Big Bend Conservancy
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When I first met Patterson and interviewed him at Panther Junction in Big Bend National Park, I asked him if he was “packing.”“Of course,” he replied, nonchalantly. Patterson, who wore a National Rifle Association ball cap during his visit, sums up his views on the right to bear arms by stating simply, “The Second Amendment defends all the others.”
Within 10 minutes of landing at the ranch, Patterson is checking in at the front desk of the Terlingua Ranch lodge.
Patterson and the GLO are well known to West Texans. In 2003, a group of well- connected Midland oilmen and Austin residents formed Rio Nuevo, Ltd. Their plan for Rio Nuevo was to contract with the GLO to tap and sell billions of gallons of groundwater from state lands.The resulting furor over the proposal led the GLO to schedule a public hearing in Alpine where Patterson faced a standing-room-only crowd of over 500. During one exchange during the 5-hour meeting, Patterson quipped, “We’re not here to nuke you; we’re here to take your water.”
At the conclusion of our sojourn into the Christmas Mountains both Patterson and I dismount the ATV. Patterson takes a sweeping look around and says, “Maybe we’ll keep it.”
While recent media accounts have portrayed the deal as a win-win situation and have described the other two members of the School Land Board as amenable, it is Patterson who holds the golden key. If the other two members vote against Patterson on an agenda item, their votes carry the issue.However, according to Patterson, it is he as Chairman of the SLB who decides what items make it to the agenda, and in the event of an item like this, if Patterson does not like the idea and does not recognize it for the agenda, the item will never be voted upon.Gwynne expresses shock to Patterson over this, saying if Patterson does this he will unleash a torrent of negative reaction far greater than anything Patterson has yet seen.Patterson is unfazed.
At the end of the hike Patterson says he has gotten what he wanted from the hike and that “it is a graphic example of access.” While he thinks few hikers will make such a trip he says some still will.
It is possible the General Land Office will do as it has done since 1991 and as Patterson said, “maybe we’ll keep it.”
The next step for the board is to either accept the NPS proposal, re-open the bidding process, or reject the NPS proposal and keep the land. They also must decide whether to donate the land to the agency or sell it. A lawyer for the board said the board would have to gain some proceeds from the land, since it belongs to a trust that funds public education.
Board members David Hermann and Todd Barth both said they would prefer the land stay in public hands, and hinted that they want it to be sold to the parks agency.
Mr. Patterson groused after the decision that the board, due to open-meetings laws, was unable to take any further action or discuss the NPS proposal because it wasn't submitted in time to be posted on the regular meeting agenda.
TEXAS GENERAL LAND OFFICEJERRY PATTERSON, COMMISSIONEROffice of Communications ● Mark Dallas Loeffler, Director1700 N. Congress Ave. ● Austin, TX 78701-1495 ● 512-463-5339 ● Fax: 512-475-1415MEDIA ADVISORYFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jim SuydamFebruary 5, 2008 (512) 463-5339(512) 417-5382 cellChristmas Mountains to remain in Texas handsSchool Land Board votes to allow two private bids for West Texas land to expireAUSTIN — The School Land Board voted unanimously today not to accept either of the twoprivate conservation bids for the Christmas Mountains. As a result, the Permanent School Fundretains ownership of the 9,269-acre tract of land.To comply with the Open Meetings Act, the board was unable to take action or discuss a proposedNational Park Service management plan because it was received too late to place on the SchoolLand Board agenda. Patterson said the National Park Service plan could be discussed at a futureboard meeting, pending further examination and clarification of the plan details.“We needed to resolve the issue of the two bidders that had money on the table,” said Patterson.“With the question of private ownership resolved for now, we can now more fully explore theoption of public ownership. And there is a lot to consider. But there are some things we can do inthe meantime.”Following the board meeting, Patterson outlined a series of immediate steps he will pursue toensure better public access no matter who owns the tract.Patterson has directed his legal staff to create a permanent public easement between the ChristmasMountains Ranch tract and Big Bend National Park. This easement will allow public access -- inperpetuity -- across the mile-long common border. It will improve public access immediately anddoes not require board action.Patterson also pointed out that private owners own 18 of the 19 miles of the property boundary.To access the one mile shared with the National Park requires a rigorous four-hour hike.“Right now, Texans can’t get to this property,” Patterson said. “I’ve made that four-hour hike, andbelieve me, the public deserves additional ways to get to the property, regardless of whether thestate or federal government owns the land.”Patterson is also pledging to work with members of Congress for a federal designation andappropriation for the Christmas Mountains that will provide for the long-term maintenance of theproperty while allowing public hunting and compliance with state firearms laws.Patterson reiterated that while the National Park Service generally does not allow hunting, manyother federal agencies – like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service – allowand actually encourage hunting.“Federal ownership and hunting in the Christmas Mountains are not mutually exclusive,” Pattersonsaid. “It is possible to do both. We will explore all options at the federal level.”# # #
It might make a perfect addition to Black Gap WMA.
If true (is it?)
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