Current Access Level: Brown
We've changed the format of the threat-levels. There are now essentially just three levels; this reflects the reality of access at Hueco. Hueco recreational access will either:
* Be done right if Hueco is managed by climbers - who would also make sure that the cultural aspects of Hueco are safeguarded and preserved, because climbers, unlike the Necrocultists, realize that preservation does not require draconian restrictions on access and the trashing of cherished rights (supposedly) guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America
* Continue to deteriorate (represented by the "Brown" category and the steaming-pile icon)
* Be prohibited (represented by the "Black" category and the skull-and-crossbones icon)
April 27, 2008
For a multi-media version of our current disgust (warning: bitter fatalistic content), click here.
February 24, 2008
We've been too disgusted with the idiotic closure of the north side of Mushroom boulder to even motivate ourselves until today to update the huecotanks.com website, much less go and shoot photos of the new "Closed to all recreational activity" signs. Sometime soon we'll grit our teeth and drive out there to view and photo the sad sight.
We have seen this, and worse, coming for many years now.
Make no mistake; powerful, ever-growing factions in the TPWD and elsewhere have always wanted to turn Hueco into a big, open-air museum. These groups are patient and will never give up until climbing is banned at Hueco. (They use the term "recreation" but it is climbers that they really hate.) The anti-climber forces take a very long view. They are frighteningly well funded. They are well-connected politically. They have powerful allies inside the Texas Historical Commission. They will keep trying over and over; they are unfazed by temporary setbacks. Don't be fooled when you read "No additional closures are planned at this time." The anti-climbers realize that they probably can't close Hueco all at once. Instead, they will patiently and steadily impose small, incremental restrictions - all in the name of "cultural and historical preservation". Over time, the number of people who still bother to try to visit will shrink to such a small, elitist group that when the coup-de-grace is administered (i.e., complete closure), few will really care and no one will fight.
Although the chances are good anti-climbers will eventually prevail, local climbers are organizing at the Rock Ranch to come up with a different plan, because clearly, the "climbing community's" efforts of the last 20 years have not worked. The Rock Ranch, and before them the El Paso Climber's Club (and others) thought they had a "wonderful working relationship" with the Park ... but that did not prevent the closure of Mushroom, the 45-degree wall, Blood and Gore, Nuclear Arms, Cave Kiva ... the list grows and grows. This year it is Mushroom, who knows what will be next? It's the slow death of a thousand cuts. Anyone who put off their first trip in 2007, thinking that they would go in the Spring of 2008 during the Rock Rodeo, now realizes the harsh penalty for waiting; the chance to try the fabled El Murray problems (at least without risking arrest) is gone forever.
Our advice? Try to help the Rock Ranch's effort, but climb at Hueco while you still can. The Ranch needs $$ - they are trying to form a 501c3 non-profit corporation than can be used in the legal and political battle.
Here's the December 22 official press release announcing the ban. "Merry Xmas!"
We learned of the closure in this email:
----- Original Message -----
From: 'Wanda Olszewski' <Wanda.Olszewski@tpwd.state.tx.us>
Sent: Sat Dec 22 8:34
Subject: Fwd: Mushroom boulder closure
Closure of Mushroom Boulder’s north face was
implemented late yesterday afternoon. The reason for the closure is summarized in
the attachment, which is being distributed to visitors. TPWD did not make
the decision hastily; it is a response to strong resource protection needs at
that site, without intent to place blame on climbers.
There are no current plans for closures of other areas.
Hueco Tanks State
Sorry it has taken so long to reply. Been busy with illness and piano
practice. Thanks for including us in the notification.
A few questions and some comments:
* Are the east side roped routes on Mushroom (New Chautauqua and GI Joe) still open?
<editor's note: Yes, they are still open, as is the downclimb from the top>
* There are a few short easy boulders to the east and slightly NE of the NE
corner of Mushroom. Are they open?
<editor's note: not all are open. Ask the rangers for details. >
Regarding blame - boulderers ARE clearly responsible for the devegetation of the
north side, and for the lowered ground level. We've witnessed the steady decline
of those bushes on the north side over the last 20 years; it makes us sad. We are
also sad about the thousands of cacti in the Franklins that were killed in the
2006 floods. These effects, while unsightly, will be irrelevant soon (in a
geologic sense.) Of course, closing the "backcountry" had the effect that I and
others predicted way back in 1998 - it concentrated bouldering activity on the
front side ... "We told you so".
