The Austin Chronicle

Howard: Don't Make a Present Out of Christmas

By Richard Whittaker, November 5, 2007, 2:05pm, Newsdesk

The war of press conferences over the proposed sale of the Christmas Mountains by the General Land Office began with a salvo from the anti-sale group this morning. Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, Luke Metzger of Environment Texas and Cyrus Reed of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club stood on the south steps of the Capitol at noon, and told the assembled crowd that it's not that they think the private buyers are bad people, and they're not opposed to hunting per se, but that this is all about trust. As in, the trust placed by the people of Texas and donors to the state that the whole place won't be sold off to private landowners.

Howard actually thanked the GLO for originally agreeing to take the land, back when no state or federal agency had the money or mandate to take it off the Mellon Foundation. But, Reed noted, things have changed since the National Park Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife had to take a pass on the land. NPS now has U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez on its side (essential, since it would need congressional approval to pick up this much land in one go) as well as state support from Rep. Harvey Hildebran (R-Kerrville), of the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee, and 6,300 signatorees to a no-sale petition.

It's not just a question of an unspoken bond over wanting there to be public land: there's very real and very binding terms in the deed saying that the GLO has to get approval for any buyer from the foundation, for any sale to private buyers. Neither Environment Texas nor the Sierra Cub would be drawn on whether litigation might follow.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson will be firing back at 2.30pm with a press gaggle of his own.

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