EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Pasoans have been trying to get Castner Range, located on the northeast side of the Franklin Mountains, declared a national monument for more than 50 years.
Some El Pasoans are hoping President Joe Biden will declare the land a national monument since he announced an initiative to conserve at least 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) said that in order to make Castner Range a National Monument, legislation would have to be passed first by the U.S. House and then the U.S. Senate or be declared a National Monument by Biden.
However, Escobar said that one of the roadblocks prior members of congress have faced when it comes to Castner Range is the fact that there are explosives in the area.
“It’s basically like explosives underground is what it is. So there’s the concern that someone could get hurt,” Escobar said, adding that to find those explosives, the land would have to be dug up. “The other threat, the other risk that I believe exists, that they essentially raise the land like they dig up the land to find the ordinance and destroy natural beauty.”
Escobar said that the goal is to preserve the land so that it is not destroyed and developed on. So far, she has not heard of any development plans in the works for Castner Range, but says that can change.
“Once development happens, it can’t be undone. And once those plans are underway for use of open space, it’s very hard to stop them,” said Escobar.
An avid hiker and founder of a hiking group called “Exercise, Not Extra Fries,” George is hopeful the land will become a National Monument.
“The idea is to preserve it for hiking for future generations,” he said.
Castner Range is popular during the poppy blooming season when the side of the mountain is covered in golden poppies. However, Saenz is hopeful people will see all the areas to hike nearby and to enjoy the natural beauty.
“We got to show you that you can use it, it’s very beautiful,” said Saenz.
On Friday, Escobar joined City Rep. Joe Molinar, Frontera Land Alliance and the “Exercise, Not Extra Fries Hiking Group at Castner Range to give an update about the National Monument efforts.
Escobar said she is pursuing passing the legislation as well as speaking with the White House about declaring the land as a National Monument.