Commentary: WASHINGTON – Earlier today, Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX-16) discussed the details of his successful legislative action to protect Castner Range in the Franklin Mountains of west Texas. This massive environmental victory comes after more than 30 years of work by local, state and national groups to conserve the crown jewel of West Texas. The provision, which passed the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon, will protect and conserve ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational and scientific resources within Castner Range. The legislation also ensures that there will be no commercial enterprise, permanent or temporary road, use of motor vehicles or aircrafts and no structure, building or installation of any kind on the land.
“Today’s environmental win ensures that Castner is preserved for all El Pasoans, Texans and Americans to enjoy. Beyond its beauty, protecting Castner Range helps us conserve El Paso’s precious aquifers that lie beneath it, preserve numerous archaeological and historical resources that date as far back as 10,000 years and safeguard its one-of-a-kind vegetation and wildlife, said Congressman O’Rourke. “Further, it preserves an important former military training facility — a reflection of El Paso’s strong relationship to Fort Bliss and its longstanding military and veterans’ community.”
Environmental activists and conservation advocates across Texas celebrated the news. “At a time when the White House is rolling back conservation efforts, threatening to scale back our national parks and working to confirm climate change skeptics to environmental councils, today’s news about protecting Castner Range for generations to come is the example we need,” said Elizabeth Doyel, Executive Director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters. “Conserving Castner Range not only shows the power of grassroots environmental groups but the determination of our advocates like Representative O’Rourke to forge ahead with environmental protections during a hostile Trump administration.”
"For over 30 years this borderland community has been pushing for the protection of an iconic El Paso landmark, our Castner Range,” said Angel Pena, Rio Bravo Program Director for the Conservation Lands Foundation. “With the unwavering commitment of Congressman O'Rourke, Castner can no longer be sold off to the highest bidder but rather will continue to educate El Paso youth and the surrounding communities of its rich history."
“El Paso has been seeking to conserve Castner Range since 1971, and now with the help of Congressman Beto O’Rourke we are one major step closer to realizing our community’s vision of a preserved and intact Castner Range National Monument,” said Janae’ Reneaud Field, Executive Director of the Frontera Land Alliance.
Congressman O’Rourke successfully advocated for a provision protecting Castner to be added to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). What is now spelled out in Section 2846 of the NDAA began as a proposal by Rep. O’Rourke this past summer. The final legislation passed the House today and is expected to pass the Senate before the end of the year.
Castner Range is a 7,081-acre mountain range surrounded by the Franklin Mountains State Park in the heart of El Paso, Texas. El Pasoans know and love Castner Range for its annual display of golden poppies. The community has been campaigning to conserve Castner Range through petition drives and public meetings since 1971.