AUSTIN –Environment Texas called on Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson to either provide adequate state resources to protect the Christmas Mountains of west Texas or finally allow for the transfer of the property to Big Bend National Park.
“The Christmas Mountains are a Texas natural treasure and could be a premier wilderness destination for hikers,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “It’s time for Commissioner Patterson to put his money where his mouth is. He should demand the Legislature provide resources to protect the land or else he should get out of the way and let it join Big Bend National Park.”
In 2007, Commissioner Patterson proposed the sale of the Christmas Mountains, which had been donated to the state of Texas for conservation purposes, to private interests. The proposal ignited a public outcry and was ultimately rejected by the School Land Board. In the midst of the controversy, Big Bend National Park superintendent William Wellman wrote Commissioner Patterson with an offer to take over management of the property. The proposed transfer was praised by conservation advocates, who cited NPS’s superior resources, including:
- “extensive experience in managing public use in backcountry environments including law enforcement, search and rescue and emergency medical expertise.
- a full range of professional educational and interpretive services which are essential to a safe and enjoyable experience in a rugged and remote area.
- excellent resource management staff including wildlife biologist, physical scientist, geologist, botanist and archeologist and access to numerous NPS resource specialists and academic institutions”.
Citing a prohibition on the use of firearms on national park land (which ended on Monday), Commissioner Patterson rejected the offer.
The Christmas Mountains, which share a border with Big Bend National Park, were donated to the state of Texas in 1991. The property is home to wildlife such as foxes, mountain lions, and numerous bird species, including the Lucifer Hummingbird.