Just a sample of what the Big Bend region looks like. This is the backyard for Marfa Public Radio employees.

Just a sample of what the Big Bend region looks like. This is the backyard for Marfa Public Radio employees.

Marfa Public Radio is Hiring!

Marfa Public Radio is seeking to hire an Operations Manager.

This full-time position requires excellent skills in multitasking, organization, attention to detail and time management related to Broadcast Operations, Engineering & Traffic. Must be able to assess and solve problems, implement new systems and procedures as needed, understand basic engineering skills, and work in cooperation with others.
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(Courtesy of Blake Burwell/Drive Big Bend)

(Courtesy of Blake Burwell/Drive Big Bend)

Wednesday Interview: Stewart Ramser, Drive Big Bend Wheelman

Drive Big Bend is to cars, says Stewart Ramser on West Texas Talk, as last weekend’s Viva Big Bend was to music.

Ramser, who is responsible for both festivals, describes Drive Big Bend from the get-go as a celebration of automobiles and cruising West Texas roads just as Viva Big Bend was a celebration of the Texas Americana and roots scenes. He also talks about the origins of the three-day event, the region’s defining automobile, and how to get dozens of cars parked on a field in an orderly fashion.

Drive Big Bend happens Thursday through Saturday, and Marfa Public Radio will be hosting a happy hour from 7:00pm to 8:30pm on Friday in conjuction with the USO Building.

West Texas Talk is broadcast at 6:30 pm each weekday.
A live Ponderosa Pine shows the scars of fire on it's heat-resistant bark (Ryan Lentini/KRTS)

A live Ponderosa Pine shows the scars of fire on it's heat-resistant bark (Ryan Lentini/KRTS)

Ecologists Revive a Dwindling Tree Population and Steel the Landscape Against Fire

Take a walk around the interior of the Davis Mountains Preserve and you’re likely to hear a symphony of noises you might not expect to find in the West Texas desert: A babbling creek and a chorus of tree-dwelling birds. In the dense forest of evergreens you might think you’ve landed in New England or the Pacific Northwest. But this is a unique microclimate that scientists call a Sky Island Ecosystem.

As Charlotte Reemts describes it, “The Davis Mountains are  biological islands of diversity in the desert sea.”

Reemts is a research and monitoring ecologist for the Texas Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. She oversees a team charged with preserving some 33,000 acres of breathtaking terrain not far from the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis. Her current project involves saving the last Ponderosa Pine trees in Texas.

Despite being one of the most abundant trees in the American West, these mountains are now the only place that the tree exists in the whole Lone Star State. 


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Pipeline protesters gather in Alpine, TX. (Big Bend Conservation Alliance)

Pipeline protesters gather in Alpine, TX. (Big Bend Conservation Alliance)

Environmental Assessment for Pipeline Border Crossing Gets Underway

Federal regulators are preparing an environmental review of part of the planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline, the Permian Basin to Mexico natural gas project led by Dallas-based Energy Transfer.

The study will be used in deciding whether the project receives a government permit it needs to move forward.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced it would perform an “environmental assessment” of about 2,000 feet of the pipeline project near the border – the only part that falls under federal jurisdiction.

The rest of the pipeline’s proposed 143-mile route is regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission.

In its announcement, FERC said the assessment will be used “to determine whether the project is in the public interest.”

Regulators will also include “available descriptions” of the entire project in the environmental review. The Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA), an opposition group, calls that an unusual move on the part of the federal agency, and a direct response to citizen concerns about the pipeline.

Opponents say it’s an “early success” in their effort to stop the pipeline from being built.

“In this first step, FERC will complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed project as a whole,” the BBCA said in a press release.

But the commission says that’s not exactly the case.

“The notice doesn’t state that at all,” said commission spokesperson Tamara Young-Allen. “It’s a misunderstanding of FERC’s jurisdictional reach.”


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Luca Haines cycles in the French countryside along the road used by the elite class of riders in the Tour De France, Summer 2015. (Photo by Tom Haines).

Tuesday Interview: Our Sports Correspondent Luca Haines Up-Close at the Tour De France

Who knows sports better than a teenage boy? That’s a good question. At Marfa Public Radio, we believe experts come in all shapes and sizes, and for the past five years, Luca Haines, now 13, has been providing us commentary on international sporting events.

