Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

During Devastating Drought, Parks & Wildlife Asking for Millions in Help

Earl Nottingham/Texas Parks & Wildlife

The carcass of a cow that became mired in the mud in a dry stock tank in Knox County during the drought

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is asking for millions of dollars to cover money lost during the drought. “A ‘triple whammy’ of record heat and drought, devastating wildfires and a corresponding decline in visitation and revenue has created a critical need for Texas State Parks,” said Carter Smith, the department’s executive director, in a statement today. “So, we are reaching out for help.”

Will Parks & Wildlife seek additional funds from the state? “This is an effort to solicit donations now and get people aware,” says Mike Cox with the department. “A legislative appeal won’t begin until the next session.”

Some numbers from Parks & Wildlife:

  • The Parks & Wildlife budget is $69 million a year. Visitors make up about half of that money. “For many years, there’s been a steady upward trend, with more people visiting parks generating more revenue to operate them–until this year,” the department says.
  • The department says that during what is traditionally one of their busiest months, August, revenue went down 25 percent over the previous year. “So far this fall revenue is down11 percent,” the report says, “improving, but still not close to what park leaders say is needed.”
  • Why did visitation decline? The stifling heat in general, but also disappearing lakes and rivers, and burn bans that made s’mores and campfire stories off-limits. Three parks had major damage from wildfires and had to close for weeks — Bastrop, Davis Mountains and Possum Kingdom.
  • They’re asking for $4.6 million, which is seven percent of their overall budget. Where is the money going to come from? Parks & Wildlife is asking for donations online. Texans can also make a donation when renewing their car registration starting in 2012. Parks & Wildlife is also appealing for visitors to come to parks more. Burn bans have been lifted in much of the state recently, so campfires are back on the menu in many places.

Parks & Wildlife asks for help:


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