INTERVIEWEE: Mary and Jim Lynch (ML, JL)
INTERVIEWERS: David Todd (DT) and David Weisman (DW)
DATE: March 28, 2001
LOCATION: Dell City, Texas
TRANSCRIBER: Robin Johnson
Please note that the video includes roughly 60 seconds of color bars and sound tone for technical settings at the outset of the recordings. Boldfaced numbers mark the time codes for the VHS tape copy of the interview. “Misc.” refers to various off-camera conversation or background noise, unrelated to the interview.
DT: My name is David Todd. I’m here for the Conservation History Association of Texas. It’s March 29th, year 2001, and we’re in Dell City, Texas and have the good fortune to be interviewing a couple, Mary and Jim Lynch, who have settled here almost fifty years ago. Mr. Lynch is a farmer and rancher and his wife Mary runs the local newspaper, the Hudspeth County Herald. And local is quite a stretch because it covers an area as big as—as big as Connecticut, is that right? Very large county. And they have been involved in numerous conservation issues from—concerned about ground water, nuclear dumps, sludge, waste sites and have also has done some very positive things for habitat conservation. I wanted to thank you both for taking the time to talk to me today.
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ML: Thank you.
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JL: Thank you.
DT: I was hoping that you might be able to tell us how you came to Dell City back in the—the 40’s, early 50’s, is that correct?
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DT: What brought you here?
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JL: Well, of course the resources was the attractive thing. The water, abundance of the water, and the climate and the quality of the soil. And of course the climate also. And it’s an area similar to where we had farmed extensively in California and we were told about the area by people in the oil industry who had come here in the late ‘40’s to probe for oil and gas and were not successful. However, they realized the abundance of the water and—and told us about it and then on investigation, of course, it proved to be very worthwhile. So, we migrated from California to West Texas and have been here ever since.
DT: And what was the aquifer that they had found and told you about?
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JL: Yes, it’s—it’s now called The Bone Springs Aquifer and the water is quite shallow. It ranges from almost on the surface in the area of the Salt Lakes to—to probably two hundred feet slightly west of Dell City. So the land slopes to the west, upward to the westward and so the farmers pump water—anything from sixty feet to two hundred-fifty feet.
DT: And they use this water to grow what kind of crops?
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JL: Presently it’s about eighty percent alfalfa, and very high quality alfalfa. And chilies that are grown for the cosmetic industry as well as the spice industry. And of course, many other types of crops for cattle. Silage crops and winter grains, like wheat and triticale and barley and those crops are—are grown. But mostly right now it’s alfalfa. Years ago it was entirely cotton. The price of cotton, of course, is the same today as it was forty years ago, so most people under irrigation cannot afford to grow it for the market price today.
DT: Recently the city of El Paso has expressed interest in using the water for other than agricultural purposes. I was wondering if you might tell about some of these proposals that have recently come up?
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JL: Yes it’s—it’s—El Paso City has indicated that it would like to probably pump water from Dell Valley to El Paso, straight-line distance of about sixty miles. And, of course, that concerns all of us here, where all of our economy is passed on agriculture and we have a—a—a good aquifer that recharges itself every year. We do pump a great amount of water. We irrigate probably forty thousand acres in the general area. But nevertheless, El Paso realizes that this is tremendous water source and the laws of Texas would allow the—what they call Rule of Capture to allow people to pump unlimited
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amounts and ship it to another area. And, of course, that’s concerns all of us and we do have a water district that does have a fair amount of control over that, so we’re hoping that the district will protect the interest of the farm people and the economy here and not allow that to happen.
DT: What’s the scale of the export proposal? How much water are they talking about?
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JL: They are talking about fifty thousand-acre feet per year. And in the—in the valley, there’s probably two hundred thousand acre feet pumped every year to irrigate the forty or so thousand acres that—that is being farmed. The valley extends up into New Mexico and there’s a few thousand acres up there as well. But the volume—to pump fifty thousand acre feet out of the valley would lower the water table for everybody else, make it more expensive to farm, and maybe prohibit farming. So it’s a great concern to everyone.