Today he’s our guest on West Texas Talk, with a look back at the Tour De France, the world’s most famous bike race, which ended this weekend. Luca, a former resident and frequent visitor to West Texas, is now 13 years old and living in New England. An avid cyclist, he traveled to France to see the Tour De France up-close and in-person – standing roadside as the world’s best athletes whizzed by him. In our conversation, he shares his excitement about those moments and offers commentary on the top finishers.

We’ve spoken to Luca in the past about soccer’s World Cup and Major League Baseball, among other major events. Here’s a summary of our conversation; the full interview is podcast above.

West Texas Talk is broadcast at 6:30 pm each weekday.
Luca Haines (right) cheers on cyclists in the Tour De France, Summer 2015 (Julie Haines)

Luca Haines (right) cheers on cyclists in the Tour De France, Summer 2015 (Julie Haines)

Recapping the Tour De France with our Kid Sports Correspondent Luca Haines

At times, public radio gets a bad rap for their sports coverage. Some complain that NPR reporting on sporting events lacks details and insight. But here at Marfa Public Radio, we believe some of the best sources for sports are pre-teens and teenagers. After all, is there anyone more obsessive about sports than a young boy?

For five years now, we’ve been turning to our sports correspondent Luca Haines to preview and recap major sporting events, from soccer’s World Cup to Major League Baseball and now, to the Tour De France, which concluded on Sunday in Paris.

Luca Haines, 13, is a former resident of Marfa, Texas, and this summer, he attended an early stage of the Tour De France in person. He now lives in Durham, New Hampshire. We speak to him about winner Chris Froome, the secrets of world-class cyclists, and his experiences in the French countryside. Our full interview will be available later this week.

Scott and Julie McIvor stand above their unusually green property in the Davis Mountains. (Graham Dickie/KRTS)

Scott and Julie McIvor stand above their unusually green property in the Davis Mountains. (Graham Dickie/KRTS)

The Drought’s Over, But Ranchers Rein in Excitement

The recent rains throughout the state have led some scientists to declare Texas’s state-wide drought over. Ranchers, however, remain wary.

For the McIvors, one of the oldest ranching families in the area, the last five years have been no easier than the first 125. Sitting on his porch in a rocking chair next to his wife Julie, Scott McIvor discussed the problem that’s plagued his family for generations—lack of rain.

“Can’t ever have enough,” said McIvor. “Rancher can’t never have enough rain.”


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KRTS News logo

City of Marfa Receives State Loan for New Water Well

On Tuesday, the state water board approved nearly $4 billion in funding for local-level water projects.

The board agreed to award the City of Marfa a $705,000 low-interest loan to build a new city water well.

The city previously tried, but failed, to repair an 80-year-old water well that was damaged when a pump became lodged in the well casing.

The repairs resulted in day-long outages, frustrating some residents and local business owners.

When the repairs didn’t work, the city instead applied for a loan from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). The approved loan will be used to build a completely new well to replace the damaged one.

At Thursday’s meeting of the state water board, TWDB Chairman Bech Brunn said he was particularly happy to support the Marfa proposal alongside similar projects from across the state.

“I think it’s telling that we jumped from discussion about arguably the most important project to the greater Houston/Harris County area, to talking about an equally important project in scope to a service population of 2,000 or so people out in Far West Texas,” he said.

Kepler-452b Compared with Earth  (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

Kepler-452b Compared with Earth (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

Kepler Space Telescope Discovers Most Earth-like Planet To Date

Big news this morning from NASA’s planet hunting mission.

Dr. Mike Endl, a research scientist with The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory, spoke with the Texas Standard about the mission.

Listen back to our episode of West Texas Talk with Dr. Endl about the search for Earth-like planets.

On what’s so special about Kepler 452B:

“[Kepler 452B] is one of the most earth like planets ever discovered. It’s important because these planets are still very rare. We still don’t know how frequently Earth like planets are in the galaxy. And that of course determines whether we have are optimistic that there is extraterrestrial life out there or not. That was the prime science goal of the Kepler mission to determine exactly how frequent those earth size planets are.”

On Kepler 452B’s similarities with Earth:

“Kepler 452B is about 1.6 times the size of Earth. It’s almost in identical orbit to our Earth. That’s very important because there is only a certain distance that you can be from your star where the temperatures are just right to have a habitable world. That’s why we call it the habitable zone… Currently this planet is right at the edge of our most conservative estimates of the habitable zone… [Kepler 452B] is basically where everything matches. Not only is the planet as close as possible to the Earth but also the sun. The star is very closely resembling our sun by probably a few billion years old…maybe a couple of billion years old.”


