Texas’ vast, remote Big Bend region is known for its rugged beauty. It’s also attractive to energy companies looking to use the land for wind, solar, oil and gas projects.
A new report from the Respect Big Bend Coalition, which includes area landowners, academics and members of the energy industry, provides guidelines for how development should proceed while protecting local priorities.
Billy Tarrant, who helped write the report, is associate director of stewardship services for the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. He tells Texas Standard that the group established common values that locals want to preserve amid development. One of the most important was protecting ranches and private property.
“Those large ranches, those large, intact landscapes, which we have some of the largest in the state, are what you see when you come out here as a result of, you know, 100-and-something years of stewardship, and not a lot of development,” Tarrant said. “We want to be able to visit with our landowner partners and make sure that they understand that this is an opportunity for them to to have a voice and become more knowledgeable about potential energy development.”
In the report, the group also named other values like remoteness, wildlife, community safety, quality of life, culture, music, arts and more that locals want to keep intact. All of those values are visualized, or “mapped” out, in the report to give energy companies a clearer picture of where development might be possible with the least negative impact.
Tarrant says the report is just the beginning of an ongoing conversation in the Big Bend region about sustainable energy development. The group also recommended the founding of a land stewardship center to lead those discussions.