Above, Big Bend Ranch State Park archeologist Tim Gibbs at the Four Seasons Shelter in the park. Located high on a canyon wall, the cave shelter contains rock art in the “Big Bend Bold” style. The large images, of animal and human forms and geometric patterns, were painted at a time when agricultural villages flourished in the Presidio Valley.

Above, Big Bend Ranch State Park archeologist Tim Gibbs at the Four Seasons Shelter in the park. Located high on a canyon wall, the cave shelter contains rock art in the “Big Bend Bold” style. The large images, of animal and human forms and geometric patterns, were painted at a time when agricultural villages flourished in the Presidio Valley.

At Big Bend Ranch, Archeology Reveals Region’s Cosmopolitan Past

Isolation defines the Big Bend today. The border town of Presidio, and the surrounding river valley, can seem especially remote. But along the roads here, on riverbanks and in nearby canyons, ruins and traces tell a different story. The Presidio … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm.
Counter-protesters supporting white nationalist Richard Spencer. (Florian Martin)

Counter-protesters supporting white nationalist Richard Spencer. (Florian Martin)

White Nationalist’s Visit To Texas A&M Met With Large Crowd, Protests

It’s been about one month since the presidential election, and we are still seeing the political divisions that it exposed. Last night, those differences were seen here in Texas as alt-right leader and White nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at Texas A&M University.

Spencer recently gained national attention when he used a Nazi salute to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory. He was invited to College Station by an alum who’s been known to invite controversial speakers to the school. Previous events didn’t get much attention. This time, the White nationalist leader drew a large crowd from across the state – and the vast majority came to protest him.


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A motorist checks the condition of an exit ramp before attempting to drive out of the Oceti Sakowin camp tonight. (David Goldman/AP)

A motorist checks the condition of an exit ramp before attempting to drive out of the Oceti Sakowin camp tonight. (David Goldman/AP)

Pipeline Protesters, Battered By Blizzard, Vow To Stay

The sun was shining on opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Sunday, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not approve the final and key part of the controversial project. Less than 24 hours later, many of those people were huddling in shelters or trying to escape the rural camp as a brutal winter storm bore down on them.

Cars slid off roads and tents were blown over as winds gusted to more than 50 mph, causing near white-out conditions on the short stretch of highway between the protesters’ camp and the small town of Cannon Ball, N.D.

A large section of Interstate 94, which travels the length of the state, was shut down. Forecasters warned of snowdrifts and dangerous wind chills of minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit.


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Protesters celebrate at Oceti Sakowin Camp earlier Sunday. The Army Corps of Engineers notified the Standing Rock Sioux that the current route for the Dakota Access Pipeline will be denied. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Protesters celebrate at Oceti Sakowin Camp earlier Sunday. The Army Corps of Engineers notified the Standing Rock Sioux that the current route for the Dakota Access Pipeline will be denied. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

In Victory For Protesters, Army Halts Construction On Dakota Pipeline

The Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the construction of a key section of the Dakota Access Pipeline, granting a major victory to protesters who have been demonstrating for months.

The decision essentially halts the construction on the 1,172-mile oil pipeline about half a mile south of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Thousands of demonstrators from across the country had flocked to North Dakota in protest.

“Our prayers have been answered,” National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby said in a statement. “This isn’t over, but it is enormously good news. All tribal peoples have prayed from the beginning for a peaceful solution, and this puts us back on track.”

Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said after talking with tribal officials and hearing their concerns that the pipeline could affect the drinking water, it became “clear that there’s more work to do.”

“The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing,” Darcy said in a statement.

The Army Corps says it intends to issue an Environmental Impact Statement with “full public input and analysis.”


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(Martin do Nascimento)

(Martin do Nascimento)

Risk of terrorists crossing U.S. border into Texas is real — but low

The number of illegal border crossers from far flung places— including countries deemed sponsors of terrorism — has been increasing, but they remain a small fraction of total border apprehensions.

In border enforcement parlance, they’re known as “exotics:” distinct from the usual flow of Mexicans and Latin Americans, they are people from far away countries as distant as Bangladesh and Pakistan, arriving at the southern border and crossing illegally into the United States.

