About Air and Water

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Environmental Texas urges Texans to protest sale of Christmas Mountain to Texas Land Commission Nov. 6th

Next Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 10 AM, the School Land Board will meet in Austin to consider whether to sell the Christmas Mountains to private interests. Over the last two months Environment Texas supporters have sent in e-mails, signed petitions, written letters to the editor and generally pulled their hair out in frustration over Commissioner Patterson's scheme. Now it's time for us to, in terminology Patterson (a former Marine) would understand, put "boots on the ground" and turn out en masse for this hearing.

Please attend the hearing and demand that Patterson stop the sale and let the Christmas Mountains become part of Big Bend National Park.

WHERE: Stephen F. Austin Building
1700 North Congress Ave. Room #170
Austin, Texas 78701

WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 6 (yes, election day)
Meeting starts at 10:00 A.M. (Christmas
Mountains is item 10 on the agenda).

If you can attend the meeting, please RSVP at:

https://www.environmenttexas.org/action/preserving-texas/cm-hearing?id4=ES

For more information, listen to a recent NPR story at:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15528700

Or see this Houston Chronicle article below:

Proposal to sell West Texas property sparks opposition

By GARY SCHARRER

About 4,000 Texans have signed an online petition protesting the state's proposed sale of the Christmas Mountains Ranch near Big Bend National Park property that the National Park Service now says it is interested in acquiring.

"People are suspicious of our government and state leaders, given the track record of selling off other public lands or attempting to sell off other land," Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said Friday.

"People are proud of our state and recognize there is not enough land owned by all of us. They get rightfully angry at attempts to auction it off."

His group's Web site (www.environmenttexas.org) is hosting the petition drive.

Difficult to manage
Bids for the 9,270-acre Christmas Mountains property are due Wednesday. Texas received the rugged land 16 years ago as a gift from the Conservation Fund and Richard King Mellon Foundation.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson wants to sell the property because severe restrictions on its use or development make it difficult to manage.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, and Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, have asked him to delay the sale to allow the National Park Service time to close a deal.

Patterson, a gun-rights supporter and hunting enthusiast, said he is unwilling to sell the land to the park service if doing so would ban hunting.

That condition is problematic, said David Elkowitz, chief of interpretation at Big Bend National Park.

"All national parks don't allow hunting," he said.

The park service was not interested in the property 16 years ago because of other priorities. It is now "certainly interested if it becomes available," Elkowitz said.

Congressional action would be required to expand the Big Bend National Park's existing boundaries, he said.

A gift deed with the land donation in 1991 stipulates it can only be transferred to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the park service. Any other transaction would require the Conservation Fund's approval. Patterson said that provision can't be legally enforced.

Patterson's hunting stance for the property is pretty firm, spokesman Jim Suydam said.

"The proposed land deal upsets Texans because there's a lot of misinformation," Suydam said. "People believe that we're somehow selling park land for private development, and that just couldn't be further from the truth."

Just a cabin
The property near Terlingua does not have any legal access to it. And the conservation easement that the Conservation Fund placed on the property when it gave the land to the state prohibits new road construction. The only building allowed is a caretaker's cabin.

The School Land Board, which controls the property, asked for new bids last month after a procedural defect in the first round.

Gallego, whose district includes the property, said the proposed sale bothers him.

"The donation was made to the state under certain conditions, and I think it would have a real chilling effect on other donors. Nobody's ever going to want to give the state of Texas another gift of land if the state finds it easy to take your gift and then dispose of it," Gallego said.

**************************end of article******************

Please attend the hearing and demand that Patterson stop the sale and let the Christmas Mountains become part of Big Bend National Park.

WHERE: Stephen F. Austin Building
1700 North Congress Ave. Room #170
Austin, Texas 78701

WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 6 (yes, election day)
Meeting starts at 10:00 A.M. (Christmas
Mountains is item 10 on the agenda).

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