DT: What sort of efforts have the local farmers and community organized to try and respond to El Paso’s…
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JL: Well, we have a Water District. It is our principle defense, you might say. And those of us who serve on the Water Board are trying to im—improve the ability of our Water District to protect the water from being abused and shipped out to—to any damaging amount. Now it might be proven that certain amounts of water could be pumped and not injure the farming economy and then a lot of people would—would say that’s permissible if you don’t destroy the home area. So, when you pump fifty thousand-acre feet, it—it’s a large amount and it’s probably close to a quarter of El Paso’s yearly consumption right now. So they are extremely interested and have studied the problem for quite a long time and have some figures and numbers to indicate that it’s a feasible project for them. And so that’s—that gives us great concern.
DT: Do you think that there are more sustainable options for El Paso aside from pumping water from the Dell Valley area?
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JL: They have certain aquifers in the El Paso area and in the adjoining areas of New Mexico, but they are limited and they project that those aquifers will run out within twenty-five years. They are bargaining now for more water from the Rio Grande, and they’re—they are—have made certain arrangements with the El Paso Water District to give them, or sell them, certain amounts—increased amounts, from the river, but the river isn’t always flowing fully. It’s often pretty sp—pretty scarce and sometimes, as it flows through Hudspeth County it does dry up completely.
DT: What is your thought, I read in the papers as I’m sure you do, that there are many cities both here in Texas and in California and elsewhere of where water for cities is the trump card that is, I guess, being played against the agricultural community and farmers are being asked to sell their water rights out in California and down in the valley here in Texas to support municipalities’ growth. What is your response to that kind of…
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JL: Well, if—if the—if it can be proven that—that the Dell Valley can afford to sell or ship a portion of their water to El Paso, and not injure the economy of the local community, then I think people would—would be—permit that sort of thing to occur. But until we’re convinced that that is the correct way to go, we’re very skeptical, we’re very fearful that it will make farming more difficult, more costly, and perhaps even rule out farming because in the Texas Legislature there—at the present time, they—they have a—what they call Senate Bill #2, it’s being considered just this week in Austin, that would be very damaging. We would lose more control over our water and so it would give the—the State a little more control and therefore they would favor the larger cities, of course, in opposed to—as opposed to farming. They do regard farming as a marginal use of water when you compare it with domestic use for city consumption.
DT: Less important in some ways?
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DT: Less important in some ways, to grow food rather than pump it up to the cities?
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JL: Well, the—those city folks, they think they’re entitled to it and, of course, historically, it’s—the—the farming has—or the farm people are the owners of the water and so if—if they chose to sell some of it, it can only be after it’s proven that—that it will not injure the—the farming and the economy of the little area we’re—we’re talking about.
DT: Do you find that any of your neighbors feel that they can make more money selling water than alfalfa?
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JL: Well, we’re not making any money farming now and some of us wonder why we’re still doing it. And so I suppose any wa—wa—return from selling water would be—would be profitable.
DT: Have you seen any people from outside of the Dell Valley community buying land and speculating on selling water? I’ve heard that—I want to say the Bass family has been buying land in West Texas for the purposes but has that happened here?
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JL: Not that we’re aware of, but there are other purchasers of land in the—in the valley, in the immediate area that—that we believe have purchased for the water resources that are present. They’re—they’re not farm people and they are people with sufficient money and resources to buy up a lot of land and that has occurred to some degree.
DT: Maybe we can switch tacks and talk a little about the other threats to the water resources out here that you all have faced in recent years, and that’s the proposals for a variety of different kinds of disposal sites, both for radioactive waste and for sludge cake I think they call it..
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ML: Sludge, from New York
DT: I was wondering if you might be able to talk about your first introduction, Mrs. Lynch, to these proposals for the radioactive waste dump you heard of first. The first rumor that you heard of it.
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ML: Well, I was sitting at the desk of the newspaper office and it was morning time and this reporter from Midland called and said, what do you think about the nuclear dumping in Hudspeth County? Well, I could hardly answer him, I didn’t—I said what dump? And so he went on to tell me that they’re now, you know, exploring it and have equipment on the—on the place they were first looking at on university land, out here.
DT: What year was this?