People from a subset of this group called “special interest countries,” usually defined as countries considered a concern to U.S. national security, are the perennial focus of longstanding but unrealized fears that a terrorist could melt into the hordes of people crossing the border illegally and release a dirty bomb or inflict mass casualties on the U.S. population.

While still only a fraction of all migrants, the number of people from special interest countries has risen sharply at a time when non-Mexicans  – mostly Central Americans – are making up a larger and larger percentage of the border crossers taken into custody, figures obtained by The Texas Tribune show.

Do the rising numbers mean the United States faces a growing threat from terrorism seeping across the U.S-Mexico border? Experts say the potential for cross-border attacks remains real, but nevertheless remote.


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(Flickr/SMREILLY)

(Flickr/SMREILLY)

How the Idea Behind OPEC Started Right Here in Texas

Tomorrow, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meets in Vienna to try to figure out a way to cut oil production.  For decades OPEC’s set oil prices by controlling supply. So the meeting will be closely watched because it could lead to higher oil prices.

But, the idea to manipulate oil prices by setting limits on oil, didn’t start with OPEC. It started right here in Texas.

During the oil boom of the 1930s, large oil producers were worried that independent drillers were over-supplying the market.  To control production and stabilize prices the Railroad Commission issued “pro-ration” orders to limit production from each oil well.


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Police confront protesters with a rubber bullet gun near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Sunday, during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

Police confront protesters with a rubber bullet gun near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Sunday, during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

Woman Injured At Standing Rock Protest Might Lose Arm, Family Says

A woman protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline who was wounded earlier this week might lose her arm as a result of the injury, her family says. Sophia Wilansky’s injury is the most gruesome to date of the months-long standoff at Standing Rock, N.D.

“The doctor just said she may need as many as 20 surgeries over very many months to have any hope of saving her arm and her hand,” Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, told a group of reporters outside a Minneapolis hospital.

Police and protesters — who call themselves “water protectors” — have very different explanations for how Sophia Wilansky was injured early Monday morning. Protesters say she was struck by a police weapon; police suggest she might have been involved in an explosion caused by protesters.

“Both sides agree that the overnight protest got tense, but that’s where any agreement ends,” reports Amy Sisk, a journalist with the public media collaboration Inside Energy.

Sisk, who has been reporting on the protest for NPR for months, says the clash on Sunday night saw 400 protesters and police facing off over a bridge that had been closed by authorities, blocking access to the pipeline construction site:

“As protesters took to the bridge, police deployed tear gas and sponge bullets. They also sprayed water on demonstrators while the temperature was below freezing, sparking concerns about hypothermia. Protest leaders report numerous injuries requiring hospitalization.

“Linda Black Elk is a medic at the protesters’ camp. ‘It seems like with every action with every conflict that takes place they escalate their violent tactics by using some new type of weaponry,’ [she says].”

“Rob Keller with the Morton County Sheriff’s Department says protesters refused to obey police orders, and some pelted officers with rocks. He defends police crowd control methods:

” ‘Had they not been utilized, that line would probably have been overrun and we’d have a worse situation than we have now.’ “

Protesters say police threw a concussion grenade that hit 21-year-old Wilansky and caused her injury. Wilansky’s father told The Associated Press that there were multiple witnesses — “and my daughter, who was completely conscious, said they threw a grenade right at her.”


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The earliest-known photo of the historic Blackwell School in Marfa, TX. (Blackwell School Alliance)

The earliest-known photo of the historic Blackwell School in Marfa, TX. (Blackwell School Alliance)

UTEP Helps Revamp Efforts to Collect Blackwell School History

Over the last 10 years, there have been two big pushes to collect the oral histories of former Blackwell School students. Both efforts eventually stalled due to lack of resources, but a third big push is underway, this time with the help of a few outside organizations.

Walk into the Blackwell School today and you can tell it was originally a church back in the 1880’s. There’s two big and echoey main rooms, vaulted ceilings and dusty, hardwood floors. This building was Marfa’s segregated Hispanic school until 1965 when the district integrated.

Today it’s a museum. In one room there are all kinds of memorabilia from the Blackwell days, like trophies and sports uniforms.

Gretel Enck shows me a room full of pictures of past teachers and students. Enck is President of the Blackwell School Alliance — the organization responsible for the renovation of the old Blackwell School.

