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BIG BEND SIERRANIssue 74
September 2, 2003
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet
SEPTEMBER PROGRAM FEATURES JOHN HOLLANDER SITE SUPERVISOR, DAVIS MOUNTAINS STATE PARKThe Big Bend Regional Sierra Club launches its fall program schedule with a talk and slide presentation by John Hollander , site supervisor of the Davis Mountains State Park. Please attend and invite others to join us September 16, 2003, at 7 p.m. in room 309, Lawrence Hall, Sul Ross State University. Hollander will discuss the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department past, present, and future, centered on the Davis Mountains State Park, as well as other area parks and management areas. The TPWD's mission is "to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations." He will discuss what that mission means in regards to our local area as well as outline some of the changing aspects of park use with an increasing population and the demands of that increase, using slides to illustrate his talk.
Holland is originally from Marble Falls, Texas, where his family has ranched for the last 148 years. After graduating from Tarleton State University with a degree in Plant and Soil Science, he worked as manager at Longhorn Cavern State Park, and then park interpreter and naturalist at Inks Lake State Park before moving to Fort Davis in 1999, where he and his wife and three children live on the park.
Upcoming programs: October 21, John Karges, Nature Conservancy speaking on the lower Pecos River; November 18, Kevin Urbanczyk, Sul Ross State University speaking on his study of air pollution upon Big Bend National Parkıs plants and animals; and December 16, Edwin Hennessey, BBRSC member with a slide show of the Serengeti Plains in Africa.
OUR STOTTING FRIENDSOne of the great pleasures of living in the South Double Diamond is my early morning walk. My neighbor and I walk each morning about two miles and seldom do we fail to see a graceful mule deer. And more probably, seldom does a deer fail to see us. Frequently we will glance up at a ridge where only a pair of ears are showing and note a deer watching us go by. Because the deerıs eyes are situated on the sides of the head, the deer seems to be watching something else, but it never moves until we go by.
BY JIM SAGE
Should we come upon a deer and startle it, it moves away in great high bounds, coming down on all four feet at the same time and bouncing up again as if on springs. This bounding is known as stotting and itıs a remarkable sight to see. The mule deer will run at about 18 mph in these great bounds, clearing rocks and brush that pursuers have to go around or crawl through. These bounds will measure between 17 feet and 21 feet in distance and even more going down hills. For short distances, the mule deer has been clocked at 35 mph.
The mule deer is found in the western United States, in all four deserts, and in Texas only in the Trans Pecos and parts of the Panhandle while the white-tailed deer is found throughout the United States. The mule deer seems to prefer arid, rocky hills and open areas, while the white-tailed more often prefers brushy or wooded areas.
The mule deer, so-called because of its large, mule-like ears, has a narrow black-tipped tail, which hangs straight down while the white-tailed has a large bushy tail, which sticks straight up when used as a signal. Although the mule deer is larger, his antlers, which branch into two equal forks, are smaller than the white tail's, which have a number of points all branching from the main beam.
Much has been made of how easily a deer can jump a six foot fence and I have watched mule deer bounding across an area and clear fences with no apparent difference in the height of the bound. Here on the South Double Diamond, however, the deer more often crawl under or through the fence rather than jump it. Perhaps they are getting soft living here where the hunters canıt get them.
I am not sure how many deer we have on the 320 acres of the South Double Diamond and it varies throughout the year, but I have counted nineteen in one herd.
The Mule deer is a natural browser rather than a grazer and the one thing I am sure of is it loves my red yuccas. No sooner does the yucca bloom in the spring than I go out in the morning and discover I have only stems. I have given up trying to fence them and just look upon this as my contribution to the deer's welfare.
In the desert the deer also depend for food on the lechuguilla, sotol, mesquite, juniper, and fruit of the prickly pear. This no doubt explains why the deer here are smaller than the deer I remember in Montana, where they feed in the grain and alfalfa fields.
