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Love Public Radio? Then Help Us Grow!

Update December 19: Web streaming is back up!

West Texas Public Radio is still in the midst of moving into our brand new studios, based in Marfa, Texas. Click here if you’d like to find out more about the details of the move.

Our regular local host for Morning Edition will be out for Christmas week, but we’ll still have local news and information for most of the week.

As a listener-supported, non-profit radio station, we depend heavily on your financial contributions to make this kind of growth possible – and moving’s not cheap!

You can help us buy new furniture, equipment, microphones and more by clicking here. We’re building a legacy for non-profit journalism here in West Texas, but we can’t do it without you!

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City of Midland Clears Up Details after Confusion on Murder-Suicide Case

The City of Midland today clarified details about the death of 32-year-old Sandra Simpson, the wife of Midland Police Sergeant Chad Simpson who was killed in an apparent murder-suicide on Monday.

Police believe the MPD sergeant shot and killed his wife before turning the gun on himself sometime around 5:40 p.m. that night. Chad Simpson was found dead from a gunshot wound after emergency personnel responded to a 9-1-1 silent alarm at the Simpsons’ home.

Sandra Simpson was transported to Midland Memorial Hospital with what authorities believed at the time to be life-threatening injuries.

Initial reports said she’d passed away at the hospital Monday night, but rumors soon led to a backtrack on that detail – some in the community believed she’d instead been put on life support.

In a statement, the city now confirms that Sandra Simpson in fact passed away at 1 a.m. Thursday morning.


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Surveying the Sandia Springs Wetland, Reeves County, Texas, 2011. (Megan Wilde)

Surveying the Sandia Springs Wetland, Reeves County, Texas, 2011. (Megan Wilde)

In West Texas, A Little Water Goes a Long Way

In Far West Texas, a little water goes a long way. Balmorhea ranchers Don and Ellen Weinacht learned that in 2001, when they turned over part of their cattle ranch to create a wetland for migrating birds. Now, three years later, their investment is paying off. For Marfa Public Radio, Megan Wilde has more.

A few miles east of Balmorhea, semi-trucks grumble along I-10 and tractors grunt across the patchwork of hay, alfalfa and cotton fields that surround this agricultural community. But on one four-acre tract, a hundred snow geese rest and gossip in a series of shallow ponds. Here, at the Sandia Springs Wetland, Reeves County rancher Ellen Weinacht is growing a different crop than her neighbors.

Well they first thought we were nuts. I mean, they don’t explain to me why they’re farming whatever they’re farming. I’m not explaining to them why we’re farming birds.

Not just any birds. Weinacht and a team of volunteers created these ponds to cultivate food and shelter for 25 often-overlooked masters of migration. In the process, they’ve restored a piece of what was once one of the state’s largest inland oases, and discovered doing nature’s work is a lot harder than they thought.
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A pump jack in the Permian Basin. Energy interests there are buying water rights to land near Balmorhea. The sales have divided a legacy homesteading family. (Blake Thornberry via Flickr)

A pump jack in the Permian Basin. Energy interests there are buying water rights to land near Balmorhea. The sales have divided a legacy homesteading family. (Blake Thornberry via Flickr)

Balmorhea Water: A Family Divides Over Water Sales To Permian Basin

The 75 heirs of a legacy Texas homesteading family are divided.

One side wants to keep the water under a total of 11 thousand acres just north of Balmorhea, the other side is selling their water for fracking.

It’s a scenario playing out across west Texas as water rights become increasingly valuable.

“He’s bought up a lot of the family’s rights.”

Kendall McCook of Fort Worth is one of the dozens of heirs to a sprawling piece of west Texas. He described his concerns about a middleman who is buying water from one set of heirs.

Like McCook, many of his relatives no longer live on their land. But unlike McCook, some of his relatives are selling their water to fracking interests in Reeves County.

“My concern isn’t just the water being sold off of our place, but how many other people are selling water for tracking wells in Reeves County?” he asked rhetorically.


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Edna Lou the tea bus. (KRTS/Ryan Kailath)

Edna Lou the tea bus. (KRTS/Ryan Kailath)

“The Tea Guy” Questions Relationships and Money in His Traveling School Bus

This is a story about how a simple cup of tea can bring people together and perhaps even get us to think more intently about the way money defines – and sometimes distracts us from – personal relationships.

