New initiative strives to inspire responsible energy development in the Big Bend

MIDLAND—The Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation, along with other partners, hopes to protect the Big Bend region from encroaching energy development by creating a new initiative called the Respect Big Bend Coalition.

Its purpose is to work with West Texas communities along with energy companies to ensure natural resources in Brewster, Presidio, and Davis counties are developed responsibly.

The new effort was announced on Thursday in Midland at the Petroleum Museum. Dr. Louis Harveson, of Sul Ross University and the Borderlands Research Institute, is a part of the group’s science team. While speaking to the press, he posed a question. 

“If you have 400,000 visitors going to Big Bend National Park do you want a wind farm right on the outskirts of the Big Bend?” 

A portrait of George Mitchell was paired with the logo for the new initiative
Respect Big Bend at the effort’s kickoff. (Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio)

Harveson thinks you probably don’t. He then explained, one of the core missions of Respect Big Bend is working to preserve the region’s landscape and wildlife as companies begin to work in rural stretches of West Texas. 

Marilu Hastings is with the Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation. She said another part of the initiative’s mission is improving communication between energy companies, local communities, and environmental groups. 

She said the coalition is, “asking industry to be better than the status quo. It’s really working with them to learn what their capabilities are to learn how receptive they are. It’s also working with community leaders about where they get their information.”

Along with their conservation efforts, the initiative wants to be a source of balanced and scientific information for residents across West Texas. Hastings also said Respect Big Bend will stay independent from the energy sector and won’t accept any funding from companies.  

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