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ML: ’83. Fall of ’83—1983. So—then the calls went around town and—and we tried to find out what we could, of course. And—and then I had never even heard of the Low Level Radioactive Agency. And they were, of course, from Austin. They immediately—well, our commissioners didn’t tell us about it either. They knew about it, they had to know about it to let them in on the land. And so, from there, we had this big first meeting. One of the commissioners had asked for the meeting and asked them out here. And I guess the Board of Regents from University of Texas came out. It was a
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tremendous crowd and then just about everybody here in Dell City came to that meeting too and told us all these things. And, of course, immediately—there were some of us out here that knew what that was and just really had their say—excuse me—had their say so about what it would be—mean to have a nuclear dump in this area. And, of course, the—the authority denied that and—and talked about a just, you know, simple low level. Well, from the beginning, we knew it wasn’t low level and it still isn’t low-level waste.
DT: What kind of items might be in the waste that they were considering putting here?
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ML: Well, a little bit of plutonium and—what was the other?
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JL: Well, the main—the—the waste from the nuclear power plants principally. That would be about eighty percent of the waste. And, of course, there was a minor part of medical waste and from research at the university.
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ML: And hospitals.
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JL: And hospitals.
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ML: Little bit of everything.
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JL: Mostly nuclear—nuclear generating plants, waste material.
DT: And the proponents for this, how do they describe the waste material and the kind of facility they want?
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ML: Nothing was wrong with it, you know. No one had ever become sick from it and—and these things, and they’re still saying that. So they just were on the other side, just opposite of what we were thinking and of other—of the water and of the people—it’s—it’s not good, and it still isn’t good. They had six low level waste dumps—they always come to little towns, low economy, saying we’re going to give you jobs. Well, it doesn’t turn out that way. The same way with the New York sludge. They have just a very few, few that they hire and, of course, luckily, we did—they—they didn’t get to
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ML: finish this big nuclear dump. And it—the ground out here, we’ve had earthquakes out here, you know, just shakes and then in the year ’85, we had New Mexico—I mean, Mexico had—Mexico City had a huge earthquake. Well, it just cut gorges in Southern California. I have the pictures of that, where even a pick-up couldn’t go over, you know, if it was on a road, or anything.
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JL: And Southern Hudspeth County too.
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ML: Yeah, just below Sierra Blanca. And that didn’t convince them either. But we finally—well, we just worked with it for about thirteen or fourteen years and finally moved them out anyway. They had already dug a big huge trench, I mean a hole down there. They said this was just for—what did they say that was for—that big hole?
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ML: Yeah, just experimental. And—but then we—we had Linda, I guess, was responsible for getting this geologist, Resnikoff. I don’t know whether you’ve heard of him? Marvin Resnikoff. He’s in New York. And he came out and did a study on it and—and said there was a crack…
DT: Linda is your daughter?
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ML: Um hm. Yes and said that, there’s a crack in the bottom. Well way they denied that, they said, well, you know, it—water won’t even go any further than just a certain distance, you know, under that little hole and crack that was there. They were trying to tell us that that there was no way that waste would get into the soil. But it—it certainly does, because the—the six low level waste like in Kentucky and Illinois and Nevada—there’s several of them. They’re—they have all leaked. They have all been in little communities where people get excited about the jobs and they’ve never told the truth, in other words, about what they’re trying to do to people.
DT: You said that you had worked for thirteen or fourteen years, I think you said, to try and move them down the road someplace. How did you manage to do that? What sort of things did you do?
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ML: Well, like I say, we were getting grants and—and—and—because it got very costly going to Austin and—and to these hearings, but it was very important because every time they had one, it was for sure that we were going to be there. And they were—one—well, the head of the authority, [Jeff] Jacoby asked us one day—we walked into their meeting—how much longer are you going to keep up with this? I said, till it’s gone I guess. But they were really getting tired of our coming in and—and messing up their meeting by—well, we knew some facts too. Because people like Resnikoff and other expertise—well, we had a hydrologist come out the first time. And, of course, a geologist and—they—they have to be paid for though, so we just kept working and working and working. And just persistence, I think, is what helped a whole lot.
