Texas approves state park land swap negotiations with SpaceX despite criticism


Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission announced Monday it authorized the state to pursue land swap negotiations with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to start despite meeting widespread criticism.

The commission said it authorized the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to pursue “the acquisition of approximately 477 acres for a new state park” located near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. In exchange, Texas would give about 43 acres of land from Boca Chica State Park in Cameron County to SpaceX.

The commission said that the land swap “would create a tenfold return,” allowing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to begin planning for a new state park that would give the public access to fishing, kayaking, hiking and other outdoor activities.

“This is an exciting opportunity to acquire land that has been of interest to us and the conservation community for many years,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director David Yoskowitz.

“We look forward to working with Cameron County, city and state officials as well as the public to develop a shared vision for Bahia Grande that enhances conservation and expands recreational opportunities for all Texans, both now and in the future,” Yoskowitz said.

The 43 acres it would give to SpaceX are “noncontiguous,” with the commission noting that most of the acres “do not connect to each other or to areas offering public access at Boca Chica State Park.”

“These smaller, noncontiguous tracts do not provide beach access and are dotted among private properties or immediately adjacent to SpaceX’s facilities, meaning they aren’t readily available for public use and provide less cohesive wildlife habitat than offered by a connected and consistently managed tract of conservation land,” the announcement reads.

Musk moved SpaceX’s state of incorporation from Delaware to Texas last month after an unfavorable court ruling in the state court.

The Texas Tribune reported there were four hours of public testimony during the department’s meeting in Austin that held the vote on Monday, with many members of the public opposing the exchange. Some expressed concerns  about the exchange limiting access to the beach in Boca Chica State Park and potentially harming endangered species in the area, according to The Texas Tribune.

The Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club issued a statement last week opposing the land swap proposal.

“To be clear, this action only gives TPWD staff the ability to consider and negotiate making this land swap — including after potential environmental assessments. Nevertheless, it is the only opportunity at the state level for the public to give feedback,” the statement said ahead of the vote.

“Because the land swap will ultimately result in the expansion of SpaceX in the Rio Grande Valley, and SpaceX has a history of being a bad neighbor, wreaking havoc on the communities and habitat nearby, we are opposed to this potential land swap,” the statement added.

The Hill has reached out to SpaceX for comment.

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