Sunday, September 18, 2011

Texas State University to acquire Christmas Mountains from state

Big Bend National Park and the Chisos Mountains are seen from the top of the second highest peak in the Christmas Mountains, which border Big Bend. Photo: Lisa Krantz/ /
West Texas' Christmas Mountains : An open-air classroom

AUSTIN — Environmental groups embraced Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson's plan Thursday to give the remote Christmas Mountains to the Texas State University System after fighting him four years ago when he tried to sell the rugged property to private interests.
“This is dramatically better,” Patterson said of the plan to transfer the 9,269-acre Christmas Mountains to a university system for students and faculty to study biology, geology, archaeology and wildlife management.
Texas State University officials will continue to provide public access to the property, although it is not easy to get there and the terrain comes without conventional park amenities. A strict conservation easement prohibits vehicles, open camp fires or the construction of buildings.
The public can access the property from a one-mile border with Big Bend National Park or from a lodge owned by the adjacent Property Owners Association of Terlingua Ranch Inc. Private property runs along 18 miles of the 19-mile perimeter around the mountains.
“Transforming the Christmas Mountains into an open-air classroom in the Texas State University System accomplishes my original goal of not only ensuring expert conservation of this pristine corner of Texas, but preserving thousands of acres of wild, open space for Texas hunters,” Patterson said.

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