DT: Do you think it was in large part the technical information that you brought in about the fault line, the geology? Or was it more the political pressure of being organized and…
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ML: I think it was both. It took both to do that, you know, because they would always rebuke that it—that—that these technologists were—were saying what they did is true but when they found it—our—our—our ground is really fractured and—you know—even up here, you know. And we get those sink holes and all that sort of thing and—and one geologist, very well known, said that if we had it up here it would flow all the way to Sierra Blanca, which is sixty-five miles away. Because the—the—it—the fractures of the earth and the way soil is and then eventually into the Rio Grande River. So if it got into that, that would go all the way to Fort Davis and down that way, you know. So that’s—we were really upset for a while but we kept on.
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JL: But it was really, pretty strongly a political decision…
DT: In what sense?
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JL: …by reason of the—it had been attempted in several counties throughout Texas and a lot of the political people kept shoving it to West Texas, of course, where there were so few people out here we could put up a very small protest, was their theory. And sure enough, they—they tried two locations near Dell City, one location near Fort Hancock, and, of course, the other near Sierra Blanca. And, in each case, the persistency of the local people with the help of—and one time El Paso jumped in and created a law suit that they won forced them out of Fort Hancock. And then the people on the other side of the border, the Mexican group came in that they called the Group de los Cien, and they had
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great interest in what was going on this close to their country, so they were pretty, very strong and helpful. And but mostly it was the local people with their persistency and continuing to fight for all of those years and it finally won out. But the political decision was helped a great deal by the fractured condition of the soil under the site. And so, that eventually drove them out of the county.
DT: Were there any proponents of these waste sites within West Texas?
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JL: Oh yes.
DT: What was their argument?
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JL: Well, like Mary said, it’s—it’s—they were looking at the jobs that were supposed to be created. There was going to be thirty-three jobs created. And some certain people felt like that would be a great boost, it would worth the risk. And, of course, most of us thought, it’s certainly not worth the risk for thirty-three jobs to contaminate the aquifer and—and put a stigma on the entire agricultural production of the county.
DT: When you were trying to cover this story in the newspaper, how would you carry this story? How would you give balanced, subjective coverage to the issue?
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ML: Just through the meetings mainly. And then from the newspapers also. It was very obvious—well, even here in this little community, there were proponents of it and also in Sierra Blanca. But…
DT: I understand you dedicated page two of the Herald for many years, up to the present?
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ML: I did.
DT: From the present.
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ML: Yeah, up to the present, from the first meeting.
DT: And the stories would usually cover the meetings or?
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ML: Mostly—mostly, yes.
DT: And who would write the stories?
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ML: Well, I would take notes at the meetings. I would do—in the early times I did most of the—well, it was really just what they said, you know? Actually. And I think they didn’t like the Herald very much because we brought out everything we could and everybody else helped me. You know, if they would give me information also as to what to—what it was going on. And I—I usually—now, I have—still have lots of email on that. Just lots and lots. So, they get it from there a lot too.
DT: You said you have lots of emails I guess up to the present day, what are the current concerns about the nuclear waste?
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ML: Well—well, just everywhere, but mainly I’m interested in like how close are they, you know, to us also. Because in the—after the Authority just was exasperated, but with these others, before they—when they went to—after they had been—all of this had—well, it ended up in Sierra Blanca and they met in Austin with the Legislature, with a few of them, and talking about political, they just—on the map that they had there before any meeting or anything, they drew a little square box—I don’t know how big it is. Do you know? Acres. On the map and said the dump goes there. And without any, you know, study on the place that they had chosen. That was their last straw, and it’s still marked as the legal dump down there and I have just talked to one—our Legislature about when that was going to be, you know, I said deleted. But so far—he said, well he—they would work on it this session, but I haven’t seen anything on it yet.
DT: I understand that there is some current bills that regard a private waste site in Andrews County.
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ML: That’s right.
DT: What have you learned about that?
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ML: Just something like I have in the paper this week. It’s two legislators—one was on our side here, up until this came up, and now he’s joined the one that’s—I think Duncan is a head environmentalist or something, head of it, some pro—I mean something in the legislature.
DT: In environmental regulation. And is it Warren Chisum, is the other?