I had thought for most of my life that the antlers were the deer's weapons against predators but this seems not to be true. They fight with their front feet, which can be quite dangerous. The antlers are part of the mating ritual where the bucks fight one another almost exclusively with the antlers for possession of the doe. Seldom is one hurt in these battles unless the antlers become locked and then they both will starve to death. One morning I watched a doe use her front feet to attack a coyote. I am so thankful I saw this because if I had been told this, I doubt that I would have believed it. The doe charged the coyote trying to strike it, following it for several hundred feet before the coyote decided there must be a healthier place to be.
I rarely miss walking in the morning and I tell myself it's for health reasons, but Iım sure that all of the beautiful birds and animals that I hear and see are an equally compelling reason, not even to mention the sunrises. And if there is anyone who has never seen a mule deer stotting, I hope that you will.
DON'S COLUMNIn early July I attended the Lone Star Chapter's Awards Banquet, and attended the Chapter's Executive Committee meeting as the representative of the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club. As always, it was good to see old friends like Earl Burnham, father of Ft. Worth Representative Lon Burnham, Smitty Smith of Public Citizen, Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition, and Lone Star Chapter staff.
Three of the awards really stuck with me. The first was for environmental reporting, which went to Neil Strassman of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Neil spoke of his commitment to the environment as a commitment to his young son (who was a delightful addition to the crowd), and said that he had always found that "printing the truth is easy, especially if you can include the words, 'the only Parks and Wildlife property in Tarrant County."
Donna Shaver was recognized for her work with Kempıs Ridley sea turtles, which is the most endangered turtle in the world, with only about 9,000 in existence. But in 1978, there were only about 1,000, and for the next ten years Dr. Shaver collected 22,500 eggs from Mexico, hatched the turtles at Padre, and returned them to the sea. Not until 1996, when two of these hatchlings returned to Padre was her work and faith rewarded. This summer, fourteen nests were found.
Finally, Hilton Kelly of Port Arthur received the Environmental Justice Award for his struggle against the refineries who create what he called, in a moving poem, "My Toxic Reality." The latest issue of Mother Jones magazine has a lengthy article on him and his struggle.
The Executive Committee meeting took place at Bright Leaf State Natural Area, overlooking the Colorado River; I gave an update on the Radioactive Waste Dump and Big Bend Air Pollution.
Two Constitutional Amendments
In other action, the ExCom took action on two of the Propositions on the Sept. 13 Constitutional Amendment Ballot. They urged support of Prop. 4, which is in keeping with our policy of promoting parkland in urban areas.
The ExCom also opposed Prop. 12, an amendment that would give power to the Texas Legislature to set limits on jury awards in "civil lawsuits against doctors and health care providers, and other actions." The open-ended reference to "other actions" in the wording of Proposition 12 would allow the Legislature in future sessions to restrict other types of damages, including those caused by polluters, drunk drivers and manufacturers of dangerous drugs and other products. The ExCom resolution states, in part, that "intentional violators of the environmental laws and irresponsible polluters of the environment who cause property damage, personal injury or death to citizens of Texas should not be protected by limiting the non-economic damages which can be awarded against them, but rather should be legally responsible to fully compensate their victims for all economic and non-economic damages reasonably justified by the facts and evidence under the laws of the State of Texas."
More information on the 22 amendments that will be on the ballot can be found at the League of Women Voters website: http://www.lwvtexas.org.
THE HAL FLANDERS FUNDAt the August Social/Fundraiser, Don Dowdey announced a new special fund named after longtime member and environmental activist Hal Flanders who died October 8, 2001. Many people know that in August 1998 Hal, Gary Oliver, and Susan Curry drove from Alpine/Marfa to Vermont to help create solidarity with the Vermont opponents to bringing radioactive waste to Sierra Blanca.
BY FRAN SAGE
Since that time, the radioactive waste disposal as now planned includes enormous amounts of waste, much more toxic, much more dangerous and far more extensive that was imangined in the Sierra Blanca fight. In May this year, the Texas Legislature passed legislation that would make west Texas a national radioactive waste dump, one that would have two adjacent dumps, one for Compact waste and one for federal Department of Energy waste.