If "they" (archaeologists and historians) really want to prevent erosion and
preserve artifacts - not just against damage due to climbing but also against
damage from events not caused by human activity - there are many better options,
* "They" could have put down a few feet of protection - dirt, gravel, concrete,
whatever - back in the early 90's. The fact that there exists a rule that says
"thou shalt not put down anything to prevent erosion of sites under overhangs"
does not invalidate the worthiness of the idea.
* "They" could excavate, measure and catalog, and then return the site to
recreational status. When they whine "we don't have the money!", what they are
really saying is "People don't value the artifacts enough to pay for properly
studying them, but the free market does not know what's best; we do - and we want
to hog the site to ourselves, because our purposes are nobler than mere recreation"
July 18, 2007
By the end of the 80th session of the Texas Legislature, the Texas Historical Commission gained control of many Texas State Historic Sites, but Hueco (for now) remains under Texas Parks and Wildlife. House Bill 12 provides for:
* Transfer of 18 sites to the THC effective on or after January 1, 2008
* Removed the existing cap on sporting-goods sales tax revenue available for State Parks
* 94% of sales taxes on sporting goods will go to the TPWD, 6% to the THC
* The cap removal is not absolute and can be subject to legislative fiat
* Created a joint legislative task force that will make recommendations regarding the revenue
We are still very worried about the THC. Hueco is the gem they really want, and now that they will have $$ from the sporting-goods taxes, they will be more empowered. We expect them to come after Hueco again next year. We have lowered the threat level - but mainly so that we can raise it again if needed. BE VIGILANT!
February 22, 2007
We have been contacted by the THC, and are in the process of obtaining an official THC response to some tough questions. We hope to have those answers posted before the Rodeo on the 24th. Please stand by. Until then, we advise everyone to NOT relax. Politics is tricky business. Don't believe everything you read - even on this site - check and double-check and remain vigilant. This Access Fund link has useful information.
January 17, 2007
The latest ploy by the Texas Historic Commission is to have ALL "historic sites", regardless of the need for peace officers or recreational activity, transferred from the TPWD to the THC. THIS INCLUDES HUECO. Disregard the information from December 13.
This is VERY bad. We can't emphasize enough how much of a threat to access it represents.
Now that Speaker Tom Craddick has been re-installed, he is ready to wield his power. The transfer will not need to go before the Texas Legislature for a vote. An existing law from 2005, HB 2025, allows such transfers via "Interagency Agreement", sans public comment or review of any type! Disturbingly, five existing members of Texas Parks and Wildlife commission are retiring; many of them are opposed to the transfer. Governor Perry will soon appoint their replacements. Guess who contributed heavily to his campaign? Groups closely associated with the Texas Historic Commission.
In Texas Politics, as elsewhere, money talks. It would appear that Speaker Craddick received over $90,000 from John L. Nau (Chairman of the Texas Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, also heavily involved with Silver Eagle) and the Beer, Wine, & Liquor Industry in 2006, including $26,072 personally from Nau. In 2004 Craddick received $93,000 from Nau and the BW&L Industry. With $50,000 from Nau to the governor in 2006, no wonder we are losing the SHSs.
GET OFF YOUR PADS AND START WRITING AND CALLING!! It appears that the only thing that can stop the transfer is a new law that will specifically prohibit the transfer. See the December 12, 2006 entry below for names and addresses of two members of the legislature who might be sympathetic to preserving recreation at Hueco. Make it clear that TPWD is the best entity to manage not just Hueco, but ALL Historic sites. Texas does not need another bureaucracy!!
Points to mention in your letter:
* TPWD is is doing a splendid job managing Hueco ( we know - just grit your teeth and write it ...)
* Vegetation returning, no recent damage to rock art or archaeological sites
* Climber trash pickup days
* Climbers, birders, wildlife lovers and picnickers, not history buffs, represent the majority of visitors
Please also review the following two editorials for more points to include in your letter.