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ML: He was on our side here just recently, but I guess—I don’t know what happened. But this article I have in the paper this week tells who is doing it anyway.
DT: I’m interested in how these politicians change their minds. What do you think influences them so strongly?
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ML: I don’t know, unless they want a favor in return for something. It could be that. I think that’s the way our Congress works too.
DT: I’d like to explore a little bit more about how the newspaper can cover a pretty contentious issue where the politicians are divided.
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ML: Well, a lot of the editors around will send me—I mean, gave me permission to use, you know, what they have too. That’s been a big help.
DT: Have you ever worried that your subscribers or advertisers would feel offended if you gave coverage…?
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ML: No, I haven’t heard anything about that all these years.
DT: Is there a pretty strong consensus, I guess, letters to the editor saying you know, we think this is a good item?
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ML: Well, I don’t really get letters to the editor very much—just very seldom. But no, but I had one yesterday, I think I started to tell you. This man had land out here for a while in the mountains down by Van Horn and he wrote me a letter and—and said that, your paper has more information in it than, you know, most other papers. Because he was real shocked with this Andrews, he hadn’t heard about it out—well, he’s just really shocked for West Texas. And that’s the way most people feel. But I just received that letter yesterday, I guess. So—he had heard about it, he just thinks it’s terrible. So…
DT: Why do you think it is that most newspapers or other news outlets, guess, TV and radio, don’t cover this kind of issue?
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ML: I—I haven’t understood that at all because there’s very little on the—I know television or radio. You don’t ever hear anything about it. And I—I think they just don’t think—I think it’s just they think that it’s another industry, you know. They look at it that way. And then pretty soon they learn, if you’re—like we were fighting it for so long we got—we had met a lot of people that were just no way, or this way or that way. They just treated it like it was just nothing to fear. And they still do, a lot of them.
DT: What kind of reaction do you find in the farming community to these proposals for radioactive waste sites? You mentioned that there is some concern about whether it might put a stigma on the agricultural products from Dell Valley?
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JL: Well yes it—it would have an impact on the production of the food products that…
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ML: All the time.
DT: You were telling me about the agricultural community’s reaction to some of these dumpsite proposals.
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JL: Yes, we had, I think, legitimate fears of creating a stigma for the food products that we produced in the area by reason of the nuclear dump and other toxic material being brought in. So, the danger of it getting into the groundwater, of course, was quite clear. The geology that we had become aware of over many, many years of drilling wells and developing our agricultural enterprise told us that the ground subsurface was very fractured and broken and so that—to study it from—from a standpoint of—of having safe areas or not safe areas was—was virtually impossible by reason of the severe fracturing of the subsurface. So—and some of the major canning people—of the food products people have announced that they would not buy product production from areas that had danger of contamination from nuclear—nuclear dumping. So we were very fearful that that would occur and—but mainly we were fearful it would get into the groundwater.
DT: Did you find that any local co-ops or the Soil and Water Conservation District or Farm Bureau out here got involved in the issue? Or was it more just individual farmers who spoke out against the waste site?
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JL: I think it was mostly individuals. We do have those groups, we do have co-ops and—and Farm Bureau and other organizations, but it was mostly individual initiative that individuals had a strong fear of—of the adverse affects of this so they all pitched in and together it was pretty soundly defeated.
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ML: Well most of them passed resolutions, you know, like the—the—these businesses out here against the dump. And it was published. So that helped quite a bit.
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JL: The—the various county governments and city governments and—all passed resolutions …
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ML: Electric company, gas company…
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JL: …opposing the dump, to—to let people know their true feelings.
DT: When these things happened, how do use those events with your newspaper, promoting…
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ML: I—I really published it all, you know, every time they made a resolution, I—I put it in the paper. And they weren’t just real active with the group, but at least they supported what we were trying to do.
DT: I notice that a lot of news outlets feel that they need to give two sides to every question in order to give a balance, objective.
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ML: I’m not very good at that.
DT: And I wonder, did you ever feel like you had to give as much line inches to the nuclear proponents as you did to the critics?
