On Friday, the General Land Office, which controls the land and had put it on the auction block, released a proposal by the National Park Service to take over the land, which is adjacent to Big Bend. Patterson has repeatedly said that he opposes such a move because the national parks don't allow hunting.
If this announcement signals an end to the wrangling over the Christmas Mountains, and places the land in the public realm as was the original intent, this is great news.
The NPS proposal says that the Christmas Mountains tract would be opened for day and overnight hiking. An old access route to an antenna on a 5,700-foot peak would be a "primary destination for remarkable vistas" for hikers and horseback riders. Should it be incorporated into the vast Big Bend National Park, the Christmas Mountains tract would amount to about one percent of the total acreage of the park.
The proposal pays special attention to hunting, which it says would not be allowed on the land. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a staunch supporter of gun rights, had said last year that he wanted hunting allowed on the land. But the National Park Service proposal says hunting access is difficult and that the deer population is low.