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Home | Tag Archives: us congress

Tag Archives: us congress

Texas Parks Department, Advocates Pushing Congress to Reauthorize Key Conservation Fund

With Congress set to adjourn next week, parks advocates are pushing for lawmakers to revive a half-century-old program that has pumped more than a half-billion dollars into Texas’ parks and natural areas.

Congress let the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expire on Sept. 30. The fund — established in 1964 to support the maintenance of national parks, wildlife refuges and trails, as well as state and local parks — has supplied Texas with more than $577 million.

Popular destinations like San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Big Thicket National Preserve, Devils River State Natural Area, Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge and the Sabine National Forest have all benefited.

The LWCF Coalition, a group pushing for reauthorization, said more than $165 million in potential funding has been lost to parks nationally since the fund expired.

Failure to reauthorize the fund will negatively impact Texas’ $52.6 billion outdoor recreation industry, which supports 411,000 jobs and generates $3.5 billion annually in local and state tax revenue, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Texas parks are already underfunded, with an estimated $781 million in deferred maintenance. They need between $50 million and $80 million in repairs every two years, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The state’s national parks also have more than $167 million in overdue repairs.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department chief Carter Smith said the fund is “an incredibly powerful tool” for conservation work in Texas. He said the department doles out the money to cities and counties to help them acquire and develop public recreation areas.

“The LWCF reauthorization is of immense importance to communities, people and parks across all of Texas,” Smith said. “Funds from the LWCF have been instrumental in aiding the department and our community partners in acquiring and developing much-needed park land to meet the quality of life, recreational and economic needs of a growing Texas. The absence of this highly leveraged, deeply popular funding stream would be a substantial loss for Texas.”

This is the second time in the past three years Congress has let the fund expire. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle appear to be coalescing around a short-term extension for the conservation fund rather than a permanent fix.

The fund has a $900 million cap. It is fed by fees generated from offshore oil and gas development. Congress typically only appropriates a portion of that money.

House lawmakers disagree on language in the Senate version of the LWCF bill, which calls for full funding of the program.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn told Bloomberg Environment last week that a conservation fund extension can move quickly if both parties can get behind either a permanent extension or a one-year reauthorization.

“Anything can happen around here if it’s done by agreement,” said Cornyn, the Senate majority whip.

national poll conducted in November for the National Wildlife Federation found that 74 percent of respondents support reauthorization and funding.

“The poll highlights that Americans are united in their support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Collin O’Mara, the federation’s president and CEO. “Failing to act in the face of this overwhelming support would be a massive missed opportunity for our wildlife and outdoor heritage.”

Disclosure: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author: CARLOS ANCHONDO – The Texas Tribune

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar Begins Campaign for Congress

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar has officially started her run for Congress.

Escobar, a Democrat, submitted paperwork Friday to the Federal Election Commission to begin a campaign for Texas’ 16th Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, is giving up the seat to run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

Escobar is expected to make the campaign official Saturday, when she’s invited supporters to a “special announcement” in El Paso.

Escobar, who is close with O’Rourke, was almost instantly seen as a potential candidate to replace him when he announced in March he would challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. She already has his backing in her bid for Congress.

In recent weeks, Escobar had also received support from a draft effort by a national group, the Latino Victory Project. If elected, Escobar would become the first Latina member of Congress from Texas.

A number of Democrats are already running for the solid-blue 16th District, the most prominent of which is Dori Fenenbock, the El Paso school board president. She’s been campaigning for the seat for months.

Escobar’s current term as county judge ends in December 2018. Though she has already announced she will not run for re-election, her announcement Saturday is likely to have a ripple effect. Under state law, county officials like Escobar automatically resign when they announce they’re running for another office with more than a year and a month left in their current term.

At their Monday meeting, El Paso County commissioners are scheduled to “discuss and take appropriate action to fill the vacancy of the El Paso County Judge,” according to an agenda that was updated Friday.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • In an interview at a campaign stop in Killeen, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke talked about his 2018 Senate run, why he supports impeaching President Trump and which El Paso Democrat he hopes will replace him in the U.S. House. [Full story]
  • Federal judges have invalidated two of Texas’ 36 congressional districts, setting up a scramble to redraw them ahead of the 2018 elections. [Full story]

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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