Guisepi Spadafora has been roaming the country in a repurposed school bus, hosting free tea parties for strangers. He passed through Marfa on his travels, and offering free tea to strangers and friends alike.

KRTS Interns Ian Lewis and Mia Warren sat down for a cup.


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Two Juárez police officers guard a crime scene. Mexico's president has proposed putting local police under the supervision of state police. Criminologists on either side of the border say the proposal ignores the reality that some local police forces, among them Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, are today more professional than their state counterparts. (Lorne Matalon)

Two Juárez police officers guard a crime scene. Mexico's president has proposed putting local police under the supervision of state police. Criminologists on either side of the border say the proposal ignores the reality that some local police forces, among them Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, are today more professional than their state counterparts. (Lorne Matalon)

As Outrage over Iguala Continues, Mexican President Calls for Police Reform

Mexico’s president wants to change his country’s constitution to replace local police with state police. He also wants legal authority to take over municipal governments infiltrated by organized crime.

But ongoing protests and recent polls suggest Mexicans aren’t convinced the change will make a difference.

The move follows disgust in Mexico over a long delay by the federal government to investigate the murders of 43 college students.


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Josefina Lizarraga talks to people about ways to eat quince and other goods from the Mission Garden at the downtown Farmer's Market. (Kate Sheehy)

Josefina Lizarraga talks to people about ways to eat quince and other goods from the Mission Garden at the downtown Farmer's Market. (Kate Sheehy)

Harvesting History In The Southwest

A part of Arizona’s history all but disappeared when the United States-Mexico border was created about 160 years ago.

Recently, National Parks and museums on both sides of the border have begun working together to revitalize and preserve a living history that gives people a way to connect to their roots.

A variety of crops brought over by European missionaries connect Mexican and Native American culture in the Sonoran Desert.


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kxwt-news-west-tx
Surveying the Sandia Springs Wetland, Reeves County, Texas, 2011. (Megan Wilde)
A pump jack in the Permian Basin. Energy interests there are buying water rights to land near Balmorhea. The sales have divided a legacy homesteading family. (Blake Thornberry via Flickr)
(U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
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Love Public Radio? Then Help Us Grow!

Update December 19: Web streaming is back up!

West Texas Public Radio is still in the midst of moving into our brand new studios, based in Marfa, Texas. Click here if you’d like to find out more about the details of the move.

Our regular local host for Morning Edition will be out for Christmas week, but we’ll still have local news and information for most of the week.

As a listener-supported, non-profit radio station, we depend heavily on your financial contributions to make this kind of growth possible – and moving’s not cheap!

You can help us buy new furniture, equipment, microphones and more by clicking here. We’re building a legacy for non-profit journalism here in West Texas, but we can’t do it without you!

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(U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

2 Suspects in Custody, 1 in Hospital after Shootout with Border Patrol and State Authorities

Update Monday 9:30 pm:

Two female suspects are in custody and one man is in a hospital after multiple robberies in southeastern New Mexico and multiple shootouts with law enforcement in a remote part of rural Hudspeth County on Sunday.

The male suspect was injured after firing multiple shots at authorities with Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas DPS. Those agents returned fire, striking the man several times.

Shots were also fired at a Border Patrol agent earlier in the day, but no other injuries were reported.

Hudpseth County Sheriff Arvin West tells KRTS the three people – believed to be New Mexico residents – had taken part in a “robbing binge” in New Mexico, having burglarized a Bealls department store and participated in multiple carjackings before fleeing to West Texas and attempting to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico.

The identities of the suspects haven’t yet been released, but West estimates they were in their 20s. West says the situation was over by about 6 p.m. Sunday evening.

The suspects had stolen a hunter’s pickup truck in New Mexico before attempting to flee the country in southern Hudspeth County, and were stopped near Sierra Blanca by a Border Patrol agent with the Sierra Blanca Station.

At some point during the initial stop, shots were fired at the agent and the suspects fled south in the vehicle, which they abandoned near Eagle Mountain in a remote part of the county, south of Sierra Blanca.

West says after abandoning the vehicle on foot, the male suspect was confronted by Texas Parks and Wildlife and DPS authorities around 9 a.m.

