Castner4Ever team members from El Paso were thrilled to see a picture of Castner Range Poppies displayed prominently in Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s DC office. L – R: Congressman O’Rourke, Judy Ackerman, Scott Cutler, Stephanie Otero, Angel Pena. Photo by O’Rourke’s staffer.
On June 15th and 16th a delegation of local supporters of making Castner Range a National Monument were in Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress and with officials in the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The purpose was to follow up from previous visits, provide answers to earlier agency questions, and provide updates on how our effort is going and the continued strong support the community is showing for National Monument designation before President Obama leaves office. The group included Judy Ackerman, Stephanie Otero, Scott Cutler, and Angel Pena.
The first meeting was with Senator Cornyn’s staff. They indicated that the Senator can not outwardly back the effort but he will not try to block it either with is a good thing. This was followed by a meeting with Congressman O’Rourke and his staff to review how efforts are going in D.C. While there are still some agency questions, the strong local effort was mentioned as a vital piece of making this effort a suggest as public support is a huge part of whether or not a proposed monument is established. That local support is undeniable with over 22,000 letters collected in support of this effort.
The CEQ, DOI and BLM meetings were filled with agency questions for which we were able to provide answers or alternatives that should allay their concerns. Additionally, at all of these meetings, we showed artwork that El Paso children did in their classrooms. Thanks to the work of Stephanie Otero who coordinated this effort with the El Paso Independent School District we were able to show everyone the incredible paintings and cards the kids did. Without fail, everyone there was impressed. I doubt they had ever seen anything like this associated with a National Monument request. You can see some of the artwork on the Castner Range Facebook Page.
While there are still agency questions and concerns that need to be addressed, we all came away feeling that there is still a very good chance that we can get Castner Range preserved forever as a National Monument. We still need to keep working on gathering letters of support which you can do HERE or by going on-line at www.castner4ever.org and clicking on either the link to the e-letter or by printing a hard copy, signing it, and getting it to The Frontera Land Alliance address on the page. You can also volunteer to help with a myriad of behind the scenes activities that are vital to helping us keep this effort going. The contact information on the www.castner4ever.org site will give you the contact number.