TPWD, SpaceX Face Suit Over Potential Land Exchange

Starlink logo | Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images

A group of South Texas organizations has filed a lawsuit against the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to stop an exchange of land between the agency and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The exchange, which the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved, would give SpaceX 43 acres of Boca Chica State Park in exchange for 477 acres near Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

South Texas Environmental Justice Network, the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, and Save RGV filed a conjoined lawsuit against the department to stop the land exchange, alleging violations of multiple requirements.

A statement from the group claims that TPWD is in violation of “statutory requirements, including the requirement to consider alternatives to giving away public park land, the requirement to ensure the minimization of harm to the 43 acres of public park land, and the requirement to consider the best interests of the local community and of TPWD.”

The lawsuit further alleges that SpaceX, which began purchasing land near Boca Chica State Park in 2012, has caused damage to the area by causing an increase in stormwater runoff and the creation of additional pollution, according to The Texas Tribune.

Marisa Perales, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said in the statement that this attempted exchange was the “latest example of our state officials failing to fulfill their obligations to Texans whenever SpaceX is involved.”

“Protecting public park land and the public’s interest means saying ‘no’ to the demands of SpaceX, whose space flight activities have caused harm to public lands and wildlife habitats. Because TPWD failed to prioritize the public when it authorized conveying park land to SpaceX, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of RGV organizations,” she said.

A spokesperson for TPWD declined to comment on the pending lawsuit but noted that the land being offered to the department would provide significant benefits to the community if the exchange occurred.

“The 477 acres offered to TPWD near Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge encompass one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America, sheltering endangered species, winter fowl, and other migratory birds,” the spokesperson said, according to MySA.

“The land has been of interest to us and the conservation community for many years, and an exchange would create a tenfold return while allowing TPWD to work with partners in the region to plan for a new state park for public enjoyment with access for fishing, kayaking, wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, and family gatherings in a rapidly developing region of Texas, the spokesperson added.

Moving forward, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will provide an environmental assessment of the land being offered to TPWD. This process will include a 30-day period for public comments, as reported by Texas Public Radio.

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