From the Victoria Advocate newspaper:
December 13, 2006 - Posted at 12:00 a.m.
Are state officials thinking about someday privatizing the Fannin Battleground State Historic Site near Goliad and the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site overlooking Aransas Bay, as well as 19 other historic properties the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department manages on behalf of the people of Texas?
That is the concern the advocacy group Texans for State Parks is expressing, based on a plan being discussed behind the scenes in Austin to transfer control of 21 state historic sites, totaling 574 acres, from Parks and Wildlife to the Texas Historical Commission.
About six weeks ago, Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, asked Parks and Wildlife for a list of properties that could be transferred to the Historical Commission's stewardship, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
The list of 21 properties that might be transferred includes sites that do not require state park police protection and do not have outdoor recreational facilities, Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Joseph Fitzsimmons wrote to Craddick, according to the Star-Telegram.
Fitzsimmons added a cautionary note in his letter to the speaker, explaining that "the attached list was assembled without consideration of recent recommendations from the Sunset Commission, the Senate Government Organization Committee or the State Parks Advisory Committee."
The absence of public input into the process, or even the opportunity for it, irks Texans for State Parks, as well it should.
"It has come to our attention that a behind-the-scenes deal to transfer a number of historic sites to the Texas Historical Commission is nearing reality," the group's president, Beth McDonald of Austin, e-mailed members.
"This is being done without public comment and against the recommendations of a number of studies that have been done over the past several years. ... Citizens deserve the opportunity to know more about the issue."
The organization's Web site raises another legitimate concern about the potential transfer of the sites from Parks and Wildlife to the Historical Commission:
"The proper operation and management of parks and historic sites requires a variety of specialized knowledge and skills that are not duplicated in any one agency outside of TPWD. These assets include law enforcement personnel, historic resource specialists, marketing and publicity personnel, as well as engineering, architectural and construction management skills," the State Parks Advisory Committee noted in a recommendation to Parks and Wildlife.
Moreover, the committee recommended that "state park transfers to other state agencies not be considered as it will not result in a net savings" for the state.
Which leads to the concern that shifting control of the 21 historic sites from Parks and Wildlife to the Historical Commission could be the first step in selling them to private interests.
In July, Parks and Wildlife's executive director, Robert Cook, warned that as many as 18 state parks might have to close if Gov. Rick Perry imposed a mandatory 10 percent budget cut on the already-underfunded department.
At about the same time, Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said the state might wind up selling off some state parks.
Later in the summer, the Star-Telegram disclosed that the governor's office had been pushing for the sale of state parkland at Eagle Mountain Lake near Fort Worth to private interests. Negative publicity, however, derailed that.
Only after his opponents in this year's gubernatorial election made an issue of underfunding of the state parks system did Perry agree that it needed more money.
The system consists of 600,000 priceless acres that 10 million people visit every year. Unfortunately, "Texas ranks 49th among the 50 states in per capita spending on parks," the Associated Press noted earlier this summer.
As a result of longtime underfunding, state parks faced a severe budget shortfall that had resulted in staffing reductions, delayed maintenance and increasingly serious deterioration of facilities even before Perry's office began talking about closing some parks.
The answer is not to close state parks. Nor is transferring state historic sites from Parks and Wildlife stewardship to that of the Texas Historical Commission necessarily a good partial solution - unless the commission can manage and preserve them better than Parks and Wildlife has done. That is unlikely, given the governor's continued push for cutting the budgets of state agencies.
When the 80th Texas Legislature convenes in January, adequately funding the state parks system should be a high priority.
Fort Worth Star Telegram - Fort Worth,TX,USA
By Art Chapman
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
There is a movement in Austin to transfer a number of state historic sites from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the control of the Texas Historical Commission.
It takes a moment to digest that idea, to let the disgust subside.
There has never been a single report, from any independent group or state agency, that has recommended this move. The idea was not heralded when, in the dog days of summer, Parks and Wildlife was sweltering under the heat of diminished budgets, decimated staffs and crumbling facilities.
But in the fall, when Texans made their raw feelings known that they wanted a well-funded park system and that they were willing to back their demands with votes, the vultures began landing. With promises of increased funding for many state park projects, with a higher profile for historic sites, suddenly there is a rush to divide the pie.
