Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Our Natural Heritage at Risk in North Texas

The fate of the Texas state park system is now firmly entrenched as an issue in the gubernatorial race this fall. Democratic candidate Chris Bell is making it a centerpiece in his campaign, along with education. The issue cuts across party and demographic lines, and judging by the editorial pages of local newspapers, the outrage is palpable. So what now?

First, don't assume that just because the issue is generating so much negative publicity for Governor Perry that the idea of selling public land is off the table. At the local, state and national level, the battle continues.

Here are some of the public lands most at risk in North Texas and what you can do.

Eagle Mountain Lake
As FWST columnist Jack Smith reports, there is good news and bad news on the effort to stop the sale of this land.

After a potent public outcry, it appears likely that a public park will be established on at least part of a 400-acre site bordering Eagle Mountain Lake in northwest Tarrant County.

But it would be a shame if the entire 400 acres were not turned into a park. That's what the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) intended when it bought the land in the early 1980s.

But the state has other ideas.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, in a telephone talk Wednesday, said he feels the best outcome would be to turn part of the 400 acres into a local park and part into a "very low-density, high-dollar" residential development. The portion sold for development presumably would fetch more money than if it were sold for parkland.

Patterson said money from the sale could be used by TPWD to help buy acreage for a much larger state park of perhaps several thousand acres located within a 90-minute drive of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. TPWD officials have, for example, eyed a site in Palo Pinto County.

Patterson isn't saying how much land will be set aside. Write Perry and Patterson and let them know what you think of their plan. The advocacy group, Save Eagle Mountain Lake has all the info you'll need to fire off those letters.

Fort Worth Prairie Park
Another local treasure at risk of the developer's bulldozer is a lesser publicized piece of land known as the Fort Worth Prairie Park.

The State of Texas’ Permanent School Fund is trying to quietly sell off development rights to nearly 2,000 acres of Texas public land in southwest Fort Worth that has enormous ecological, multicultural, educational, and historical values, including for Native Americans and African-Americans, as well as being one of the best remaining examples of virgin Fort Worth Prairie. Citizen and advocacy groups are clamoring to protect this 1,983 acre jewel as the cornerstone of the new Fort Worth Prairie Park Initiative, which is being spear-headed by the Great Plains Restoration Council on behalf of protecting the endangered tallgrass/mixed grass Fort Worth Prairie for future generations and struggling native wildlife.....

The State of Texas, working with a private developer, wants to bulldoze the prairie at 10700 Old Granbury Rd to “maximize income.” Due to the topography, and the huge cost of bringing a sewer to the property, they’d have to cut it into thousands of 50 foot lots to make a profit. This pristine prairie is also the last unspoiled land before the watershed empties into Benbrook Lake, a major source of Fort Worth drinking water.

If you want to help preserve this amazing piece of history, sign the petition.

Caddo-LBJ Grasslands
The National Wildlife Federation tells us that as much as 800,000 acres of public land will be up for auction in President's Bush 2007 budget. The Texas tally is listed here. To stop this outrage, click here.

Among the possible treasures up for grabs are the lesser-known Caddo and LBJ Grasslands. You can view a map of the LBJ Grasslands, named for a president who knew the true worth of America's natural resources could never be measured by the sum on a developer's check.

It's hundreds of cattle ponds create habitat for an amazing diversity of flora and fauna. Among the varmints of special interest to outdoor enthusiasts are ducks, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians, including, yep, the Texas Toad. (Do you think this picture makes me look fat?)

If you know of other areas in North Texas at risk, leave a comment and a link, if you've got one.

1 comment:

bill said...

Do you know the location of the proposed park in Palo Pinto County?