Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta educates community on sustainability


Rebecca Reza

Alejandra Ramirez, senior UTEP student in the Ecology Department.

Rebecca Reza, Contributor

The community celebrated the 15th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta Saturday, Sept. 28 in the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklins Mountains State Park 

The Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition, along with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, organized the annual event to promote the preservation of open spaces and regional wildlife 

The event included guided hikes,   wildlife demonstrations and educational exhibits.  

The Chihuahuan Desert is the second largest desert in North America, boasting thousands of different species of plantsinsects and hundreds of species of birds and mammals 

This year the event also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Franklin Mountains State Park conception. 

We want to show our city leaders that we want our open spaces to remain and not be destroyed,” an education representative from the El Paso Zoo told a group of spectators during a hawk demonstration. When we build on these lands, we’re destroying the land these animals get their food from, which is a big problem. The less land for them to hunt on, the less we will see them around.” 

A variety of wildlife advocacy groups attended the event, including the Defenders of Wildlife, who educated attendees on the mexican gray wolf. Considered the most endangered mammal in North America, this species remains with a population of just 131 wolves between New Mexico and Arizona, according to the group.   

The Center for Biological Diversity released a study last summer in “Scientific Reports about how the ongoing interference of the Trump administration has pushed wolf species closer to extinction.  

Volunteers provided information on what the public can do to raise their voices to help restore the functioning ecosystem of the Southwest.  

“It’s important to have events like these; that way people are aware of how birds and mammals, for example, do a lot for our ecosystem,” said Alejandra RamirezUTEP senior graduating next May. “We have 187 different mammal species in our desert, and thousands of insect and plant species. My degree will be in ecology, in how plants and animals interact in their environment. I want to work with the wildlife services at the El Paso Zoo and do research for them.”  

Other groups present included TecH2O Water Resources Learning Center, the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, El Paso Parks and Recreation Department, El Paso Museum of Archaeology and the Border Mountain Biking Association.  

Two guided hikes led by Park Ranger volunteers were held during the day 

The first hike in the morning took novice hikers around the Lower Sunset trail and the second hike in the afternoon up to Aztec Cave Trail 

Annual membership to Texas wildlife parks cost $70, granting entry to the more than 90 state parks in the state 

While there are no student discounts available, each membership holder may bring up to 15 people with them for free in their vehicle.  

The Franklin Mountains State Park schedules four to five hikes a month, which are posted on their Facebook page @FranklinMountainsSP. Hiking excursions include the monthly “Peak Challenge Hike, which is between four to eight miles long.               

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  • Mexican Wolf group “Defenders of Wildlife.”

  • Harris Hawk, his name is Houdini, resident at the El Paso Zoo.

  • Alejandra Ramirez, senior UTEP student in the Ecology Department.

  • Collection of local bee species that have been collected by UTEP.

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Rebecca Reza may be reached at [email protected]