Our GOP administration in Texas continues its assault on the concept of public lands. They haven't had much success lately, but they keep trying. This time, it is Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who for months has been doing his best to try to sell off 9,000+ acres of land out in the spectacular west Texas desert into private hands.
This land, in the Christmas Mountains adjacent to Big Bend National Park, was donated to the state by a conservation group back in the early 1990s. Once Patterson decided last year that it must be sold, the National Park Service stepped in to propose purchasing it and taking it off the state of Texas's hands. But Patterson now appears to be refusing to consider the Park Service proposal.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an update:
AUSTIN -- Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson continues to block a proposal that could put the Christmas Mountains into the hands of the National Park Service, conservationists complained this week.
Patterson, who is chairman of the School Land Board, which has authority over the Christmas Mountains, has so far declined to bring up for board consideration a park service proposal to add the mountains to Big Bend National Park.
Patterson, who drew criticism for his recent attempts to sell the property to private interests, raised eyebrows last week when he told an audience in Fort Worth that "Big Bend National Park doesn't want" the Christmas Mountains.
Conservationist Luke Metzger likened Patterson's stance to "blocking democracy."
"To prevent the proposal from at least being considered -- I think that's outrageous," said Metzger, director of Environment Texas. "It's a failure of government for him to not to even allow the case from being made to the full land board."
The three-member board has met three times since the federal agency made its proposal Jan. 31, and another meeting is scheduled for March 18. The park service's proposed management plan for the Christmas Mountains has not been put on any of the meeting agendas.
A spokesman for Patterson did not respond to questions about the land commissioner's plans. However, in a statement that he posted this week on the Star-Telegram's PoliTex blog, Patterson indicated that he did not want to transfer the property to the park service -- at least for the moment -- and that he is still considering selling the mountains to a private bidder, which he has said can act as a good steward of the property.