Urge Governor Perry to Support the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge
Last June the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
created the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge; but the
Governor is supporting litigation challenging its creation.
Governor Perry should announce his support for creation of the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge and ask the Texas Water Development Board and the City of Dallas to end their litigation challenging creation of the Refuge.
Send a fax or an e-mail message to Texas Governor Rick Perry urging him to support the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge and to use his influence to end litigation challenging the Refuge. The fax number for the Governor’s office is 512-463-1849, and the e-mail address for the Governor is www.governor.state.tx.us/contact.
Please respond by: Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Protect the Neches River!
Protecting the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge from Attack
Last June the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service designated up to 25,000 acres on the upper Neches River as the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge, but water development interests who want to build a reservoir in that location are now suing Fish & Wildlife Service to block the federal agency from moving forward to acquire land for the Refuge. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), a state agency, and the City of Dallas filed separate lawsuits against the Fish & Wildlife Service on January 11.
The City of Dallas wants to build an unneeded reservoir, called Fastrill, on the same site as the Refuge. Fastrill would drown forever a bottomland hardwood forest of such high quality that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rates it as “Priority 1” for conservation.
Fastrill is not needed for water supply. The Region C Water Planning Group (for Dallas, Fort Worth, and North Texas) identified enough water available from existing reservoirs to meet twice the demand projected for the region as far in the future as 2060. No one is proposing to bring Fastrill on line until 2045. The regional water plan for the Dallas-Fort Worth area shows Fastrill only as a source for a reserve supply for Dallas Water Utilities above their projected demand for 2060. Moreover, the City of Dallas has an incredibly high per capita water use rate compared to that of some other major cities in Texas such as San Antonio. If Dallas ever became serious about practicing water conservation, there would be no need to consider a new reservoir to meet its water demands.
We do need the Neches River Refuge! More than 75% of the bottomland hardwood forests in Texas are already lost – 2 million acres under reservoirs, the rest converted to other uses. Hardwood bottoms provide vital habitat for the wildlife, waterfowl, and migratory songbirds. A refuge on the Neches offers hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, birding, and other outdoor recreation for Texas’ fast-growing population.
The proposed Fastrill reservoir would take many tens of thousands of acres off the tax rolls – 30,000 acres for the lake and an unknown but probably larger amount for mitigation. On the other hand, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service will compensate local counties and school districts under a revenue-sharing program for land acquired for the National Wildlife Refuge.
The Fish & Wildlife Service will not exercise the power of land condemnation to acquire land for the refuge – unlike the builders of the reservoir. The Service will purchase lands from willing sellers only. The Service will provide financial assistance to relocate those landowners who choose to sell their lands for the Refuge.
TWDB and the City of Dallas are suing the Fish & Wildlife Service claiming that the federal agency did not take required steps for public review and comment on the proposed creation of the Refuge and did not do an adequate analysis of the impacts of creating the Refuge. Environmental leaders who were actively involved in the process that led to the establishment of the Refuge strongly refute those claims.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife bent over backward to meet every provision of NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act]," says Janice Bezanson, issues coordinator for the Texas Committee on Natural Resources. "The agency even contracted for an extra socioeconomic assessment of the impacts of creating the wildlife refuge. At Dallas' request, Fish and Wildlife also did an analysis of alternatives sites for the refuge and found that none of the alternatives matched the value of the site selected. I am fully confident that the Fish & Wildlife Service assessment will withstand the strictest review by any court."
The issue for TWDB and the City of Dallas is not really about the process by which the Fish & Wildlife Service evaluated the prospective refuge, took public input, and decided to establish the Refuge. TWDB and the City of Dallas simply do not like the decision that was made. The decision to create the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge, however, serves the public interest and protects an incredibly valuable natural resource for future generations of Texans. Special water development interests should not be allowed to block creation of the Refuge in order eventually to build an unneeded reservoir for use by an area that has so far failed to demonstrate any credible effort to achieve water conservation goals already attained by other major metropolitan areas in the state.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has made public statements supportive of the litigation filed to block the National Wildlife Refuge. He needs to understand the strong public support for the Refuge. As the person who appointed all of the members of the governing board of the Texas Water Development Board, he has the ability to influence their decisions and to urge that state agency to drop the taxpayer-funded litigation against the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the Governor takes a position in support of the Refuge, that support will bolster the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to acquire the land for the Refuge and may convince the City of Dallas that they will be fighting a losing battle to block the Refuge.
Subject Title: Protect the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge
Body of Letter:
The Honorable Rick Perry
Governor of Texas
P. O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Dear Governor Perry:
Last June the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge on the upper Neches River. I strongly support the action taken by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and I urge you to support that action and to encourage the Texas Water Development Board and the City of Dallas to drop their recently announced lawsuits seeking to block land acquisition for the Refuge.
The 25,000 acres of land designated for inclusion in the
Refuge represent some of the best remaining and least disturbed
bottomland hardwood forest habitat left in Texas – habitat
which has been rated by the Fish and Wildlife Service for
over 20 years as a top priority for conservation.
will protect vital habitat for wildlife, waterfowl, and migratory
It will provide wonderful hunting and other outdoor
recreational opportunities for the public and will serve
as an economic boon to surrounding communities.
and canoeing the fastest growing nature activities in this
state, East Texas has much to gain from the new Neches River
National Wildlife Refuge.
I am aware that North Texas water interests want to build
an unneeded reservoir, known as Fastrill, on the same site
as the Refuge. Fastrill is not needed for water supply purposes,
and it would drown forever an irreplaceable bottomland hardwood
There is enough water available from existing reservoirs
to more than meet the Dallas-Fort Worth region’s water demands
projected for 2060. No one is proposing to bring Fastrill
on line until 2045. The draft regional water plan for the
Dallas-Fort Worth area shows the proposed reservoir only
as a reserve supply for Dallas Water Utilities above their
projected demand for 2060.
If the City of Dallas ever becomes
serious about pursuing water conservation and achieving per
capita water use rates such as those already attained by
cities such a San Antonio, there would be no need for the
City to consider any new water supply reservoir.
The proposed reservoir would take many tens of thousands
of acres off the tax rolls – 30,000 acres for the lake and
an unknown but probably larger amount for mitigation. Moreover,
the builders of this reservoir would take the land through
eminent domain. By contrast, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
would only buy land for the Refuge from willing sellers and
would compensate local counties and school districts under
a revenue-sharing program.
By all counts, creation of the Refuge wins out over the building
of an unnecessary reservoir – the Neches River National Wildlife
Refuge will conserve habitat and wildlife, bolster the economy
of the region, and provide a fair shake for landowners and
Please take whatever action you can to protect the new Neches River National Wildlife Refuge, including publicly announcing your support for the Refuge asking your appointees to the Texas Water Development Board to drop their litigation against U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service over creation of the Refuge.