Bulldozer destroying Chihuahuan Desert habitat in El Paso, Texas
Ten of thousands of more people are expected to soon move here with the expansion of Ft. Bliss and as a result many areas of the city are being leveled for new developments.
These construction projects are certainly no secret. Unfortunately an overall out of sight out of mind way of thinking is seriously contributing to the demise of countless species of plants and animals living in the Chihuahuan Desert. Over the years we have developed a philosophy that growth is good because it results in economic development, but is this always going to be the way we think? Will there ever be a time when we say to ourselves that our city has grown large enough because of limited resources? El Paso is not the only community systematically destroying unique Chihuahuan Desert habitat. Major developments are also underway in Las Cruces, New Mexico and south of the border in places like Juarez and Chihuahua City in Mexico.
No one can say how many living things, both animal and plant, die here every day because of human impacts on the land. Most of these living things are unknown to the masses, but they still exist. They include all kinds of little animals like kangaroo rats, kingsnakes, horned lizards, whiptail lizards, vinegaroons, tarantulas, and a host of desert plant species. Larger animals suffer too when they loose the wild places that they need for cover to raise their babies and search for food. They include mule deer, gray foxes, desert cottontails, rock squirrels, and birds like blue and Gambel's quail, desert sparrows, roadrunners and more. Our overall lack of knowledge and denial of life's most important reality, how all of us are connected to what happens in the natural world, is destroying the Chihuahuan Desert. The World Wildlife Fund and many other conservation organizations recognize our desert as one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world, but how many people who live here know and understand?
Like most cities in America and around the world we rarely limit growth and seem to care little about what happens to others we share the planet with, even though we know that we depend on other life forms for our own survival. Modern technology advances like the new cars that we drive, high tech entertainment devices, computers, cell phones etc. help us in many ways, but more often than not they encourage a very dangerous "out of touch with nature"- mentality.
There are glimmers of hope for the endangered Chihuahuan Desert surrounding our community. There is hope when we see people associated with the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition continue efforts to save the Castner Range. There is hope when we see volunteers work on protecting habitat for animals at our local parks like Franklin Mountains, Rio Bosque, and Keystone. There is hope when we see people bring their children to the El Paso Zoo to help them understand their connections with the rest of the natural world.
What can you do to live a greener life? What can we all do? The lists of possibilities are endless. We just need to take the time to make things happen. One way you can help is by supporting some of our local conservation organizations. The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition has a new website at www.chihuahuandesert.org with news and information about our desert and how you can connect with parks and conservation groups like the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition. To get on the email list for the coalition's monthly newsletter visit the Contact page on the website.
If all of us will just take a few minutes or more each day and take simple steps to help make our world a better place, hope will continue.
We need an intact Chihuahuan Desert like we need the roofs over our heads, water to drink and food to nourish our bodies. The time to stop taking for granted the natural world we live in long past. Now is the time to act and to act effectively.