By Abigail & Janaé Reneaud Field
Ten years ago, my daughter and I took our first trip together to Washington, D.C. I was 4 months pregnant with her, but knowing she was there with me was all the more reason for the visit.
On that trip, I realized two things: I would return, and our community efforts would eventually succeed. And we would succeed in connecting with just the right public officials, such as our Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who would perform great feats to reach our goals and theirs.
You see, I had just begun to work on a cause that was central to all of El Paso and pivotal to future generations who would call this land their home: the conservation of Castner Range and its designation as a national monument.
Giving birth to my daughter, Abigail, several months thereafter would define every subsequent year and would give me yet one more reason — even closer to home — to fight for the future. In her 10 short years, she has become enamored of nature and all the many plants and animals that call our Castner Range their home.
This summer, my husband Scott, our daughter Abigail and I returned to Washington, D.C., still fighting for Castner Range, but now standing proudly in recognition of how far the movement has come and how many more people have joined us to call for its designation by President Joe Biden as a national monument, and how much wonderful and absolutely essential support the Castner Range campaign has consistently gotten from Congresswoman Escobar.
As a community, El Paso has made immeasurable progress in making our voices heard and advocating for our beautiful Castner Range. Things were different this time.
The Castner Range Coalition met with our representatives, and our case was heard by officials at the Pentagon, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense, and all with Congresswoman Escobar both leading the way and supporting us in every way. She and we were also the hosts of a congressional reception on the Hill, with more than 70 people in attendance.
This trip back to D.C. was a decade in the making. With the help of numerous community members, national partners, local experts and more, Castner Range is closer than ever to receiving its hardfought designation as a national monument.
On the home front, we have seen wonderful progress. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland actually visited Castner Rangethis on March 25-26 at the personal invitation of Congresswoman Escobar, and both of them hiked the range with key members of our coalition and community.
And our Castner Range National Monument Coalition has also collected the most petitions of any national monument campaign in American history with more than 137,000 signatures and counting! (If you haven’t signed the petition just yet, then please do so right now: https://secure.everyaction.com/QM1Yat6mWE-klKrTJptr1A2)
Every day of every week and month, our Castner Range Coalition and our Congresswoman are diligently at work, because a lot of what we do continues to take place behind the scenes. And from the perspective of more than 50 years — the campaign to conserve Castner actually began in 1971 — it’s easy to ask this question: Is our fight for Castner Range really worth the time, the effort and the expense? The answer is a clear resounding “Yes”!
Every time I hike with Abigail, I see her fall in love with the magic of nature that we somehow, as adults, forget or overlook in our day-to-day life. Things as simple as a flower, that most of us would consider a weed, catch her eye as she exclaims, “Mommy, look at what I found!”
This fight is not just one for our children to have space to live and hike, but space to grow, to learn, and to become the well-rounded people that every parent wants their child to be.
And so, President Biden, if you are reading this, then you know that the time has truly come for a Castner Range National Monument. Our national monument is more than 50 years overdue. Future generations of El Pasoans, Texans and Americans are counting on you to do your part. We’re confident that you will, and we sincerely say “Thank you, Mr. President!” in advance.
Janaé Reneaud Field is the Executive Director of The Frontera Land Alliance and the leader of the Castner Range Coalition. Abigail, a fifth-grade student at Mesita Elementary, is Janaé Reneaud Field and Scott Field’s daughter.