Those who keep a close eye on these events say Historical Commission Chairman John Nau has enlisted the help of his buddy House Speaker Tom Craddick to pick away at some of Parks and Wildlife's historical sites.
I don't know if that is the sum of it, but empire building is the only reason I can think of for such a boneheaded idea.
Someone in Craddick's office reportedly justified the idea by contending that the Historical Commission would be better stewards than Parks and Wildlife. That's ridiculous, and insulting to Parks and Wildlife and ;to the people of Texas. Whoever made that remark should be sent to LaPorte where they can scrape paint off the Battleship Texas.
They can talk with the volunteers down there and see how much respect they have for the state parks agency and the job it has done. They can go this summer to the heat of East Texas and mow the grass around the Starr Home in Marshall. Folks there have already voiced their displeasure over the intended move.
They should go to Washington-on-the-Brazos in the spring and see how hard the&nb sp;staff and volunteers work -- night and day, on their own time -- to give Texas its yearly birthday party.
Parks and Wildlife will surrender property when it makes sense. The agency has made it clear for years that if there is a better place for some of these historical sites, then they should go. Old Fort Parker was transferred to the cities of Groesbeck and Mexia; the Governor Hogg Shrine was transferred to the city of Quitman.
But the transfers shouldn't be made to another state agency, at least not in any wholesale fashion. That only succeeds in creating a duplication of expenses and manpower.
The Texas Historical Commission has done a fine job restoring courthouses throughout the state and finding money for other preservation projects. It is one of the state's best guardians of our history. Its staff should be in no way splattered by this political bushwhacking.
But the Historical Commission has no structure to maintain a group of historic sites.
Parks and Wildlife has regional offices throughout the state. It has its own law enforcement branch,&nb sp;its own managers and maintenance staffs, engineers and historical architects. It has its own widely distributed magazine, and radio and TV programs for promotions. The Historical Commission's staff is scant by comparison.
Craddick started this maneuver without any public input, and let us hope he won't be able to conclude it that way. And let us hope that the people of Texas, who this summer put their pens to paper and let their legislators know how they felt about our substandard parks and decaying facilities, will do it all again.
The legislation that is supposed to give Parks and Wildlife all its dedicated funding hasn't even been filed yet, and already the plan is crumbling from the political piling on.
Politicians should know that the elections are over, but that there are still some votes to be counted. Craddick hasn't been re-elected to the speaker's post just yet. And there will be a high price to pay for cronyism if it damages what Texans hold most dearly -- their history, their heritage.
IN THE KNOW
Art Chapman, 817-390-7422 achapman@star-telegram .com
Dec 13, 2006
We are pleased to report that Hueco is NOT on the list of parks that the THC desires to control; we are dropping the Threat Level back to Level 4 (Purple) for the time being. HOWEVER - it is very important that the THC efforts fails; if they get even some parks, then they will gain power and be in a position to acquire more, including Hueco, which is the one they want the most. Standby for additional details.
Dec 12, 2006
The Threat Level has been raised to Level 5 (yellow), and might go to Level 6 in the next few weeks, if our fears prove to be founded. The most serious threat to climbing access at Hueco has re-materialized in the form of the Texas State Historical Commission's plan to take over operations of ~ 20 Texas Parks and Historic Sites.
Huecotanks.com is still gathering information. In the next few days we have information about the specific House Bill and who to contact to lobby against it when the 2007 Legislative session starts in January. In the meantime, please read the bulletin from the Texans For State Parks, and try to do what you can to help. We are hopeful that the representative for the District that includes Hueco, Chente Quintanilla, will be on our side in this fight, as he is an avid hunter and outdoorsman and suspicious of the THC. Here is his contact information:
House District 75--Representative Chente Quintanilla
Capitol Office: EXT E1.218
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0613
Capitol Address: P.O. Box 2910 Austin, TX 78768
District Address: 120 North Horizon Ste. A-112 El Paso TX 79927
Phone: (915) 859-3111
State Senator Elliot Shapleigh is also pro-recreation. His contact information:
The Honorable Eliot Shapleigh
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
800 Wyoming, Suite A
El Paso, Texas 79902
(915) 544-1990 (tel)
(915) 544-1998 (fax)
1801 Zaragosa, Suite C
El Paso, Texas 79936
(915) 857-4800 (tel)
(915) 857-4854 (fax)
Because the THC has an insignificant budget, funds and personnel from TPW would be transferred in order to run the various Historic Sites. It may be that the THC senses an opportunity now that it looks like H.B 318 will pass - that bill will restore to the TPW revenues from many sources such as the tax on sporting goods sales in Texas.