She says for many years the goal of the Alliance was to preserve the physical building, and that made sense, at first. But now they’re shifting their focus.

“I mean this is a great old building, but to me the value that it has is in being a tangible place, or repository, for the stories of Blackwell,” she says.

The alliance has been collecting those stories in fits and starts over the last 10 years, with two big pushes. So far 28 oral histories have been recorded, but the alliance hasn’t previously had the support it’s needed to get more than that.

But now, armed with a $1500 grant from Humanities Texas, the effort is getting a kickstart. Enck and the Blackwell team want to get 50 oral histories this time around, and for help they’re teaming up with the Institute of Oral History at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).


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Trans-Pecos Pipeline opponents gathered to protest at a construction site off Highway 90 near Marfa, TX. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Trans-Pecos Pipeline opponents gathered to protest at a construction site off Highway 90 near Marfa, TX. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Protesters Say They Expect More Direct Efforts To Block Pipeline Construction

Native American groups and some Big Bend-area residents gathered to protest the Trans-Pecos Pipeline near Marfa on Sunday. 

Drums mixed with the sounds of heavy machinery as opponents gathered at a construction site for the natural gas project off Highway 90. Activists said at one point about 50 people hopped a fence onto the site. Pipeline opponent David Keller described what happened.

“In the very beginning when they arrived, they did cross the fence, so there was kind of the cops and Border Patrol massed to try and deal with it,” he said. “There wasn’t any altercations I don’t think, everything was peaceful, so they backed up.”

Mark Glover said he was confronted by a Presidio County Sheriff’s Office deputy after stepping onto the site.

“I might’ve gotten a little too far out, and [Deputy Mitchell Garcia] came over and grabbed me, and pinned me up there by the outhouse,” he said.

Video of the confrontation surfaced Monday afternoon.

Glover said protest leaders had what he called “negotiations” with authorities, and that ultimately there were no arrests. Protesters eventually moved back off the site to the side of the highway.

Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez was later at the scene, but would not comment.


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Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions pledges his support for then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before speaking to supporters on Oct. 10 at a rally in Ambridge, Pa. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions pledges his support for then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before speaking to supporters on Oct. 10 at a rally in Ambridge, Pa. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Trump Names Picks For National Security Adviser, Attorney General, CIA Director

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump announced his selections today for three key posts: Michael Flynn for national security adviser, Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Rep. Mike Pompeo for CIA director.

The attorney general and CIA director nominees will need to be confirmed by the Senate. The national security adviser does not need Senate confirmation.

Sen. Jeff Sessions

The 69-year-old Republican senator, who has been offered the position of attorney general, was one of the first lawmakers to ally himself with the Trump campaign. He embraces a forceful anti-immigration platform and a tough approach to fighting crime.

Sessions “is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great Attorney General and U.S. Attorney in the state of Alabama,” Trump said in a statement from his transition team.

“I am humbled to have been asked by President-elect Trump to serve as Attorney General of the United States,” Sessions said. “My previous 15 years working in the Department of Justice were extraordinarily fulfilling. I love the Department, its people and its mission. I can think of no greater honor than to lead them.”


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The city of Georgetown, Texas is on the cusp of buying 100% renewable energy. The city pursued renewables as the Clean Power Plan was being developed by the Obama administration. The plan is before a federal appeals but the new administration is expected to kill the plan before the court issues its ruling. (Lorne Matalon)

The city of Georgetown, Texas is on the cusp of buying 100% renewable energy. The city pursued renewables as the Clean Power Plan was being developed by the Obama administration. The plan is before a federal appeals but the new administration is expected to kill the plan before the court issues its ruling. (Lorne Matalon)

Texas City Moves To 100 Percent Renewable Energy, Spurred By Federal Plan That New Administration Is Expected To Spurn

GEORGETOWN, Texas — Donald Trump’s victory and the impending Republican majority in Congress mean the Obama administration’s initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions – the  Clean Power Plan – is almost certainly dead on arrival. It’s currently before a federal appeals court, under challenge by 24 states, but the new administration is expected to spike the plan before the court rules.

