Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Christmas Mountains High Bidders say No Public Access

This is the article in the Austin American Statesman today. I thought you might like to read it. Wild Ed

ASSOCIATED PRESS Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Texas General Land Office board is set to consider six bid proposals, ranging from $10,500 to $652,000, for 9,270 acres of state-owned wilderness property in West Texas.
The top two bidders said in their proposals that they would allow no public access or only tightly controlled visits to the Christmas Mountains near Big Bend National Park.
Conservation groups have opposed selling the land, arguing that it was donated to the state to be protected for public use.
Opponents of the sale include the Conservation Fund, which acquired the land with a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and donated it to the state.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson declined to comment on the bid proposals, which state officials will consider today.
Patterson has defended the sale, arguing that the land office can't manage the land and that state and federal parks agencies have declined to take it over.
The top bidder for the land, Louis A. Waters and family, said in their proposal that "under no circumstances would we open the Christmas Mountains to the public."
"The human traffic would be limited to scientific and educational study, management of the animal population, maintenance of roads for safety, emergency access and erosion control," said the proposal, which was obtained by the San Antonio Express-News.
Waters, the retired chairman and chief executive of Houston-based Browning-Ferris Industries and BFI International, has also developed 10,000 acres of Hill Country as a sanctuary for rare and endangered species.
The second-highest bid — $509,828 — came from John Poindexter, chairman of Southwestern Holdings.
Poindexter owns the 30,000-acre Cibolo Creek Ranch and wants to combine that holding with the nearby Christmas Mountains Ranch. He said he would convey both properties to a charitable foundation upon his death.
Poindexter said in his proposal that "cultural activities and tourism" are not feasible on the Christmas Mountains property because of strict deed restrictions, the Express-News reported.
But he said the area's proximity to Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park "suggest the potential for limited outdoor classroom, ecosystem and endangered resources education through interpretive programs."
Patterson has said that any sale would include restrictions such as retention by the land office of water and mineral resources under the land.
Off-road vehicles, utility lines and livestock grazing would be banned.
The next-highest bid is $261,000.

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