Every year we celebrate Veterans Day, a day to honor those who have served and protected our country as members of the U.S. military.
As the only military veteran currently serving on city council, it is my obligation to bring to your attention the efforts so many El Pasoans have long been making to preserve Castner Range as a national monument. Castner Range holds a special place in our city, and it’s located right here in my district, District 4, which gives me an added sense of responsibility and pride as just one of the many features that make Northeast El Paso so beautiful and unique.
From 1926-1966, Castner Range was just that – an artillery range used by the military to conduct training operations on the eastern slope of the Franklin Mountains. I remember as a young boy driving by the east slope of the mountain range and observing specially constructed Vietnam villages where soldiers trained before being deployed to Southeast Asia.
“El Paso is Fort Bliss and Fort Bliss is El Paso.” How many times have we read and heard this phrase? It holds true on several levels since El Paso provides a significant civilian workforce to Fort Bliss. In turn, Fort Bliss provides improved and steadfast economic sustainability for El Paso.
What an important role in our lives is played by the Franklin Mountains, in general, and the desert foothills of the Castner Range, in particular! One of the very best ways to honor this fact would be to establish Castner Range as a National Monument.
The area has been preserved in its pristine natural state due to the long-standing stewardship of Fort Bliss, and a Castner Range National Monument designation would forever protect the land’s cultural, historical, scientific and environmental attributes. Permanent conservation of Castner Range will preserve the fragile lands now surrounded by development.
President Joseph Biden has the authority to issue an executive order under the Antiquities Act of 1906. This law allows the President of the United States to create, by presidential proclamation, National Monuments from federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features. Since its passage, the Act has been used more than a hundred times, protecting special places from Ellis Island to the Grand Canyon.
Biden recently used that power to restore national monument status to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments in Utah, which the previous administration had rescinded. The return of Bears Ears as a National Monument is good news for Castner Range, as it signals the current administration’s commitment to protecting our nation’s irreplaceable cultural resources and safeguarding public lands for all.
Now it’s our turn, and the Castner Range community – from neighborhood associations and businesses to non-profits and elected officials – stands ready to support the creation of a National Monument here in El Paso.
This year, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar made her support official when she introducedH.R. 2752, which designates all 7081 acres of Castner Range as a National Monument to conserve and protect the ecological, cultural, historical and natural integrity of the land for present and future generations of El Pasoans and Americans to enjoy.
So, let’s ensure that Castner Range is protected as a lasting tribute to all El Pasoans, along with all current and former military veterans and their families. You and others may e-sign a support letter via: Help Make Castner Range a National Monument!
On Veteran’s Day, Please join me in calling for President Biden to protect Castner Range as a National Monument, not only because of its natural and inherent beauty and cultural and historical importance but as a fitting tribute to the veterans who used the area as a training ground for their difficult but necessary jobs.
On behalf of a grateful nation ...
Joe Molinar is city representative for District 4
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Help ensure Castner Range becomes National Monument: Rep. Joe Molinar