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FWTSR image

Report for July 22nd

A massive swell arrived in Far West Texas in the night, but so did the trains – delivering nightmares to those struggling for sleep. Paddle out at your own risk. Music from Andrew Kidman from the Glass Love OST, courtesy … Continue reading

The Far West Texas Surf Report airs each Wednesday at 11pm.
A map of intrastate pipelines in Texas. Opponents say the Trans-Pecos Pipeline would amount to a de-facto international project. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

A map of intrastate pipelines in Texas. Opponents say the Trans-Pecos Pipeline would amount to a de-facto international project. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Pipeline Company Wants Feds To Deny Opponents’ Request For More Oversight

Energy Transfer, the company behind the planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline, has asked the federal government to deny requests from some Big Bend area opponents to have the project governed under stricter federal regulations.

Opponents, led by the Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA), are hoping to have the entire length of the project subject to federal environmental reviews. Presidio and Brewster Counties, along with elected officials in El Paso County, have asked for that expansion as well.

“What we really are trying to accomplish here is to federalize the project,” said Coyne Gibson with the BBCA.

Gibson feels the pipeline company is trying to skirt around the intent of the decades-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a wide-reaching law that lays out the government’s responsibility on a variety of infrastructure and land management issues.

As it stands, federal regulations only apply to the pipeline’s border-crossing section.

In a motion filed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week (July 15), the pipeline company asks the commission to keep it that way.


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Victims' mothers gather in prayer outside the courthouse in Ciudad Juárez before closing arguments in a high profile trial. (Mónica Ortiz Uribe)

Victims' mothers gather in prayer outside the courthouse in Ciudad Juárez before closing arguments in a high profile trial. (Mónica Ortiz Uribe)

Guilty Verdict For 5 Men In Abductions, Murders Of 11 Juárez Women

A high-profile trial in the Mexican border city of Juárez ended this weekend in a guilty verdict for five men accused of sex trafficking and murder.

The victims were young women who vanished from the streets of downtown Juárez beginning in 2008 and throughout a period of intense drug violence.  The skeletal remains of some of those women were later found in the desert outskirts of the city.

On Saturday a three judge panel declared five men guilty in the abduction and murder of 11 of those women. A sixth man was acquitted.

Judges said they believe the women were vulnerable because of their poor socioeconomic status and taken advantage of by a local sex-trafficking ring with ties to a powerful drug cartel.

Women’s rights organizations that participated in the trial consider it a milestone because they worked alongside police during the investigation.

Juárez has a long history of violence against women. In past murder cases, authorities have been accused of planting evidence and torturing suspects.


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Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster says for people in his county, the Trans-Peccos Pipeline plan is business as usual. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster says for people in his county, the Trans-Peccos Pipeline plan is business as usual. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Pecos County Judge On Pipeline Plan

The planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline has been a big point of a discussion in Alpine, Marfa, Presidio and the surrounding areas in recent months.

People opposed to Dallas-based Energy Transfer’s plan to build a 143-mile natural gas pipeline from the Permian Basin to Mexico are still confident they can stop the plan from becoming a reality, or at least slow it down long enough to let their concerns be heard.

Meanwhile, in Pecos County, the pipeline is already being shipped in and staged on the side of the road. And this is, after all, where the pipeline will originate – from a gas transit hub near Coyanosa, TX.

To find out how the plan’s being received outside the immediate Big Bend area, we spoke with Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster. He says for people around Fort Stockton who are well-acquainted with oil and gas activity, it’s “just a normal day.”

(Graphic by Todd Wiseman / Matt Crum)

(Graphic by Todd Wiseman / Matt Crum)

Escape Should Lead to Drug Law Reform, Advocates Say

Corruption. Extradition. Border violence. Those were the standard talking-point topics by Texas lawmakers following Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s brazen escape last week from a maximum-security Mexican prison.

Now, some advocates hope to add “drug policy reform” to the list, arguing that Guzmán’s catapult back to power of the Sinaloa cartel should lead to new discussions on how much outlawing drugs empowers the world’s most ruthless drug lords.

Organizations like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, a worldwide group whose members include current and former peace officers, prosecutors and correctional officers, wasted little time in sounding the alarms about a possible increase in violence after Guzmán’s escape.


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Honeybee (Charlesjsharp, Sharp Photography)

Honeybee (Charlesjsharp, Sharp Photography)

Safety Precautions Important for Both Bee and Human Safety

Bees are an important part of our ecosystem, and invaluable for farmers. They can, however, pose safety threats, especially for people who work outdoors with farm equipment. On July 7th, a Fort Davis man was killed by bees while operating a bulldozer near Marathon.

