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Big Bend Regional Sierra Club Minutes March 20, 2001

Don Dowdey, chair, called the meeting to order at 7:07 PM in room 309, Lawrence Hall, Sul Ross State University. There were 34 people present.

Fran Sage discussed briefly SB 1541/HB3420, a 100-page bill, which concerns radioactive waste, and how it would be handled in Texas. Sage explained the bill would allow private companies to hold the license, permit radioactive waste from federal sites, allow the private company to make the profits with the state retaining the liability, allow additional sites, and force the disposal into west Texas. She circulated a petition to be sent to Sen. Frank Madla asked his support to oppose the bill. She said the bill is on the fast track.

Dowdey thanked Bob Patterson for his work on developing a web site for the BBRSC. He said the site should be up and running by the time the April newsletter is distributed.

Dowdey introduced Jackie Poole, conservation biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. She discussed and showed slides of "Seldom Seen Plants of the Trans-Pecos." Poole said that there are 233 rare plants in Texas, 128 of which may be found in the Trans-Pecos. She said the area is diverse, with the mountains, geology, and different soil. Although she showed several endangered and threatened species, most of those discussed were just rare. She organized her talk around the different areas such as Big Bend National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Davis Mountains State Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, the Marathon area, lands held by the Nature Conservancy, and some of the areas toward El Paso. While she showed some grasses, trees, and shrubs, most of the slides were of plants.

Sage moved and it was seconded that the minutes be approved as circulated. The motion passed.

Dowdey announced that Eve Trook will be attending the Rural Water Conference and the Water Law Conference in Austin the end of March and early April. He said that Susan Curry and Liz Hightower went to a Border XXI meeting in El Paso and that Sage sent a letter on air quality issues. The meeting was a planning meeting.

Dowdey gave a legislative update on HB 128 by Representative Buddy West of El Paso which would, amongst others things, drop visibility in national parks in Texas as a pollution issue and decrease the ability of the federal land managers (superintendents) to work on air quality issues in the parks. Although there was much opposition at the hearings before the House Environmental Regulation Committee, the bill was left pending with some possibilities that it may be passed out of committee later. Dowdey also said that Susan Curry was in Austin giving testimony before the same House Committee on the sunset bill to reauthorize the TNRCC as well as speaking to several legislators about the dangerous radioactive waste bill. The other bill mentioned was SB 2, Sen. Buster Brown's major water legislation.

Dowdey said that Sage had met with the Texas Department of Health and some representatives of the US/Mexico Border Health Commission concerning the health study done on Brewster County. Sage will have details of that meeting in the next newsletter.

Dowdey asked people to get in touch with him if they are interested in an outing for April. More details will be provided in the April newsletter.

In a final announcement Stephanie Bartel of the SRSU biology department announced that this year's Cottle lecture will be held on April 5th on genetically engineered food. She invited interested parties to attend.

The meeting was adjourned and refreshments were offered.

Respectfully submitted,

Fran Sage, serving as secretary in the absence of Jim Walker (who was in New Zealand/Australia)


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