THE TEXAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES passed Senate Bill 26 and Senate Joint Resolution 24, which had previously passed the Senate on April 10.
The legislation calls for the constitutional dedication of revenue from the Sporting Goods Sales Tax (SGST) to fund the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. State Representative John Cyrier (R-Lockhart) had led efforts in the House while Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) was the Senate author.
“We are grateful for the overwhelming support the Texas Legislature has shown for our state and local parks,” said Joseph Fitzsimons, former chair of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and a founder of the Texas Coalition for State Parks.
“Chairman Cyrier has been a determined champion for our parks and today’s vote demonstrates the Legislature’s collective commitment to conserving our state’s natural environment and outdoor heritage for generations to come. Now that the legislation has passed both chambers, we are eager to get this issue in front of Texans who we are confident will support the measure.”
The SGST was designed to create a steady stream of funding for our state and local parks.
However, from 1993 to 2017, the state has collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the SGST, yet only 40 percent has been appropriated for parks. The legislation calls for the constitutional dedication of these funds to ensure consistency in funding for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.
In 2014, the Texas State Park Advisory Committee recommended that a constitutional amendment permanently guaranteeing revenues generated from the SGST be dedicated to supporting state and local parks.
In a public opinion survey, 70 percent of voters would support a constitutional amendment to permanently dedicate sales tax revenue for state parks. These numbers have held steady over a decade of polling.
WHEN HURRICANE HARVEY ROLLED ashore in Texas in August 2017, it left a trail of destruction that is still being repaired today, and a habitat project underway along the banks of Dickinson Bayou will put back repaired marsh that washed away in the storm’s extraordinary floods.
CCA Texas supported the original Dickinson Bayou Restoration Project that enhanced and protected approximately 18 acres of tidal wetlands in 2016, but Hurricane Harvey took a heavy toll.
Now CCA Texas, the Building Conservation Trust—the national habitat program of CCA—and Shell Oil Company are supporting efforts to replant two acres of marsh that will help protect an additional 18 acres of wetlands.
“This is an area that is clearly vulnerable to erosion and so there is a need to make sure this project is solidly in place and can perform as originally intended,” said John Blaha, director of the CCA Texas habitat program.
“We saw some real improvements in this area after the original project and we weren’t about to walk away from it just because of an unfortunate setback. When it comes to habitat work, you have to play the cards that Mother Nature deals you and just keep persevering.”
The Dickinson Bayou Restoration Project protect is ultimately expected to improve water quality in the area and provide erosion protection for the surrounding marsh.
Even in the short time before Harvey did his damage, the project was observed to have improved fish and wildlife habitat in the area and enhanced stormwater filtration in Dickinson Bayou. CCA Texas and BCT have contributed $100,000 to both phases of the project. The current replanting work will utilize 10,000 smooth cordgrass plants from the NRG Energy Eco-Center.