbara Novovitch is heading up the Water Committee and needs a dedicated group of committee members willing to share the load regarding meetings, legislative updates, etc.
Please contact Don Dowdey at 837-3210 if your are interested.
SENATE COMMITTEES UNDERTAKE WATER STUDYSenate Committee on Water Policy
by Fran Sage
Late 2003 Lt. Governor David Dewhurst appointed two interim committees on water study. Although the committee charge covers a number of statewide water issues of interest both to rural and urban regions, the impetus was Rio Nuevo's (private investors) negotiating a deal with the State Land Board to export water from Far West Texas to customers.
While the main committee is the Select Senate Committee on Water Policy, Dewhurst also created a subcommittee on the Lease of State Water Rights. The full Select Committee is chaired by Sen. Kenneth Armbrister, a Democrat from Victoria and includes ten other members, both Republicans and Democrats from all parts of the state. It has been given 14 charges related to surface and ground water including some of particular interest to citizens of West Texas such as the role of groundwater conservation districts; the regional water planning process; rule of capture; historic use standards; junior water rights; conservation; drought preparedness; and water marketing. In addition it will study different aspects of desalination possibilities. (See http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/ltgov/pr04/p012104a.htm for the full list.)
Subcommittee on the Lease of State Water Rights
The five member subcommittee is headed by our Sen. Madla. Three of the members are from West Texas. Its charge is to study proposals to lease permanent school fund and permanent university lands and their water rights for the purposes of developing and marketing water. It is to (a) analyze the present and future effects of such proposals on local aquifers, historic stream flows, local underground water conservation districts, and other public and private water interests; (b) study the process by which the General Land Office considers proposals to lease state water rights, including methodology for holding open meetings, obtaining public input, meeting competitive bidding requirements, and coordination with TCEQ and other governmental units with possible regulatory oversight; and (c) study and evaluate the current and future value of water rights that may be leased to private entities, including the value to state, residential and commercial interests.
Although the Rio Nuevo proposal is for leasing properties owned by the State Land Board, whose earnings go to the permanent school fund, the committee will also study leasing arrangements of the permanent university fund (known as PUF) whose earnings are then distributed to the University of Texas and Texas A. M. Such leases have existed for some time in West Texas.
Committee work is already underway and public hearings are already scheduled. The first one, which will be over by the time this newsletter is received, is the full committee meeting February 3rd in El Paso. Don Dowdey of the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club and perhaps other Sierrans will attend from our area. In addition, Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star Chapter, will attend. The Sierra Club members attending may get together while there with El Paso Sierra Club members.
The subcommittee has scheduled a meeting in Dell City for February 11th at 1 p.m. at the Dell Telephone Cooperative, Inc., 610 South Main, Dell City, and will hear invited testimony from Susan Combs, Agriculture Commissioner, Bill Mullican of the Texas Water Development Board, Margaret Hoffman, Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Tom Beard Chair of the Far West Texas Water Planning Group. Then public testimony will be heard. A second meeting will be scheduled in Marfa, probably the second week of March.
As you can see, a number of issues of both committees will be controversial and could become the basis of future law. One expects legislation to be introduced in the 2005 session. One of the most contentious issues will be consideration of changing the rule of capture. We need to remember, also, that the studies are being done by Senate members. Speaker Craddick of the House did not choose to create a committee and have both houses looking at the issues. Furthermore what urban areas want may be different than what we in rural areas support and even within those two categories there may not be agreement.
In other news, several newspapers report that Rio Nuevo is discussing leasing with private landowners.
PLEASE ATTEND THE FEBUARY 19TH MEETING AND HEAR TOM BEARD'S REMARKS. WE NEED TO KEEP ABREAST OF THE COMMITTEES' WORK.
