Mar 21, 2023 - News

Texas' surplus money could preserve parks

A photo of a lake and a tree

Martin Dies Jr. State Park outside Jasper. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

A proposed state bill calls for the creation of a Texas Land and Water Conservation Fund, which would use surplus money to expand public parks and preserve water resources.

Driving the news: Republican state Rep. Justin Holland of Rockwall filed House Bill 3165 this month to take $2 billion from Texas' rainy-day fund, which is expected to reach $27.1 billion in the next two-year budget, to create the fund.

Why it matters: Texas ranks 35th in the nation for state park acreage per capita and is predicted to be unable to keep up with water demands for a growing population in the coming decades.

By the numbers: Less than 3% of Texas land is protected as parks and forests, according to the Houston Chronicle.

  • The state's water supply is projected to drop 18% by 2070, while population growth is expected to increase demand 9% in the same time period, per a report from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and Texas 2036, a nonpartisan think tank.

Details: Administrators of the new fund would be able to award grants for the creation of new parks, projects that would restore wildlife habitats, and efforts to improve water quality or enhance river flow.

  • If the bill passes, a constitutional amendment creating the fund would be on the November ballot.

What they're saying: Holland says state leaders must preserve the "wide-open spaces definitive of the Texas character."

  • "We must take bold steps to preserve the landscape and culture that makes Texas a great place to live," he wrote in a DMN opinion piece.

Zoom in: A Dallas developer plans to turn Fairfield Lake State Park between Houston and Dallas into an exclusive gated community and to sell water from the lake there to North Texas cities.

  • The park temporarily reopened last week while the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department tries to work with developers to preserve the space for public use.

What we're watching: What happens in the state House committee on natural resources. The bill was referred there last week.


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