Parks Advocates Decry Parks and Wildlife Budget Cuts

Media Contacts

Environment Texas

AUSTIN – On the eve of the vote on the state budget in the Texas House, parks advocates will gather on the south steps of the Capitol today, March 31 at 2:30 PM, to speak out against a 25% budget cut to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The groups said the cuts in HB 1 could force the closure of at least seven state parks, eliminate grants for local parks and playgrounds, end leases for almost one million acres of public hunting land, and hurt wildlife management efforts. 

“Our parks are the kind of thing we stand up for, even when times are tough,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “Texans love the great outdoors. Slashing parks funding will make it a lot harder for our families to go hiking, camping, and swimming.

Texans help support our parks in a number of ways, including conservation license plates, park entrances fees and sales taxes on sporting goods like bicycles, fishing tackle and camping gear. The sporting goods sales tax brings in about $120 million every year, yet HB 1 raids 73% of those funds and diverts them to other purposes. Thousands of Texans pay an extra $30 for conservation license plates to “help fund conservation efforts right here in Texas,” yet 50% of those funds are also diverted.

“The people of Texas have spoken loud and clear that parks and wildlife are important to them: they put pressure on the Legislature to increase parks funding in 2007, they have bought ‘Keep Texas Wild’ license plates thinking that those revenues are going to parks and wildlife, and they have bought sporting goods thinking that the sales tax is funding state and local parks,” said Ken Kramer, Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “But the truth is that legislators are using most of the license plate money and the majority of the sporting goods tax revenue to try to balance the budget. The Legislature needs to keep the faith with the public and use the money raised for parks and wildlife to maintain our parks and protect our wildlife.”

The groups pointed to the significant economic benefits generated for the state and local areas by the state parks system. According to the Comptroller, in 2008, out-of-state visitors to state parks spent $283.5 million in Texas.

“For every county with a state park, on average, the state park generates almost $3 million in annual retail sales and $1.5 million in residential income within that community,” said David Teel, President & CEO of the Texas Travel Industry Association.  “Our state parks are part of a huge economic driver we call the travel & tourism industry in Texas.  It is the third largest industry in the state which brings $51.8 billion into the Texas economy annually and provides jobs for more than 526 thousand Texans,” said Teel.