INTERPRETATION AS CONSERVATION TOOLA few months ago, I stopped by a restaurant in Alpine for a cup of coffee to energize me for a long drive to Kickapoo Cavern State Park near Brackettville. I happened to be wearing a shirt bearing a logo that read, "National Association for Interpretation." The restaurant's proprietor looked at me quizzically when he saw that logo and then said, "Wow, I didn't know that you do interpretive dance!"
by Linda Hedges
Well, I don't. I am, however, Regional Interpretive Specialist for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. My role is to work with the 17 State Parks Division properties in Region 1 (stretching from El Paso to Rocksprings, Monahans to Lajitas) on all facets of interpretation: planning, programming, exhibitry, publications, etc., which begs the question, "What exactly does 'interpretation' mean in this context?"
As defined by Freeman Tilden and others, interpretation is a communication process that enables park visitors to find meaning and relevance within the resources of our parks. Through interpretation, we seek ways to help visitors forge emotional and/or intellectual connections with these resources, be they natural like the life-giving waters of San Solomon Spring at Balmorhea State Park, or cultural like the stately Victorian furnishings at Magoffin Home State Historic Site in El Paso. We want park visitors to view these tangibles as links to the people, stories, events and larger truths they represent - for audiences to personally relate and find importance and value within them. In this way, the natural and cultural resources that are set aside and conserved as public property in our state parks become intrinsically linked to something far greater - the past, present and future of our natural and cultural heritage.
An important premise behind the art and science of interpretation is that, if done properly, it can encourage stewardship and cultivate a conservation ethic. Through interpretive experiences, if park visitors become aware of, understand, and appreciate resources in a personally meaningful way, they will care about those resources and all they represent. Ultimately, we want to inspire patrons of state parks, through interpretive experiences, to use their time, talent, political influence, and lifestyle choices to help preserve our natural and cultural heritage.
For example, a visitor who experiences the flora and fauna, the geology, the beauty and magic of the Rio Grande on an interpretive rafting trip may become aware of water issues, come to understand why water quality and flow rates are vitally important to ecosystem and human health, begin to care about the river and its condition, and finally to become a steward of this and other aquatic resources by curtailing home water use and supporting protective legislation. By developing and nurturing stewards through the process of interpretation, we are both practicing and cultivating good resource management.
Perhaps Senegalese biologist Baba Diom said it best: "In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, we will understand only what we are taught." Let all of us learn a few steps to this dance in 2004.
GREAT BIRDING TRIPIn mid-January Jim and Barbara Walker and Jim Sage and I took a wonderful trip to the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Socorro, New Mexico. We saw many fine birds but the highlight of the trip for all of us was seeing several fields full of the white Snow Geese mixed with Sandhill Cranes. The beautiful sight and sound of the birds with the mountains and the blue New Mexican skies is unforgettable. We also saw large flocks of Canadian Geese as well as a number of Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. One other treat was a close-up look at a bobcat. We looked at the bobcat and it looked at us, and then it strolled away with a leisurely indifference to us. Needless to say there were many other birds. The geese and cranes come in November and start leaving mid February. We all recommend a visit. We stayed in a reasonablely priced motel in Socorro. Anyone interested could write me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the name of the motel. Except on Sunday, the Owl Café in San Antonio, on the edge of the refuge, is worth a stop for the hamburgers.
by Fran Sage
INTRODUCING MEMBERSIn January when visiting with a Sierra Club neighbor in the South Double Diamond, I learned about a special program of Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Bill Broyles works at Big Bend Ranch State Park and has been involved for the last six years in a program sponsored by the Korina Foundation. "Korina" is a Tarahumura Indian word for sharing. Inner city kids in groups of 24 come out each week in a four week period during September and October from Houston and San Antonio. Korina staff volunteer their free time to work with the kids. Bill explains that he and others drive the vans on their own time and take the kids to the different outings. They also work in the kitchen at other times.
by Fran Sage
The kids arrive on Sunday and have a supper orientation period. Then over a five day period they learn wilderness survival skills, learn some archeology, float the Rio Grande (though last year when the river was low, they visited Ft. Leaton), learn some geology and hydrology, measure spring flow, climb a mesa, tour Sul Ross, and end the week with a visit to McDonald Observatory. All their experiences include much time in the field, both learning and doing.