At Huecotanks.com, we hate to say "we told you so", but we did. For years, we have been warning the current crop of Hueco climbers that the anti-climber forces are still out there, and will never give up until Hueco is closed to all recreation. Even prior to the disastrous 1998 PURP, The El Paso Climber's club and other interested groups fended off a similar power-play from the THC. It looks like this is the same old <censored> all over again.
April 3, 2006
The threat level remains at Level 4 (Purple). Although in the last 15 months there have been a number of developments, they balance each other to result in an essentially unchanged situation.
The new Site Superintendent, Wanda Olszewski, seems to have accepted climbers as a legitimate user group, and appears to be reasonable and cooperative. We are making a real effort to work with her. She is a bit skeptical that the 70/day limit on North Mountain can be increased, but could be convinced, if we are gentle and persistent. John Moses, who was always in favor of increasing the daily limit, is now in a position of greater power as the El Paso Parks Complex Manager. Mike Hill, the new Regional Director of TPW Region 1, is an unknown factor. Walt Dabney, the State Parks Director, still presents a problem. At a recent meeting in El Paso to discuss TPW funding, he continued to make the absurd claim that "it was not possible to walk anywhere at Hueco without stepping on an archaeological site" (hhurerpllph? That might be true of the dirt areas, but most of Hueco is solid rock, and the Indians never scaled any Frontside route with difficulty greater than 5.11). He also stated that he would close Hueco in a heartbeat if he had to decide between preservation and recreation. He comes from a Nazional Park Ranger background and approves of strict regulation and control of public access to state and national parks. In his defense, at the meeting in response to numerous complaints from local climbers and other users, he directed Mike Hill, John Moses and Wanda to look into the possibility of increasing the 70/day limit.
So, please don't become complacent. While most younger climbers have adjusted to the post-1998 status quo and have no memories of being able to freely access Hueco, there is still a very real possibility that all climbing could be banned at Hueco. All it would take is a few documented incidents of climber (or tourist, for that matter) abuse of the rules, or damage to pictographs, for the TPW to clamp down hard. Please continue to appeal in writing to politicians and officials.
January 31, 2004:
The Huecotanks.com DoHAD (Department of Hueco Access Defense) has lowered the threat level to Level 4 (Purple).
The employees who were working to eliminate climbing at Hueco have either left the park or mellowed out.
Threat level 4 does NOT mean "relax"! Vigilance and political involvement, annoying though it is, are the only methods available to keep Hueco open to climbing. Please get involved, write to the politicians and officials who hold power over us! Never forget that there are many groups and individuals that are focused on closing Hueco to climbing and other recreational activity - they will never relent, and if we let our guard down they will prevail.
The Huecotanks.com DoHAD has raised the threat level to Level 5 (yellow) after a disturbing conversation with a reliable TPW source.
Certain Hueco Tanks State Historic Site employees are now actively engaged in the next phase of the long term anti-climber effort, which is to create a paper trail of infractions and problems that will be used to argue that the PURP is "not working" and further restrictions are required. These anti-climber employees have targeted commercial guides and volunteer guards alike, looking for any rule violation, no matter how small, and reporting them all to Austin. The immediate goal of the anti-climber forces is to modify the Hueco "Mission Statement" to no longer include recreational use.
Since 1997, the El Paso Climbers' Club and Huecotanks.com have maintained that the forces responsible for the PURP would not stop there - that was just an interim step on the road to halting all recreational activity and turning Hueco into an Indian cultural/religious center. Sadly, it looks as if our dire predictions may be coming true.
Our TPW source insists that if there is not a concerted effort, not just from entities such as the Access Fund but also from local climbers, "within two years Hueco will be nothing but a Native American <religious ceremony> center."