Castner Range near El Paso declared a national monument with Indigenous roots
Latino groups have fought for decades to protect the Indigenous ancestral lands, archeological sites, and wildlife.
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The Biden Administration recently announced a new slate of land and sea areas that will get new protections for their cultural and natural value. One of them is Castner Range near El Paso, Texas, which Latino advocacy groups have long pushed to be designated a national monument for its Indigenous history and wildlife.
The three selected areas are:
- Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada, where 506,814 acres of land will be protected in honor of Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples
- 777,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean have been designated as a National Marine Sanctuary, seeking to meet the goal of conserving at least 30% of U.S. ocean waters by 2030
- Castner Range in El Paso, TX, home to Indian ancestral lands, a number of archeological sites, and wildlife, has been designated a national monument
For more than 50 years, Latino communities in El Paso have pushed to protect Castner Range and recognize it for its ethnic and cultural value.
“President Biden is establishing Castner Range National Monument in Texas, protecting over 6,672 acres of high-desert mountains. This new monument will expand access to the outdoors for the El Paso community while honoring our veterans, servicemembers, and Tribal Nations,” wrote The White House on Twitter.
The new Castner Range Monument
According to recent studies, the Castner Range has been found to be the ancestral land of several Indigenous groups, including the Comanche Nation and Apache.
Latino conservationists have also long touted the land as sacred to Indigenous communities thanks to the discovery of several archaeological sites, and for being an important wildlife refuge.
“In an area where more than eight out of 10 residents are Latino, groups have promoted the importance of the landscape as a recreational space and mental health resource. The area borders many communities that lack economic resources,” wrote NBCNews.
The naming of the new national monument, located along the Rio Grande, was celebrated by neighboring communities.
While conservation efforts began in the 1970s, it was not until a decade ago that official calls began to be made for the landscape to be designated as a landmark. In 2021, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, first introduced the Castner Range National Monument Act.
President Biden is establishing Castner Range National Monument in Texas, protecting over 6,672 acres of high-desert mountains. This new monument will expand access to the outdoors for the El Paso community while honoring our veterans, servicemembers, and Tribal Nations. pic.twitter.com/2gsxttSMIa— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 21, 2023
A multicultural space and wildlife refuge
NBC News also highlighted the need to protect the territory for the impact of its natural space.
According to a report by the Hispanic Access Foundation, presented by the news network, El Paso Latinos who live near the Castner Range have disproportionately high rates of asthma and chronic disease, so designating the land as a national monument would help protect essential outdoor space and bridge the natural gap.
“Our country’s natural treasures define our identity as a nation. They are a birthright we pass down from generation to generation. Today, I'm announcing steps to protect that birthright,” said Biden.
Former uses and current dangers
Being located on Fort Bliss, Castner Range was also used as a training and test site for the Army for decades, until it closed in 1966.
It means there are still likely unexploded military devices in the range. For that reason, it will be temporarily under Army control.
Once the area is safe for public access, the Castner Range will offer unique opportunities for the El Paso community to experience, explore and learn from nature.
“When we conserve our country’s natural gifts, we aren’t just protecting the livelihoods of people who depend on them. We’re protecting the heart and soul of our national pride. And we’re protecting history that will be told for generations to come,” added Biden.
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