Texas Needs More Parkland and Protected Wildlife
Habitat! New Study Underscores the Importance of the Lone Star Chapters Wide
Open Spaces Campaign
According to a recently released report by Texas Tech University, Texas urgently
needs more state and local parkland as well as more protected wildlife habitat
to meet the demand for green space in rapidly growing urban areas. The report
presents strong justification for the goals of the Wide Open Spaces Campaign
initiated by the Lone Star Chapter last July.
Titled Texas Parks & Wildlife for the 21 Century, the report is the result
of an extensive study on conservation and recreation issues in the state that
was conducted by Texas Tech University. The Tech study included an inventory
of public lands and historic sites in Texas, a public opinion survey about
natural resources issues, and graphic representations that depict the current
status and projected change in native habitat, biodiversity, and land use
as the population expands over the next 3 decades.
The study is intended to establish a foundation for future planning efforts
by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (Texas Parks & Wildlife),
the state agency responsible for meeting the conservation and recreation needs
of the state. The agency is currently developing a Land and Water Resources
Conservation Plan for Texas (see below) that is intended to address those
Texas Tech Study Findings
The Tech study found that a comprehensive solution is necessary to address
the increasing need for outdoor recreation opportunities and for conserving
natural resources in Texas. Due to the size and population of Texas, state
and local parks are in short supply. In addition habitat conservation and
restoration efforts have not been conducted on a scale large enough to preserve
biologically sustainable habitats in all of the ecoregions of Texas.
The Tech study also found that while private landowners play an important
role in habitat conservation efforts they alone cannot meet the states
total outdoor recreational needs. According to the public opinion survey a
majority of large landowners (64%) in Texas are not interested in opening
up their land to provide more outdoor recreational opportunities.
While Texas is the second largest state in the union and 85 percent of its
population is concentrated in urban areas, it ranks 49th in per capita spending
on state parks. To meet the need for more state parks the Tech study recommends
that Texas Parks & Wildlife adopt the goal of providing 55 acres of state
parkland per 1000 people. To achieve this goal the state would need to acquire
an additional 1.4 million acres of parkland by 2030.
Because the shortage of outdoor recreation lands is particularly acute around
the major population centers of Texas the Tech study recommends that cities,
counties, and special districts establish more local parks. The study recommends
that Texas Parks & Wildlife and local governments adopt a goal of establishing
25 acres of local parkland per 1000 people. This goal would require the acquisition
of an additional 558,000 acres of local parkland by 2030.
The public opinion survey indicates that there is substantial support among
Texas citizens for acquisition of additional lands for recreation and habitat
protection. According to the survey 77% of Texans support more funding to
buy additional land for conservation of natural resources and outdoor recreation.
Land & Water Resources Conservation Plan
In order to meet the growing demand for more parkland and to ensure the protection
of wildlife habitat Texas Parks & Wildlife is now working on a Land &
Water Resources Conservation Plan that will guide state efforts to acquire
and protect parkland and wildlife habitat. While the Conservation Plan will
rely heavily on the large volume of data that was generated by the Tech study,
it is unclear whether or not Parks & Wildlife will embrace the major recommendations
of the Tech study regarding state and local parkland acquisition. It is also
unclear whether or not the Conservation Plan will include recommendations
for funding parkland acquisition.
The Tech study recommendations regarding park acquisition and funding for
such acquisition should be for the backbone of the Conservation Plan. If the
Tech study recommendations are not included it is unlikely that the plan will
adequately address the long-term conservation and recreation needs of the
Texas Parks & Wildlife must complete a draft of the plan by May 31, at
which time the Parks & Wildlife Commission will choose whether or not
to propose the draft plan in the Texas Register for public comment. The public
comment period is slated to last between June 1 and July 1. The Commission
will then adopt the final plan by August 31.
Public Input Needed for State Plan
As part of the Wide Open Spaces Campaign the Lone Star Chapter will undertake
a major effort to generate public comments and mobilize citizens to attend
public meetings on the Conservation Plan. The public comment period will provide
citizens with a unique opportunity to voice their support for an increase
in the amount of land acquired for parkland and protected wildlife habitat.
The Lone Star Chapter will alert citizens throughout the state about the opportunity
to voice their opinions on the Conservation Plan as soon as the public comment
period is announced.
This spring the Lone Star Chapter will provide updates on the development
of the Conservation Plan and information on how you can get involved on its
For more information about the Conservation Plan or the Wide Open Spaces Campaign,
contact Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, at (512)477-1729
Texas Parks & Wildlife for the 21st Century: Recommendations of the
Texas Tech Study
Statewide Master Plan
Texas Parks & Wildlife should develop a statewide master plan to guide
future programs to conserve the rich biodiversity of Texas; to maintain the
optimum range of natural; cultural, and historic sites of statewide significance;
and to provide services to the citizens of Texas.
The state should manage its programs of water conservation and allocation
to sustain its ecosystems as well as its people and to allow for sufficient
instream flows and sufficient flows into bays and estuaries to sustain aquatic
Access to Nature for Urbanites
The state should address the needs of urban Texans for access to nature and
for opportunities of outdoor recreation.
Addressing Ethnic Diversity
The state should step up efforts to protect and make available to the public
a growing inventory of cultural, historic and natural sites that reflect the
state's ethnic diversity and the diverse interests of its population.
Texas Parks & Wildlife should aggressively enhance programs to educate
urbanites, and especially youth and ethnic minorities, about natural, cultural
and historic resources in Texas.
Improving Local Parks
Local governments and organizations should receive assistance in achieving
the goal of 25 acres per 1,000 people for local parks in Texas. To meet this
goal an additional 550,000 acres of will need to be acquired by 2030.
Texas Parks & Wildlife should establish and maintain a level of service
of 55 acres per 1,000 people for state parks in Texas. To meet this goal an
The state should ensure that in each of its 11 ecoregions there is a characteristic
area of 100,000 acres that is protected, using a variety of strategies, in
order to conserve native plants and animals.
Texas Parks & Wildlife should continue to work in partnership with other
agencies and organizations to expand incentives for conservation programs
on private lands.