EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Over 7,000 acres of land that makes up the Castner Range is now protected as a national monument site, making it the third one in the entire state.

It took 52 years for local environmentalists and lawmakers to achieve their goal of protecting this piece of land. Castner Range is not only the home of Mexican Golden Poppies and various other plants and animal species in the Chihuahuan Desert, it also holds a vast history. 

Castner Range used to be a training and testing site for the U.S. Army during World War II, Vietnam and Korean wars and is still managed by Fort Bliss. 

This designation ensures more effort is put into cleaning up parts that are not accessible to the public and still contains an unknown amount of unexploded munition.

Commanding General of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, Maj. Gen. Jim Eisenhower III, explained that Fort Bliss will continue the cleanup efforts but it might take several years for more areas to be accessible. 

However, just the fact that the area is protected caused an outpouring of celebrations in El Paso as activists and lawmakers saw their efforts come to fruition.

“It is just amazing that we were able to do this for generations to come,” said Janae Reneaud Field, executive director of Frontera Land Alliance.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, also played a major role in bringing this designation to the White House. She said, “This is the beginning of another part of a very important journey. One about cleanup, one about community engagement, but the great news is that we have Castner Range forever.”

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser also sent out a statement:

“This is a truly happy day for El Paso! It is the joyous culmination of years and years of work, love, and advocacy by so many El Pasoans like Dr. Richard Teschner, and rest her soul Judy Ackerman who we recently lost. I know she is smiling down from heaven knowing that this designation ensures that the beauty of our region will always be preserved. Thank you to President Biden for this important designation, and to Congresswoman Escobar for her commitment and dedication to getting this done. Now let’s all go out and enjoy Castner Range National Monument!”