Release (Monday, Februrary 4, 2008):
For More Information:
Ken Kramer 512-476-6962 (office), 512-626-4204 (cell)
Sierra Club Supports Park Service Proposal for Christmas Mountains
School Land Board to Act Tuesday on the Fate of the State-Owned Property
(Austin)-The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club today announced its support for the National
Park Service's proposal for acquisition and management of the Christmas Mountains as a unit of Big Bend National Park.
"The National Park Service proposal to acquire and manage the Christmas Mountains as a backcountry area of Big Bend National Park represents the best opportunity to conserve this land and make it accessible to the public to enjoy and preserve," said Ken Kramer, state Sierra Club director. "The Sierra Club urges the Texas School Land Board to accept the NPS proposal on behalf of all Texans."
The Christmas Mountains area has been the subject of controversy since last summer when the Texas General Land Office (GLO), manager of state properties for the School Land Board, put this public property up for sale to private bidders.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who heads the GLO and also chairs the three-member School Land Board, promoted the sale, saying that neither the NPS nor the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were interested in acquiring the property. He said that the land - originally donated to the State of Texas by the Conservation Fund - could be best managed by private owners under the terms of a conservation agreement that would be conveyed with the land.
The proposed sale of public lands in West Texas, however, generated a hue and cry from thousands of Texans. Fortunately the NPS announced its interest in acquiring the property.
The School Land Board decided at its November 2007 meeting to put private bids for the land on hold and to give NPS 90 days to make a proposal for acquisition and management of the property. That proposal was delivered to GLO last Friday and will be considered at the School Land Board meeting tomorrow, Tuesday.
"The Sierra Club has reviewed the NPS proposal closely. We find that the proposal lays out a future scenario for the Christmas Mountains that provides sound conservation management of the property while also giving the public the chance to access and enjoy this rugged property through appropriate recreational activities," said Kramer. "We agree with the NPS conclusion that providing hunting opportunities in the Christmas Mountains would be too costly and of limited public benefit."
"The Sierra Club believes that the State of Texas should donate the property to NPS just as the original establishment of Big Bend National Park was through a donation from the State. However, if it is necessary that arrangements be made for the purchase of the property - either directly by NPS or via a third party and donation to NPS - then we will support that. Preservation of the Christmas Mountains is worth the price," concluded Kramer.