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ML: No, because I really didn’t get anything to get from them. So they would be, you know, speak about it away from the paper, but not ever—they didn’t really—I don’t think I had anything in there that was opposing it, but they—they were—they were pretty prominent when they did oppose it. And some today still feel the same way.
DW: Were there any threats? I know when we were in East Texas there was the, was it Kountze County? Was that Archer (?) and the…
DT: Oh in Kountze, Texas?
DW: Kountze, Texas? And they would make bomb threats at the newspaper office who opposed the lumber industry in East Texas. I don’t know if this industry is as or if the (inaudible) people, I don’t want to use the word Mafia, but have you received anything, have you ever kind of received any kind of pressure?
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ML: Well, they, yes—on advertising they wanted it, you know. But didn’t—I didn’t let them advertise. Being, you know, just a small one-on person paper I didn’t have to do it.
DT: I understood, speaking of Merco, that Merco operated a sludge pump, sued Sony and [Roy] Sekoff, and Mr. Kaufman from the EPA and I think Bill Addington as well for disparaging remarks that they made in this TV Nation program. And I guess it went through the courts and eventually there was no major judgment. I’m curious if you ever felt there was some sort of chilling effect that you had to be more careful about what you said because some of these powerful groups could sue you or make life difficult?
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ML: Well, I think maybe where the dump was going to be, they might have had some threats, I think. I don’t know that for sure, but I wasn’t bothered with them at all.
DT: You never felt like you were sort of looking over your shoulder? Is this going to be copasetic or not?
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ML: No. No.
DT: One thing I was curious about and this may be more as a spectator, because you’re a locally owned newspaper, but it appears there’s been a consolidation of newspapers. I think I read that there are about six major newspaper chains now and a lot of cities only have one paper. And I’m curious if you think that’s changed the way stories are covered because there isn’t the sort of competition that there once was of the independents. I mean, you’re and independent mind and you can pretty much publish what you want. Do you see that happening or do you think that’s not a real issue?
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ML: Well, yes and—yes in some places I would think so. In the bigger papers. I don’t think the weeklies are bothered with that because, like you say, they—freedom to write what you want to write.
DT: Another question occurred to me. I was reading about the Miami newspaper and they did a study of, sort of a marketing study, and I guess the word went out in the editorial board that you will change the kind of stories that you cover, more towards the soft interest, human interest lifestyle questions, and less of the hard-hitting, investigative journalism. And I’m wondering if you see that as a pressure in the media? Beyond the Miami paper?
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ML: No, I haven’t, you know—I have really—I didn’t know they would do that. I—I know some residents might do it, but I don’t know whether—why they would have that control over a paper. It’s not that I write—going to write like that anyway so…
DT: I’m sure your approach is a lot more independent being an individual. Maybe we could talk about some other things that your family has been involved in, some of the habitat conservation work that, that you and your daughters have done. Maybe we could start with your awareness of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and some of its origins and the recent expansion of, somewhat at your expense—maybe you could tell me about that?
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JL: Well, the—the—we’ve always had a—an interest and a desire to—to see the park protected and we were pleased when it became a park and the—the whole general area were quite fond of and think that it should be preserved in its natural state. And, of course, as a result of the—the park, when it acquired the land, it designated most of it as a wilderness area, of course, which is probably very beneficial to keep it in its natural state. Then recently the park chose to expand the park boundaries by ten thousand acres to include the White Sands. They had been a desire among park people for—ever since the
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initial purchase of the park to include the White Sands. But the simplicity of buying all of the land from one person and the getting that through Congress back in the—in the early days when the park was formed, they chose to go with the single purchase from Mr. Hunter. But the desire was always there to include the White Sands. And so within the last, let’s see, three years—I guess, 1998, they finally acquired the last of the ten thousand acres. And a large…
DT: You mentioned Mr. Hunter and he had owned Guadalupe Mountain itself, El Capitan, is that right?
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JL: Yes, that’s correct.
DT: And there was one other major owner, is that…?
0:42:36 – 2139
JL: Yes, Wallace Pratt who was a geologist who owned a five thousand acre portion of the mountain and he donated that to the Department of Interior for preservation and then Mr. Hunter finally was convinced to sell his portion, or his ranch, to the park people to make the entire thing a national park.
