The Big Bend region is a vast area of Texas west of the Pecos River. Centered on Brewster, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties, it also includes portions of Pecos and Reeves among other surrounding counties. Cities and towns of the area include Alpine, Balmorhea, Fort Davis, Marathon, Marfa, Pecos, Presidio, Study Butte and Terlingua.
With the notable exceptions of Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend National Park, Davis Mountains State Park and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the vast majority of this western expanse consists of privately owned ranch land.
To visit the Big Bend region is to take a step into the mythic American frontier. It’s home to endless high desert vistas, soaring mountain ranges and most important, fiercely independent people whose lives intertwine with the natural landscape in ways most Americans only dream about.
It is no exaggeration to say that the greater Big Bend region is ground zero for America’s energy future. The United States Geological Survey reports West Texas has “technically recoverable resources” of more than 45 billion barrels of oil and 281 trillion cubic feet of gas – enough to meet nearly six years of total American demand.
As a state, Texas also has greater wind generating capacity than all other wind producing states combined. Substantial utility-scale solar energy capacity is being built as well. For example, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas expects Pecos County alone to increase solar energy capacity by 12,000 megawatts, which is equal to about 50 percent of Texas’s total wind capacity.
The Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin calls West Texas the most energy intensive region of the United States, if not the world. This energy activity has consequences not just for the people who live there, but also for the natural resources – the land, water and air – which make life possible.
When it comes to land, the Big Bend region includes the northern portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. It’s among the most biologically diverse deserts in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund, and a habitat for many bird, mammal, reptile and plant species, including some which are threatened and endangered. Many migrating birds rely on the Chihuahuan Desert as resting areas during journeys north and south. Lack of rainfall makes energy development-related damage to the desert extremely difficult to recover from.
Needless to say, water is a scarce resource in the Big Bend region and already at risk of overuse and pollution, even without further energy development. The groundwater which sustains ranching, agriculture, industry, recreation and tourism – and of course day-to-day life for thousands of Texans – is a resource that will not replenish itself.
The Big Bend region is famous for its open vistas and night skies. It’s home to McDonald Observatory, near Fort Davis, one of the premier observatories in the world. The high and dry peaks of the Davis Mountains make for some of the darkest and clearest night skies in the region and provide excellent conditions for astronomical research.
Most important, the Big Bend region is home to many thousands of Texans – independent people and iconic communities – with a unique heritage of ranching and cowboy culture.
The Respect Big Bend Coalition launched with support from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, a Texas foundation that seeks innovative, sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems. CGMF works as an engine of change in Texas, supporting high-impact projects at the nexus of environmental protection, social equity and economic vibrancy.
Our coalition is bringing together community, business and philanthropic leaders along with landowners and industry leaders in a regional planning process. Working together, we can maximize the benefits of responsible energy development while conserving natural and cultural resources. The regional planning process will look at the region as a whole, rather than individual development sites, and by doing so, it can avoid, reduce and mitigate impacts on communities, land and water.
The Respect Big Bend Coalition includes local organizations like the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University and Texas Agricultural Land Trust, and scientific experts from the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas and The Nature Conservancy.
We share a commitment to the future of the Big Bend region. We are dedicated to maximizing the benefits of responsible energy development while sustaining the communities, land and water of the Big Bend region.
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