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Castner Range may not be declared a national monument by Obama

Local leaders were hoping President Barack Obama would make Castner Range a national monument, but the chances of a last-minute decision have been dashed.

Obama made his decision regarding five national locations, and Castner Range was not among them.

More than 35,000 people signed letters to the president asking him to preserve Castner Range.

While Obama has expressed his support for the preservation, Congressman Beto O’Rourke said some legalities might be standing in the way.

“No community has worked harder or more effectively than El Paso has made for a national monument declaration,” O’Rourke said.

Some El Pasoans are okay with the decision of not making Castner Range a national monument.

"Pave it, put in houses and put in condos,” said Larry Springsteen, who lives in west El Paso,“all the way to the top of the mountain. Because I think it’s a beautiful place to put a house.”

“One of the things that’s working against us is that we have a difficult transfer of Department of Defense land that has been used as an artillery range in the past over the control of the Department of the Interior,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said that has caused some delays in Obama’s decision.

“If this president chooses not to do that for the difficult legal reason involved, it is my hope that move this far enough along so a future administration can pick up where this president left off,” O’Rourke said.

Which can spark the question, could the Trump administration take over?

“I don’t want to hold out a lot of hope to be able to do this on the Trump administration,” O’Rourke said. “It doesn’t mean I give up, and it doesn’t mean we stop trying.”

But there are still eight days left in Obama’s term, and O’Rourke said there’s still hope.

“The president was able to tell me that they’re working on it,” O’Rourke said. “He’s going to do everything he can. So we have his attention, and I know we have the attention of his team. And I know we have that because of the terrific work El Paso has done to organize around this.”

O’Rourke said if Castner Range doesn’t become a national monument, the land would not be protected for new developments.

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