Katherine Ottmers and her husband run a small ranch outside of Alpine and are also affiliated with the College of the Melissae, the center for sacred Beekeeping in Ashland, Oregon. Ottmers says this season’s rains and wildflowers are helping bee colonies thrive. That’s good news, but this can come with increased swarming, and some bees are demonstrating what are called Africanized tendencies.

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Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Marfa Public Radio Community Correspondent

Never miss a city council meeting? Always finding interesting stories in the Big Bend? Go to a lot of community events or concerts? If you’re interested in sharing your knowledge and experience with Marfa Public Radio listeners, become one of our volunteer Community Correspondents.

We’re looking for engaged citizens from across the Big Bend. A Community Correspondent assists Marfa Public Radio with news gathering and producing stories from the community you live in.
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Just a sample of what the Big Bend region looks like. This is the backyard for Marfa Public Radio employees.

Marfa Public Radio is Hiring!

Marfa Public Radio is seeking to hire an Operations Manager.

This full-time position requires excellent skills in multitasking, organization, attention to detail and time management related to Broadcast Operations, Engineering & Traffic. Must be able to assess and solve problems, implement new systems and procedures as needed, understand basic engineering skills, and work in cooperation with others. Continue reading

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Fri. Jul 24 Interview: Lannan Interview: Frank X Walker, Affrilachian Poet

A longtime resident of Kentucky and temporary Lannan Resident in Marfa, Frank X Walker is an English professor, writer, and outgoing poet laureate in his home state.

Walker, 54, has published poetry books, worked on films about the Civil Rights movement, and coined the phrase “Affrilachia” — in part to acknowledge the ties African-Americans have to the mountain region.

Rachel Monroe spoke with Walker as part of West Texas Talk, touching on the Confederate flag, life in Appalachia, and some of Walker’s own stanzas.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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An Authorship Dispute Deepens

On this week’s “Rambling Boy,” Lonn Taylor offers a correction — sort of.

Following the broadcast of Taylor’s recent show on J. Frank Dobie, John D. Young, and the issue of who wrote The Vaquero of the Brush Country, he received a call, and then an in-person visit, from a former California congressman named Duncan Hunter.

Hunter arrived at Taylor’s home with an armful of old papers and a case in favor of Young, who he claims as a relative. In this episode, Taylor weighs the evidence once again, offering a window into the process of historical verification when you’re missing a couple crucial pieces of evidence.

 

The Rambling Boy is broadcast Mondays after the 10 am newscast and again after the 7 pm newscast.
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(Chris Hillen)

Texas’ Most Pristine River: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Devils River

The approach to the Devils River challenges the senses. Limestone and juniper-covered plains, in gray and muted green, stretch as far as the eye can see. In the landscape, there’s little variety or change. Then there’s the river. Flowing for … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm, and again on Thursdays at 7:06 pm.
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Beth Grossman

Wed. Jul 22 Interview: Beth Grossman: Building 98 Artist Resident

Beth Grossman is a socio-political artist, who sees the visual as a way to create community dialog. Her art is a comfortable point of entry into the ongoing dialog about ‘correct’ history, the life-shaping force of religion and the power of social beliefs. The artist takes creative liberty with these charged topics and makes them accessible with beauty and humor. By shifting the context of familiar objects, words and images, she opens them up for fresh examinations that are by turn playful, stimulating and thought provoking.

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West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Gov. Campbell: Congress's Prints and Photographs

Tue. Jul 21 Interview: Texas Matters – Gov. Thomas Campbell And The Progressive Era In Texas

The Progressive Era in Texas might sound like a contradiction in terms but there was a time, about a century ago, when liberal reforms of government, business and society were popular. Many of the reforms are still being enjoyed today and have taken root in Texas as bedrock principles of good government.

One of the leading progressive reformers was Governor Thomas Mitchell Campbell who held the officer for two two-year terms from 1907 to 1911. This was a time when Texas was rural, agricultural, segregated and poor. The people were demanding government reforms to weed out corruption, enact consumer and worker protection and install a public education system with a method of funding.

Janet Schmelzer writes about it in her book “Our Fighting Governor – The Life of Thomas M. Campbell and the Politics of Progressive Reform in Texas.” It’s published by Texas A&M Press. Schmelzer is also a professor of history at Tarleton State University.

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