AUSTIN - Today, 26 conservation leaders sent a letter to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House urging them to fulfill the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) request for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The flexible ARPA funds will be appropriated by the Texas legislature during the third special session, which began on Monday, September 20th.
Seth Billingsley, conservation associate with Environment Texas, noted that “it is not an exaggeration to say that these funds represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalize Texas’ parks system. During the pandemic, our parks provided a refuge, a place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. COVID reminded us of the value of our outdoor spaces. Polls show that Texans across the state know what these funds can do for our parks; our elected leaders ought to understand this as well. We need to spend these funds in a way that will benefit current and future generations of Texans and ensure that everyone has access to the great outdoors.”
The coalition endorsed the TPWD’s requested $240 million of ARPA funds for acquisition, construction and repair of state parks facilities and the Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program as part of a larger, $410 million request. In addition, the signers called for a $60 million appropriation to fund local parks. Together, the letter notes, these appropriations would help begin the transformation of Texas’ parks system into that of a world-class program.
The letter acknowledged that across the state, Texans want more parks. In 2019, Texans flocked to the polls to support Proposition 5, with 88% of voters agreeing that Texas’ parks needed more funds, and on September 14th, Texas 2036 released a poll revealing that 68% of Texans bipartisanly support allocating $1 billion of ARPA funds for parkland acquisition.