At the time Hal, Gary, and Susan went to Vermont, Maine, Vermont, and Texas were in a radioactive waste compact to dispose of their low-level radioactive waste. Since then Maine has dropped out of the Compact. Hal, a firm but gentle-spoken man, impressed the Vermont people with his commitment to drive to Vermont (Susan and Hal shared all that driving). He marched and camped and brought the message of Texas opponents to Vermonters. One must recall that Hal was 82 years old.
Now, as one aspect of fighting implementation of the legislation, it makes sense to alert Vermont to how the purpose of the Compact itself has been violated. While many citizens in Vermont did not believe it right to send their waste to Texas, they did know the philosophy behind the Compact. Whether you wanted the Compact or not, citizens in Vermont and in Texas thought of it as a limited purpose, public-oriented way to handle the waste. Market-driven profit-taking was not part of its purpose. Creating a dump which would handle federal waste is the opposite of a limited dump as outlined in the Compact agreement.
Opponents in the Big Bend region played a prominent role in reaching out to Vermont, symbolized by Hal and Gary and Susanıs arduous trip to Vermont. Their trip showed how committed the citizens here are in fighting the radioactive waste dump. Establishing a fund to aid in alerting the Vermont citizens fits right into the overall effort to block the Andrews dump. The fight will be on several fronts, including the Vermont relationship, alliances with other opponents, both in and out of Texas as the Andrews area is part of an attempt to make the border area of Texas and New Mexico a radioactive waste corridor. People around the state are committed to fighting the dump. All opposition costs money. The Big Bend region can play a prominent role in this fight.
Fighting the Waste Control Specialists's plan for Andrews needs our commitment. The Vermont alert would help create a natural alliance; doing it with Hal as an inspiration is particularly appropriate. All facets of the opposition will need help.
While there will be more information forthcoming, those that want to help now can make donations to the Hal Flanders' Fund by sending a check to the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club, % Virginia Campbell, Treasurer, P. O. Box 474, Marathon, Texas 79842. Mark the check on the memo line for The Hal Flandersıs Fund.
LOCAL AREA RESIDENTS OVERWHELMINGLY OPPOSE BENTONITE PLANTOn August 14, 2003, over 200 local area residents attended a meeting at Sul Ross State University held by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, voicing opposition to the permit request from U. S. Clay to local a bentonite grinding plant just east of Alpine on Highway 90. Speaker after speaker empathically rejected any value that would come to the area, and detailed the problems it would create. Many speakers with breathing difficulties spoke of the negative effect upon their health from the emissions. Others spoke of the damage to a major economic source for the area: tourism. Traffic hazards caused by the trucks, the noise, and the ugliness of the plant were all outlined. Speaking on behalf of the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club, Don Dowdey said the plant "is the wrong type of industry for our areaextractive and polluting; in the wrong placeon the front porch of a tourist community; and run by the wrong peoplewith a proven record of being unable to either run a mine or a crushing plant without being cited by TCEQ for violations." Robert Schmidt, speaking for the Clean Air Alliance emphasized that U. S. Clay had not answered questions the Clean Air Alliance had sent to it and had not been forthcoming on information it had promised earlier this year. Bruce Colvin, Carol Edwards, Joyce Wright, and other people with serious breathing problems discussed having moved to the area, after looking for a place with clear air and urged denial of the permit. Fran Sage asked why the company was requesting a permit for running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while all the time trying to reassure us that it did not really plan to run it so much. Robert James Waller angrily rejected the reassurance that we would all have a lovely plant on the east end of Alpine saying, "If you think Iım impressed by a western-style gate and five smokestacks . . . It just makes me weep. It makes me weep. You think that weıre impressed by that? My God." Lawyers for Georgia Waller and Sierra La Rana Corp, property owners just south of the proposed site also spoke.