“When they spotted him, they told him to put his hands up and he fired several shots,” West says.

The agents then returned fire, striking the man several times. He was then transported to a hospital.

“Last I heard it looked like he was going to live,” West says.

The two female suspects were apprehended later in the day.

The suspects could face federal and/or state charges for assaulting a federal agent along with state authorities.

West says it was a long ordeal, but he’s glad law enforcement officers were unharmed during the encounters, and that the situation ended early in the evening.

“We made it home to watch the Cowboys game,” West says.

The F.B.I. has taken over the investigation, and as of Monday evening had not released further details on the case.

Original Post:

An agent with the Border Patrol’s Sierra Blanca Station was shot at Sunday morning while attempting to make a traffic stop near Sierra Blanca in Hudspeth County.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says the shooting happened at 7:30 Sunday morning on Highway 1111 near Eagle Mountain.

A person in the vehicle being stopped fired at the agent – the agent returned fire but no injuries were reported. CBP says three or four people in the vehicle escaped on foot into the nearby brush.

As of Sunday afternoon, Border Patrol was searching for those people with the help of Texas DPS, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office.

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Rancher Jeff Williams walks in his rice field near Ft. Stockton, Texas. (Lorne Matalon)

Underground Water in Texas: Plan to Export is Challenged

Farmers and ranchers who have been battling the drought for years have found themselves sitting on an increasingly valuable resource – their own underground water.

Now, a case over water rights that will resonate across the southwest is before the courts in Texas.

At stake: can ranchers and farmers export their water, especially to Mexico, while the U.S. suffers through some of the driest times on record?

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Views into Mexico across Big Bend National Park on a clear and hazy day. (NPS)

EPA Rejects Part of Texas Clean Air Plan, Proposes its Own

The EPA has rejected a Texas plan to cut emissions and improve air quality, in part because it doesn’t do enough to tackle visibility problems in the Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains.

The federal Regional Haze Program requires states to periodically submit plans for improving visibility in certain national parks and wilderness areas across the country.

On Monday, the EPA tossed out part of the TCEQ’s plan for doing that and instead proposed its own, saying the state’s long-term strategy “does not sufficiently address regional haze visibility impairment” in Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

The EPA also said the state’s plan wouldn’t lead to “reasonable progress” toward meeting a national goal for cleaner air in those areas by the year 2064. It did, however, approve Texas’ strategy for calculating and monitoring baseline visibility conditions.

Under the TCEQ’s 2009 goals, natural visibility would return to Big Bend by the year 2155 – and to Guadalupe Mountains by 2081.

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(Tom Parker/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons)

91.3 FM Off-Air Temporarily for Station Move

Tuesday: KXWT is back on-air. Thanks for your patience.

91.3 FM is currently off the air for a station relocation, but don’t worry! It’s only temporary.

We expect to have all of our regular programming back on the air sometime around Thanksgiving – NPR in West Texas is here to stay!

If you want more information on the move, just click here, but here’s a short explainer:

The headquarters for KXWT 91.3 FM in Midland-Odessa – and our sister station KRTS 93.5 FM in the Big Bend – are located in Marfa. We’re leaving that building this week and moving into a new, bigger and better home, also in Marfa. We’re also currently talking with Basin PBS about the possibility of opening a studio space at the historic Ritz Threatre in downtown Midland, which Basin PBS is renovating as a whole.

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Governor-elect and AG Greg Abbott speaks on Obama's recent executive order during a press event on Nov. 24, 2014. (Bob Daemmrich)

Abbott: Immigration Lawsuit Could Come in Two Weeks

A state lawsuit challenging President Obama’s executive order shielding as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation could come from Texas in the next two weeks, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott said during a Monday press conference.

“Most everyone agrees that the immigration system in America is broken,” Abbott said. “Similarly, most agree that executive fiat is not the right way to fix it.”

Added Abbott: “The president must follow the law just like everyone else.”

Obama’s order means that undocumented parents of children in the country legally are eligible for a reprieve from deportation proceedings if they pass background checks, pay taxes and have been in the country for more than five years.

That could affect as many as 533,000 undocumented immigrants in Texas, about 40 percent of the state’s population. Another 92,000 reside with children who are not citizens but could be in the country legally.

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