Yet one conservative Texas city has decided to do what the plan was meant to help promote. It’s going 100 percent renewable – wind and solar – in a state largely defined by oil and gas. There are environmental benefits to the switch, but the decision is all about the money.

In the central Texas city of Georgetown, the droning sound of natural gas powered industrial air conditioning represents unpredictability. Natural gas prices are low now, but historically that market is like a yo-yo. This city of 55,000 is on the cusp of joining Burlington, Vermont, population 42,000, as the country’s only sizable cities buying 100 percent power from renewable energy. Liberal Burlington is a far cry ideologically from fiercely conservative Georgetown, but they’re fellow travelers in energy.

“So we begin the conversations of what the future might look like,” explained Georgetown’s utility chief Jim Briggs.

The city had been buying power from a utility that was expanding its coal-fired power plants.  But when the Obama administration began pushing back against new coal plants, Briggs decided to go all green, and it had nothing to do with the environment.

“It was regulation and legislation coming out of Washington,” he explained.

Then there was the money.

“We wanted the least risk, most cost effective option we could get for the community.”


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A Border Patrol veihicle drives past vehicle barriers near Deming, NM. (Jim Greenhill via Flickr/Creative Commons)

A Border Patrol veihicle drives past vehicle barriers near Deming, NM. (Jim Greenhill via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Immigration And Border Security Top President-Elect Trump’s To-Do List

Donald Trump told CBS he plans to build a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. Adding he’s not going to round up all unauthorized immigrants as he vowed during the campaign — just the law breakers.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
From Roma, Texas, Border Patrol Agent Isaac Villegas looks out over the Rio Grande and into Ciudad Miguel Alemán, Mexico, on March 8, 2016. (Martin do Nascimento)

From Roma, Texas, Border Patrol Agent Isaac Villegas looks out over the Rio Grande and into Ciudad Miguel Alemán, Mexico, on March 8, 2016. (Martin do Nascimento)

With Trump in D.C., Texas might spend less on border

If President-Elect Donald Trump delivers on his promise to dramatically beef up security on the U.S.-Mexico border, leading Texas lawmakers say they might quit spending so much state tax money on it.

With a tight Texas budget session ahead in 2017, state legislators are already looking for every available dollar. Not having to spend $800 million on border security — the amount allocated in the previous two-year budget — would amount to a huge financial windfall at the state Capitol. Not counting federal funds, the Legislature spent about $114 billion in the last budget.

“We’ve been spending a lot of state resources on issues associated with the border, border security, transnational gangs, human trafficking, so I look forward to maybe holding back on some of that money, actually,” said Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. “There’s all sorts of talk about what an administration that will work with Texas border states can do. It’s kind of a new day.”

No one knows for sure what promises Washington will actually deliver on. Already Trump’s vows to undo the North American Free Trade Agreement, rip up the Iranian nuclear deal and impose term limits on Congress are meeting the reality of financial markets, geopolitics and entrenched government bureaucracy.

With the uncertainty in Washington in mind, Republican state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, author of the border security package in the Texas House of Representatives, said he wants Texas, which straddles two-thirds of the U.S-Mexico border, to keep a robust presence along the international boundary until lawmakers see what concrete steps are taken in a Trump Administration.


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Diver in the San Solomon Springs at Balmorhea State Part (David Martin Davies)

Diver in the San Solomon Springs at Balmorhea State Part (David Martin Davies)

Rising Concerns That New Oilfield Could Threaten Balmorhea Springs

The recent discovery of a massive oilfield in West Texas has many in the region on edge. Some are anticipating on a flow of jobs to the area but others are concerned that the drilling will spoil the desert’s beloved springs.

Scuba diving into the San Solomon Springs is like exploring a coral reef – except it’s in the middle of the West Texas Chihuahuan desert.

The water is crystal clear and filled with fish. They swim right up to the divers and surround them.

In a cave there are six large catfish who are less social. And 25 feet deep at the bottom the spring water is evident – jetting up through the sand – keeping the pool at a constant temperature.”

“It’s heated by the springs – by the lava underneath so it’s about 72 to 76 degrees always,” said Edward Wiles.


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Elise Pepple

Elise Pepple

Marfa Public Radio Names Maine Producer Elise Pepple as General Manager

Elise Pepple, a producer of community outreach programming for public radio and podcasts will become the general manager of Marfa Public Radio (KRTS) and West Texas Public Radio (KXWT) this fall.

