Rio Grande
Administrative History
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A. Background

Public comment was generated as a result of the following process:

  1. The 1975 Final Study produced by the Bureau of Recreation, the references, comments, and recommendations it contained produced the impetus and first guidance for establishing the Wild and Scenic River.

  2. Public input and comments received during public meetings in Alpine, and Sanderson (Dec. 1979), and one hundred fifty-eight returned questionnaires were incorporated into planning efforts.

  3. As a result of 1 & 2 (above), the Environmental Assessment was produced, which contained NPS alternatives for action.

  4. Public comments were accepted until March 20, 1981.

B. Results

(From RIGR files, D18 ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT Summary of Public Comments)

As of March 20, 1981, 469 written comments have been received. Of these, 419 supported Alternative II, but suggested some changes and 8 supported Alternative I. There was no support for a remote visitor contact station except perhaps at Persimmon Gap. Limited access and minimal development were favored. An overriding concern was for preservation of the river environment, particularly in the Lower Canyon area and protection of cultural and natural resources.

In addition, substantial comment and input was received and considered in the form of a third alternative. This is the proposal of a group of concerned Brewster and Terrell County property owners and supporters. This was a preprinted proposal, distributed by the landowners for indication for support by signature and sent to the NPS. As of March 20, 1981, 585 copies with 585 signatures have been received as supportive of Alternative III with 7 received with a nonsupportive position.

Alternative III is similar to NPS Alternative I and suggests no primary visitor center, would provide an administrative unit at Big Bend National Park, would utilize present and existing roads and access points consistent with present private and commercial use, no interest in land would be acquired by the Federal Government, and Wild and Scenic designations would be revised to reflect the law, and historical usage be allowed to continue. Other substantial comment has been received in similar fashion. A prepared statement, the concerned citizens alternative (4), listing 10 major areas of concern were considered. As of March 20, 1981, 272 copies with 304 signatures have been received supporting (Alternative 4).

During the week of March 2-6, 1981, seven public meetings were held in Texas at Sanderson, Alpine, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

At Sanderson and Alpine 168 people attended the meetings and 34 people addressed one or more subjects. The general atmosphere was that of distrust of the Federal Government, support for local (landowner) control, and over-whelming support for the Terrell/Brewster County concerned citizens Alternative 3.

Alternative 2 gained some support in San Antonio where 90 people attended and 21 spoke. The majority of participants favored no development and limited (or no) federal control. This general feeling prevailed at Houston and at Dallas/Fort Worth where 138 attended meetings and 60 spoke.

There was general agreement through all of the meetings that:

  1. "Wild and Scenic" classification on the river should be reviewed and changed to reflect actual land use patterns.

  2. There should be no visitor facility built at Junction 385/2627.

  3. Development should be minimal.

  4. No federal land acquisition.

Many of the comments were not specific to the river or its management but rather reflected a general mistrust of government, concern for too much federal spending and fear of federal control.

A total of 100 workbooks have been returned with 24 favoring less river access and 17 the same as proposed. All wanted no more than the development proposed and 19 less. Regarding the distribution of the visual corridor, 23 favored concentration in the Lower Canyon and 14 called for selected locations. The subject of access fees was split with 23 for fees and 26 free.

The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board opposes the project and any reduction of private property rights, questioned the expenditure of tax money, questioned the fact of the river being in jeopardy, and feels that there is enough public land along the Rio Grande. They recommended the use of existing public land for facilities, no acquisition of private land by the Federal Government, continuation of historical use, utilization of existing roads and access points to the river consistent with present private and commercial use, and suggested revision of the various wild and scenic classifications.

The Texas Historical Commission made several suggestions concerning working in the cultural resource section, concurred with need for survey and evaluation, offered to assist, and generally favored Alternative II with changes.

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association sent comments opposing disenfranchisement of owners from their property, questioned the need for protection of the lower Canyons, pointed out the international nature of the project, and asked that the project be tabled and that Congress exempt the Rio Grande River from the Wild and Scenic Act.

The International Boundary and Water Commission noted receipt of the documents for review and distribution to the Mexican Government.

The Lone Star Chapter (Austin) of the Sierra Club indicated strong support for Alternative II except for suggesting changes in the wild and scenic classifications and does not support Alternative III.

A resolution from the Terrell County Commissioners Court supported Alternative III.

The Houston group of the Sierra Club expressed support for Alternative II and listed concerns about cultural resources, monitoring of the river environment and the international aspect of the river.

The Big Bend Law Enforcement Association supported alternative III.

The West Texas Chamber of Commerce expressed support for Alternative II.

The NPS proposal as listed in this Finding Of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is in substantial agreement with the comments as far as continuing traditional use, protection of the river, limited facilities, access that utilizes existing developed areas, no initial visitor contact station, and the location of the. administrative unit at Panther Junction.

There is disagreement over acquiring a federal interest in private lands, although the National Park Service has repeatedly said our interest will be minimal and only to facilitate use and management and that our preference is to achieve this interest by less than fee approaches.

Additionally, much of the adverse comments received seem to be opposing the inclusion in the Wild and Scenic River System (included by Congress in November 1978 as a result of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation Study), questions the legality and appropriateness of the various Wild and Scenic designations (done in the original B.O.R. study for inclusion and accepted by congress), and the advisability or legality of the inclusion of a river that forms an international boundary in the Wild and Scenic River System. (Accepted by Congress by its inclusion in 1978.)

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Last Updated: 27-Apr-2005