TPWD Commission withdraws SpaceX land swap item from meeting

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A general map showing the areas of a proposed land swap between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and SpaceX. (Courtesy: TPWD)

A resolution to approve a land swap between SpaceX and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Cameron County was withdrawn from the agenda of the TPWD Commission’s Jan. 25 regular meeting in Austin.

The commission was to have held a public hearing and vote on a proposal that 43 acres of Boca Chica State Park land be transferred to SpaceX, at the request of the company, to “expand its operational footprint around its launch facilities” at Boca Chica, in exchange for 477 acres near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge to TPWD. The county appraisal district shows the 477-acre parcel as being owned by Bahia Grande Holdings LLC.

In the resolution, TPWD staff recommended approving the swap, citing “increased public recreational opportunities including hiking, camping, water recreation, and wildlife viewing, and allow for greater conservation of sensitive habitats for wintering and migratory birds.” But commission Chairman Jeffrey Hildebrand announced at the start of Thursday’s meeting that the agenda item had been withdrawn.

The Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter on Jan. 24 issued a call to delay the vote. In a letter to Hildebrand and other TPWD executives, Sierra Club Conservation Director Cyrus Reed expressed concerns about “the loss of important parkland in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but also about the rushed process of this proposed deal.”

Reed expressed concern that TPWD’s notices announcing the vote were not published for three consecutive weeks, and the first notice did not appear at least 30 days before the date of the public hearing regarding the proposed swap as required Chapter 26 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, which covers “the taking or sale of any public land.” He also urged the commission to publish the notices in Spanish as well as English.

Also, Precinct 3 Cameron County Commissioner David Garza had criticized the proposed swap, arguing that the county was trying to buy the land near Laguna Atascosa for conservation purposes. The 477 acres SpaceX is offering up straddles S.H. 100 and abuts the South Texas Ecotourism Center in Laguna Vista.