She has produced for the nationally recognized Story Corps radio series as well as for isolated radio stations in Alaska. Pepple has been a TEDx speaker. She is a resident of Portland, Maine.

“This is a dream position for me,” Pepple said. “It’s an opportunity to help sustain and shape remarkable public radio stations. KRTS and KXWT are a platform to celebrate the wide range of Far West Texas.”

She said she has a strong interest in programming that engages residents in remote rural communities and encourages them to tell their life stories.

Jim Byerlotzer of Midland, president of the Marfa Public Radio Corp. board, welcomed Pepple’s experience in remote parts of the country.

“Our stations in the Big Bend and Permian Basin serve truly distinctive communities set in a huge, magnificent but sometimes isolating landscape,” he said. “Their common radio stations can be a vital unifying force.”


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Lonn Taylor, the Rambling Boy

The writings and drawings of an old Texas solider

The first adult book Lonn ever read was The Adventures of General Marbot. He was seven years old.

This week on the Rambling Boy, Lonn tells us about the book’s author, John W. Thomason Jr — a widely published Texan whose career in the Marines took him all over the globe and was the inspiration for both his stories and his professional drawings.

 

The Rambling Boy is broadcast Mondays after the 10 am newscast and again after the 7 pm newscast.
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photograph by Rachel
A rainbow over the Marfa Plain. The Marfa Plain sustains some of the most robust native grasslands in West Texas.

Where the Great Plains Meet the Mountains: the Native Grasslands of West Texas

The West Texas grasslands are a sight to see. In autumn, the golden expanse of the Marfa Plain or the Diablo Plateau shines beneath a brilliant blue sky, to dazzling effect. The grasslands are also a foundation – central to … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm.
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Rudy Garza and Elise Pepple

Thu. Dec 1 Interview: Rudy Garza on barber culture and visiting Marfa for the first time

Rudy Garza used to dream about visiting Marfa. But as a barber based in San Antonio, never managed to find the time until this past weekend.

On this episode of West Texas Talk, he sits down with Elise Pepple to talk about barber culture, his most memorable cut, and his impressions of the town he wanted to visit for so long.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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People attend an immigration rally outside the Supreme Court in June. (Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images)

Supreme Court To Consider How Long Immigrants May Be Detained Without Bond Hearing

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up important immigration questions Wednesday, even as President-elect Donald Trump talks of pushing for more deportations. The legal issue before the court tests whether people who are detained for more than six months have a right to a bond hearing.

These are not the usual deportation cases, where facts are cut and dried and people are deported within a month or two of their detention. Rather, these are people legally in the U.S., lawful permanent residents who the government is trying to deport because they committed a crime, or some cases, people who turn themselves in at the border seeking asylum because they claim a reasonable fear of persecution.

When their cases are ultimately decided, these individuals have a good chance of prevailing. Forty percent of the lawful permanent residents and 70 percent of the asylum seekers eventually win and remain here legally.

The problem is that their cases take a long time, on average 13 months. And while detention may sound benign, it is not, said Ahilan Arulanantham, the ACLU lawyer who will argue the immigrants’ case Wednesday.

“If you walk into a detention center, you would think you were in a prison,” Arulanantham said.

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Mexico security analyst Alejandro Hope, Mexico City.

Tue. Nov 29 Interview: Alejandro Hope

On this segment of West Texas Talk, we speak with security analyst Alejandro Hope in Mexico City about a Mexico that is hunkered down waiting for the new U.S. administration to formally assume power.

During the U.S. presidential campaign, President-elect Trump said he’d either rework or scrap the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and expand the border wall. NAFTA’s end would damage the Mexican economy and the idea of expanding the existing wall is considered an insult.

Between 2008 and 2011, Hope held a number of executive positions at the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN), Mexico’s civilian intelligence agency.

From 1998 through 2000, Hope served as chief of staff of Senator Adolfo Aguilar Zinser and worked in the transition team of Mexico’s President-elect Vicente Fox. Between 1994 and 1996, he held a number of junior staff positions at BANOBRAS, a Mexican infrastructure development bank, as well as in the Ministry of Energy. He holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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