Bill says that his greatest pleasure is watching the expressions on kids' faces, and participating in what he hopes is a transforming experience for them. He mentioned one boy, who, after climbing the mesa and seeing the view, raised his arms and said he thought he could fly. Bill also remembers one kid saying, "Coach, why are these white folks being so nice to us." Bill hopes that the experience has an impact on them and what they decide to do.
The program was founded by Jim Carr, a retired engineer, at the invitation of Big Bend Ranch State Park Superintendent Luis Armendariz. Other key figures are Patricia Warfield, Sylvan Rossi, Marty Coil, and Denise Roy of Korina, and various people from the area and from the university. Of course, people like Bill Broyles of the park staff make it all go smoothly.
Member NewsNew members this month are Melanie Whitaker and Paul Gaddis both of Terlingua. Welcome! Eight memberships were not renewed over the holiday season; hopefully those folks will do so now that the new year has begun. To renew, you may do so online at https://ww2.sierraclub.org/membership/renewal/ or become a new member through this address https://ww2.sierraclub.org/membership/specialoffer/member1.asp
by Lue Hirsch, Membership Chair
Backpacks and t-shirts: Contact Lue Hirsch (364-2307) or email@example.com about backpacks or t-shirts. The backpacks and t-shirts available are: 100% Organic Cotton Sierra Club t-shirts $12.00: Featuring the Sierra Club logo on the front and the Hiker image on the back. T-shirts come in three sizes (x-large, large and medium) and in natural, black, blue and green. Convertible weekender bag $6.00: Versatile forest green bag with embroidered Sierra Club logo. Folds into its own pouch. Expedition Backpack $10.00: This black backpack has 3 zippered compartments, padded shoulder straps, a cushioned back and two large mesh pockets. Excursion Bag $7.50: Designed in gray with black trim, this waterproof bag is ideal for shopping or camping/beach trips and according to one satisfied customer "It's a great bag!". Urban Backpack $10.00: This two-color backpack will appeal to urban hikers and wilderness warriors alike.
Our last highway cleanup was on February 7, 2004. Hopefully we had a GREAT turnout! THE NEXT opportunity to help with the highway cleanup will be The 17th annual Don't Mess with Texas Trash-Off on April 3rd. Our 2 mile portion of the highway is just east of the "Y" of Hwy 90 and Hwy 67 approximately 10 miles east of Alpine. Let's meet at the Lawrence Hall parking lot behind the building at SRSU (that's the same building we meet at every month) on Saturday the 3rd at 9:00 AM and car pool to our work site. We'll be back at the parking lot no later than 12:00 noon.
Financial News: Thanks to Val and Tom Beard, Joel Gormley, and Dudley Harrison for their donations in December. Thanks also to Ruth Albright and Bruce Colvin for their contriibution to the Hal Flanders Memorial Fund for the radioactive waste fight. The December donation total is $285.
Donations (including refreshment donations) and pledges for 2003 were $1574.97 and a total of $535 to the Hal Flanders Memorial Fund for total cash donations of $2109.97 Other income was: the calendar sales for 2003 at $620..55 (final totals will not be known until credit on returns); the silent auction netted $381; Chapter Subvention was $53.75, FRIP was $22 and the t-shirt fund came to $57. Bank interest was $71.17. Preliminary income total for 2003 was $3,315.44. Final totals will include interest money from the Sierra Club Foundation and final figures on calendar sales.
January donations and pledges totaled $110. Many thanks to Tom Douglas, Joe and Ginny Campbell, and Jim and Fran Sage.
Big Bend Regional Sierra Club Chair
Don Dowdey, 50 Sunny Glen, Alpine, TX 79830
Newsletter, Program, Conservation Chair
Fran Sage, P. O. Box 564, Alpine, TX 79831
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