DT: And then this recent addition of the salt flats, can you describe what the interest is in that area and what sort of natural features that has?
0:43:19 – 2139
JL: Well, the—the Gypsum Whites—White Gypsum Sand Dunes are the only gypsum sand dunes in the state of Texas. Now the White Sands National Monument in Southern New Mexico is—is larger and similar material, similar gypsum material, but those two are the only known sand dune areas and it was unique enough and attractive enough for the park people to want to include it. So—and now, of course, that they have that, that the surrounding areas, they’re concerned with the development or the damaging, you might say, of the surrounding areas. And, of course, we are now working toward preserving the entire salt flat area to preserve it in its natural state.
DT: What is some of the history of the salt flat? I understood that there had been some salt wars in the past. Tell me a little bit more about that?
0:44: – 2139
JL: Well, yes, that’s—that’s a historical fact, that back in the mid—mid 1880’s the—the Indians and the Mexicans and the new settlers to the area all drew salt from the salt flats and it was a saleable commodity so it was used in trade. And then when certain interests decided to control the access to it, it created the salt war. And there were several people killed and—and massacred and—but that occurred in El Paso. It didn’t occur at the Salt Flats but nevertheless, it was a historical significance and there’s a monument down there, the area where the salt deposits are located, designating the fact that there was a salt war over the salt in the area.
DT: And I understood that your daughter, is that right, has set up a land trust and that is protecting this area?
0:45:39 – 2139
0:45:40 – 2139
ML: That’s right, yes.
DT: Can you tell about that effort?
0:45:44 – 2139
ML: Jim’s been working with her so I…
0:45:49 – 2139
JL: Well, yes, the—Linda has—our daughter Linda has—continues, like all of our three daughters—all have an interest in the area but Linda took the lead and—and created the—this land trust, the Hudspeth Directive for Conservation. And, as a result, she has been—accepted donations of land from different people to help preserve certain areas of the—of the area. And one of the Texas Nature Conservancy has donated a two hundred and twenty-six acre portion of the White Sands that is within the bounds of the National Park. And so Linda is now endeavoring to protect the entire Salt Flat area, an area probably twenty thousand or more acres in size, to try to—since it is the—the source of
0:46:58 – 2139
the white sands, the surface of the salt flats, when the wind blows it—it blows the gypsum sand from the salt flats into the—makes—forms the gypsum dunes. And so, that is the source. And the park would—expressed great interest in that, but they realized they couldn’t take all of it and so they—they settled for the ten thousand acres of a recent acquisition and so, but the—nevertheless, they still have an interest in seeing the area outside the park protected.
DT: How does she hope to do this? Is it her idea to buy try and buy the land and fee simple or do you think she’ll try to negotiate with some of the owners and get conservation easements or…?
0:47:51 – 2139
JL: I—she—she believes it will be a combination. The—the conservation easements is a possibility and—and outright donations, you might say. And, of course, probably she feels that there’ll be—have to be some just outside—outright land purchased. So, today, there’s not—they’re not a great economic value. And, in fact, on the economy side, it’s a liability to own the salt flats because there is no present income or use for the salt flats, but—and, of course, we all have to pay taxes on those portions that we own.
DT: I’m curious, we talked a little bit about Linda Lynch and I think we may have touched on her sister Bonnie, of, impressed—Peggy’s been involved as well, but I’d like to know how you managed to instill an interest in this community and the natural resources here and an interest in trying to protect them, because, of course, this is what this whole project is about, trying to pass on this kind of concern.
0:49:12 – 2139
ML: Yes, well, they love this valley. That was one of the biggest reasons, because—you know, we—I th—I always said, it’s the last pioneering town in the state probably. Whether they—when Jim came out, of course, they cleared land and drilled wells and made farms like that—like all the other people did. But they’ve—they’ve been very attached to coming here. They would all be living here if there were jobs, I think. But I think that was one of the main things because they were born here. And that’s the way a lot—most of the children feel. They go off to college and—and they would love to be back here, if there was something to bring them back. So, I think it’s just a feeling, and of course, we felt the same way as a lot of other people did because the method that they were going to use for this waste site was just a hole in the ground and barrels and cover it
0:50:22 – 2139
up. Well, they were thinking about it seeping and when it does rain out here, it could make it—the water flow off from it, in case it was leaking, that’s where it would spread to the animals. The deer were mentioned by a man from East Texas, he called because he—he said, my goodness, if they put that in, the deer will eat it and then spread it around and like these animals that bore into the ground. So, it just upset them as much as it did ourselves.
