Protecting Texas' natural heritage

Our state parks, wildlife refuges, forests and other public lands help keep natural resources safe and give us a place to simply enjoy Texas’ environment.

As Texas continues its dramatic growth, our natural areas are facing significant stress, jeopardizing Texas’ growing recreation and eco-tourism based industries and threatening the beauty, character and rural heritage of the Lone Star State. On average, 20 acres of open space are destroyed in Texas every hour to make way for new strip malls and subdivisions. Chronic under-funding of parks protection and open space acquisition have led park facilities to deteriorate and opened the doors to developers to pave over ecologically-important areas. Clearly, Texas has been remiss in its stewardship of our natural heritage.

Fighting for state park funding

Our parks are an easily accessible natural respite from the more developed world. They provide a way for us all to escape city life and enjoy swimming, kayaking, camping, hiking and help protect a number of important natural resources and wildlife species.

Texas state parks also contribute significantly to the state's tourism and travel industries. Here's the proof: According to the state Comptroller's office, out-of-state visitors to our parks spent $283 million in the local community in 2008. And a study by the Texas Coalition for Conservation found Texans spend upward of $1 billion every year when they visit the state parks.

In the last two years, the 82nd Legislature cut 21.5% of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) funding. Approximately 111 employees were laid off, leaving 23 parks with fewer staff.

Stand with us as we work to turn this around and save Texas state parks.

See here for more information on state park funding.

Keeping our refuges safe

In 2006, the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge was designated to create a protected ecosystem for Texas' last wild river. The refuge provides nesting habitats for migratory birds and gives bottomland hardwood forests and swamps a place to flourish—improving water quality and helping prevent flooding.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set a goal of acquiring and protecting all 25,281 acres of land within the refuge acquisition boundary. Funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical to maintain the lands of the Neches River ecosystem and acquire more lands within the refuge boundary. However, due to inconsistent funding by Congress, the Refuge has not received the funding necessary to protect it from inappropriate development.

Our leaders in Washington should also act to permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

See here for our blog on funding for the Neches River Wildlife Refuge

Protesting a destructive launchpad project

When we designate land as a refuge, we promise to keep it preserved and protected from careless and destructive pollution and development. However, a recent project launched by the California company SpaceX will do nothing to preserve or protect. 

SpaceX wants to build a launch pad operation on 49 acres of land that is almost completely surrounded by Boca Chica State Park and the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Launching spacecrafts here simply can’t happen. Potential contamination from noxious chemicals, noise pollution, and development would significantly affect the precious wilderness that is home to sea turtles, falcons and ocelots. 

Environment Texas has launched a petition to stop this threat dead in its tracks. Stand with us to help prevent SpaceX from building this destructive project.

Issue updates

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Marvin Nichols Reservoir Plan Gets a Boost

The group Environment Texas also immediately criticized the decision. "This is the water board's first big test since voters entrusted them with billions in new water spending and they are blowing it," the group's director, Luke Metzger, said in a statement. "This project is wasteful, it would destroy a river and pristine forestland, and it has no place in our state's water future." Other environmentalists also believe that the Dallas-Fort Worth region is focusing too much on expensive water projects, rather than conservation measures. 

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New lake to supply Dallas-Fort Worth moves forward, but environmental opposition looms

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, supported legislation to create the $2 billion water fund, but he opposes Marvin Nichols. He worries the state is overlooking conservation and less invasive alternatives.

“This is a major decision; it’s very controversial,” Metzger said. “For the water board to side with wasteful water use and business-as-usual water strategies, against the opportunity to spend these dollars in a much more cost-effective, environmentally friendly way, is very troubling.”

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Area State Representative Backing Away From Fight Against Plastic Bag Ordinances

Rachel Stone, an attorney at the Austin-based Environment Texas, said the organization is thrilled the Alamo City is considering the ban. “Environment Texas applauds Councilman Medina for taking leadership on these important issues,” Stone said in a statement. “San Antonio made a commitment to take strides towards a more sustainable future, and it is exciting to see the city forging ahead on that path.”

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said he is glad Springer is giving up the bag ban fight. “I think it’s great,” Metzger said. “We think cities should have the right to decide what is best for them, and plastic bags have become a major problem … they are polluting our rivers, creating blight in neighborhoods and it costs the taxpayers to keep their communities clean.”

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After Proposition 6 what comes next?

While Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to create a new fund for the development of water projects, don't expect to see an explosion of construction for quite some time.

First, state and regional water planners need to work out the details of how they will rank the proposed ventures and to finalize other rules. Financial assistance is not expected to start until March 2015.

Proposition 6, which voters supported Nov. 5 by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, creates a revolving loan account using $2 billion from the state's rainy day fund. The money, which could be leveraged to provide $27 billion in assistance over the next 50 years, will help pay for infrastructure and conservation initiatives to bolster the drought-ridden state's water supplies.

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said his organization will be lobbying the regional water planning groups to prioritize conservation projects in their areas and the state board to consider the environmental impact of proposed projects in its rankings.

“Conservation, if we do it first, helps us avoid hugely expensive projects that we might not need down the road,” Metzger said.

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News Release | Environment Texas

Texas voters approve $172 million in parks and recreation bonds

AUSTIN – Voters in 10 Texas cities and counties on Tuesday approved a total of $172 million in bonds to support local parks and recreation facilities, according to an analysis by Environment Texas. The group pointed to the elections as evidence of strong public support for parks funding and called on the state of Texas to do more to help local and state parks.

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