BY FRAN SAGE
CHANGES IMPOSED BY PUBLIC USE PLAN LEAD TO IMPROVED CONDITIONS AT HUECOLocated a short 32 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas, and a favorite winter destination for rock climbers and boulderers from around the world, the 860-acre Hueco Tanks State Historic Site was in jeopardy of being loved to death by recreationalists and other park visitors prior to implementation of a series of aggressive and innovative management actions by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1998. Designated a state park in 1970 because of the presence of what are considered some of the most significant prehistoric rock paintings in the world, the park was attracting an average of 65,000 people a year by 1997. This high visitation resulted in significant impacts to the area and a diminished outdoor experience by park visitors. A web-like network of footpaths developed around the rugged rock outcropsNorth, East and West Mountains, and the East Spurthat characterize the park. Vegetation was lost and wildlife left the area for more suitable, less hectic locations. The denuded areas within the park were subsequently eroded by wind and rain, cutting through thousands of years of archeological deposits that were left behind by those who were drawn to Hueco Tanks by the erosional depressions in the rock (referred to as huecos in Spanish) that functioned as natural cisterns throughout much of the year. Many of the rock paintings, or pictographs, some of which were created as early as about 3,000 years ago, were being impacted by both malicious and unintentional activities. The images were being damaged or destroyed by graffiti, climber ıs chalk, carbon from illegal campfires, and from uninformed visitors touching the rock paintings.
TANKS STATE HISTORIC SITE, EL PASO COUNTY, TEXAS
BY TIM ROBERTS
As a result of these impacts, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began the process of preparing a Public Use Plan in the fall of 1997. The goal of this Public Use Plan was to balance the need to preserve the natural and cultural resources of Hueco Tanks with the desire to accommodate appropriate levels of recreational use, placing particular emphasis on education and interpretation. After considerable input from various constituent groups, the final Public Use Plan for Hueco Tanks was implemented in June 2000. The plan called for the following:
- Limits on the number of persons allowed in the park at any one time
- Requirement that all visitors view an orientation video before entering the park
- Establishment of a guide program, whereby certain areas of the park could be accessed only in the presence of a certified tour guide
- Allowing overnight camping in the park only in the presence of camp hosts
- Recognition of the importance of the park to certain Native American groups, and provision of a mechanism whereby these groups could access the park for ceremonial purposes without having to pay an entrance fee or be accompanied by an external guide
- Improvements to be made to the parkıs interpretation, including efforts to incorporate Native American perspectives into the messages conveyed
Since the implementation of the Public Use Plan, the incidence of new impacts to the resources at Hueco Tanks has decreased considerably. And, previous impacts are being corrected. A qualified rock art conservator has been removing graffiti from pictograph locations. A designated interpretive trail system, with signage, is being established. Erosion control measures have been put in place, and native plants have been reintroduced to some areas. Wildlife is returning to an improving habitat. As a result, the outdoor experience is improving for park visitors. John Sherman, author of the most recent climbing guidebook to Hueco Tanks, has noticed these improvements within the park. In an interview with Jeff Jackson, contributing editor to Climbing magazine, Sherman commented ³Itıs like the old days. The trails are disappearing under the grass.² (www.climbing.com, June 15, 2000). This is the kind of positive affect that the Hueco Tanks Public Use Plan was designed to achieve.
Tim Roberts is cultural resources coordinator forRegion 1 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
WEST TEXAS WATER STRUGGLESRobert Elder, Jr., reporter for the Austin American Statesman wrote ³The Battle for West Texas Water, published August 24, 2003. It is the most recent in his series of articles on the struggles of urban areas to acquire water supplies as current sources diminish or vanish. The main focus of this article is the Dell City area, about 90 miles east of El Paso. Elder points out that the water boom is on there. Philip Anschutz, billionaire owner of Quest Communications International, Inc. hold 7000 acres and vast water rights, while El Paso ³just paid $14 million for a water rich, 9,300 acre farm a few miles from Del City² Woody Hunt, chairman of Hunt Building Corporation and a UT System regent also has thousands of acres in the area with water rights.
