Texas considers selling Christmas Mountains to park service

AUSTIN — In what may be a softening of his position on the issue, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has signaled his willingness to transfer the Christmas Mountains to the National Park Service, although he also has requested the tract's designation as a national preserve so the public can hunt and carry firearms on the property, according to correspondence obtained by the Star-Telegram.

Addressed to Big Bend National Park Superintendent William Wellman, the Friday letter also reiterates many of his previous concerns about a land transfer. Patterson, a Republican, repeats his controversial position that the federal government should use tax money to acquire the 9,269-acre property, although a conservation group has offered to finance the transfer with private funds.

But in the last paragraph of the three-page letter, Patterson writes that "as a next step, I have instructed my staff to work with your agency, the Bush administration, and [San Antonio Democratic] Congressman Ciro Rodriguez's office to work through these issues and secure the necessary funding for the transfer of the Christmas Mountains to the National Park Service."

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