DT: Do you think it was things that you told your daughters or things that you did with them, or things they did just because you were here and they did on their own that made them interested in conservation?
0:51:13 – 2139
ML: Yes, we’ve—I think, a lot had to do with this valley here, with the dunes and all. And we spent a lot of time over there, or—they always go hiking at Guadalupe, when they’re home. And they just like it and they—they are thrilled to get to come back for Christmas here. So it just–it’s—it’s in the children here. They really like it here. And—and then it’s—they can see the shame of these people, all of us out here, you know, in the early days, coming out and making this place, really that they just are still a part of it. They really are. And—and—and it’s—there’s not insincerity about it. They’re really serious about what’s going on here right now, with the water.
DT: Speaking of water, do you think that that is going to be one of the major environmental issues coming up or do you think there are other conservation things that you see coming down the pike here in Dell City or in Texas?
0:52:28 – 2139
ML: Well, yes. I think it’s—it’s already, you know, on everybody’s mind out here about the water and what to do with it. Because if the water is gone out here, or—or sucked from the valley, that’s all we have and, that’s the livelihood and I don’t—I hope there are no chances of anymore contaminated companies coming out here.
DT: Mr. Lynch, what do you see as some of the big conservation challenges for the future?
0:53:06 – 2139
JL: Well, you—the fact that—that you live with the land when you farm the land for all of these years, you have to look after the land. You have to rebuild it, you have to constantly be aware of the condition of your land and—and the—the weather and the erosion that occurs that sometimes we can’t control it, but a lot of things we can control. And, of course, like the children growing up here, they were—we all spend our time on the land and so are aware of it in—every day. You look at the sky every day and you wonder what’s—what’s this day going to bring? And the fact also that the two girls as well as their mother, Mary, are artists and they look at things differently, I think. Artists do. And appreciate natural conditions and natural things better than a lot of us that get too busy making a living to look around.
DT: Maybe speaking from the aesthetic side of things, we often close interviews asking people if there was a favorite spot in the outdoors. It may be in the middle of a freshly plowed field or it may be in the heart of McKittrick Canyon, but I wonder what it would be for you two?
0:54:29 – 2139
JL: Just the open—open space is the—the attractive thing of the area. People that come from East Texas wonder, well, there’s no trees. You don’t—just openness so that’s the—enjoy the bigness of the sky and the—and the endless sight that you have in this flat, open country.
DT: Mrs. Lynch? What do you think is a favorite spot?
0:54:58 – 2139
ML: Well, of course, here, I think are the peaceful, you know, feeling that you have and that so many feel. And I never painted at all till I came here. It just kind of turns you on for that sort of thing to try anyway. And so I’ve been trying mostly the mountain. I love that mountain.
DT: El Capitan?
0:55:22 – 2139
ML: Yes. So I think we’re in a very good spot.
DT: Well, I’ve asked you a lot of questions. Is there anything you’d like to add about conservation or your views?
0:55:36 – 2139
JL: Well, it’s—the—the area is a lovely place to live and it’s lovely climate-wise and productiveness of the soil and the land and the water. The—a lot of people drive by and think this is desolation, but those of us that have lived here and appreciate it, really and truly enjoy it and try to preserve it like it is.
DT: Mrs. Lynch, anything else to ad?
0:56:08 – 2139
ML: I don’t think so. I—I—we’ve been really happy here. I came here as a bride forty-nine years ago and we just had a lot of—have had a lot of fun. And one thing I like about it, the—the children are closer. It’s a closer family out here. There are not a lot of things like a big city that you can go and spend your time away from home. And so, we’ve just enjoyed being here.
DT: We have also. Thanks very much for the visit.
[End of Reel 2139]
[End of Interview with Jim & Mary Lynch]