BY FRAN SAGE
A new player may be the Texas General Land Office. It is thinking of spending $500 million to acquire water rights including land, pipeline and a water treatment plant.
Unlike oil exploration and sales, water has no state regulation for marketing water. Such regulation that is done is done by the local groundwater authority.
In two other areas, the Texas Panhandle and Kinney County near Del Rio, developers are also working to secure land and water rights to market water to urban areas. T. Boone Pickins ³just added 63,000 acres of water rights² in the Panhandle and an Austin water development company recently settled with the Kinney County Ground Water District.²
The notion of historic useı is shaping the Del City battle. Landowners in the Hudspeth Underground Water Conservation District #1 are severely restricted on how much water they can pump if they canıt prove historic use ı in the decade ending in 2002. On the other hand owners who can prove historic useı can sell their water rights profitably.
[Ed. What is clear is that West Texas water is being viewed as a commodity, one which the General Land Office, a state agency, may also junp into owning. The issues becomes rural vs. urban interests.]
Unfortunately I could not receive permission to excerpt the article in e-mail or website use though I was permitted to put the article in the hard copy newsletter. In addition the website for the articles had a confusing set of entries when I first looked up the series. My most recent check indicates the two most recent articles have been removed. This is particularly unfortunate as the articles were in depth and useful for understanding the issues. The Austin American Statesman may be fixing the problem and you might check later at www.statesman.com. Click on news and do a search on Robert Elder. See if the August 24th and 17th articles are there. FS
MEMBER NEWS by: Lue Hirsch, Membership ChairWelcome, to Member News! I hope to keep you updated about changes in membership, needs of the membership, and accomplishments of the membership. Along with a few other tid bits from time to time.
First off, let me update you about our Super Frip membership drive. We are coming close to our goal, so in the next few months I need your help to accomplish it! Our goal for the year is to recruit 10 new members and as of the Summer Social at Kokernot (a wonderful evening, with great company, food, music auction items and prizes!) we have 6 MEMBERS!! So, if you havenı t brought a non-member friend to one of the Super-Frip events please consider doing so in the next couple of months.
MANY THANKS to Gary Oliver and the Mules for the musical entertainment at Kokernot Lodge on August 10th. It was SUPERB. The musicians with Gary that evening were: Jeanne Sinclair, Dennis Grevsky, Chris Cessac, and Dan Keane.
Hereıs a surprising number for you; in 2003 we have gotten 26, YES 26, NEW members. That means 1/4th of the local club are brand new folk! So, let me hear from you newbiesı! What do you like, what donıt you like, how can I make sureı you renew next year? Every member should have received a survey in the last month. If you havenıt let me know, Iıll send you another. If it is still laying on your desk, table, etc. please fill it out and return it to me as soon as possible. THANKS!
The most recent new or transfer in members are: Roseland Klein of Ft. Davis, Gerri Cottrell of Terlingua and Carol Fairlie of Alpine. Welcome!
Thanks to the following businesses for donating items for the silent auction fundraiser held at the Sierra Club Social August 10th: West Texas Grille, True Value Lawn and Garden, Alpine Native Plants, Ivey's Emporium, Quetzal, Hotel Limpia Cookbook, Javelinas and Hollyhocks, Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, Nature Conservancy, Desert Moon, Artesanias Mendez and Goldwire, Oasis Café, Marathon Coffee Shop, Adobe Rose Inn, True Grit Gardens, Spring Creek Gallery, Sotol Gallery, Front Street Books, Petei Zelazny. Fundraisers results are not yet confirmed but about $500 will have been raised for the BBRSC.
Big Bend Regional Sierra Club members mark your calendar for Water for People and The Environment 3rd Annual Regional Conferences Midland (West Texas) - October 25, 2003 Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. There will be more information next month.
Big Bend Regional Sierra Club 50 Sunny Glen, Alpine, Texas 79830
Don Dowdey, Chair, 50 Sunny Glen, Alpine, TX 79830 firstname.lastname@example.org
Fran Sage, Newsletter Editor, P. O. Box 564, Alpine, TX. 79831
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