SpaceX May Get Chunk of Boca Chica State Park From Texas Parks and Wildlife

Swapping 43 acres of public beach for 477 of wildlife refuge

Beach in Boca Chica (Photo by Vince Smith / CC BY 2.0)

Looks like Elon Musk is attempting to add some Texas beachfront property to his empire.

Next Thursday, January 25, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will consider swapping 43 acres of Boca Chica State Park in the southernmost tip of South Texas for 477 acres of land owned by SpaceX near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in the same region, reported Wednesday.

SpaceX requested the transfer to expand its launchpad, according to the TPWD agenda, but would also “create opportunities to expand public access and recreation in the region and allow TPWD to protect and manage the property’s diverse habitats, which include lomas, coastal grasslands, and wetlands.”

The Laguna Atascosa refuge was established in 1946 as a protected habitat for endangered species, wintering waterfowl, and other migratory birds. Expanding the 110,000-acre refuge by around 500 acres would allow TPWD to provide more public recreational opportunities “including hiking, camping, water recreation, and wildlife viewing, and allow for greater conservation of sensitive habitats for wintering and migratory birds,” reads the agenda backup. “Additionally, this land is within the broader conservation landscape of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.”

Despite any benefits the swap might provide TPWD, many are concerned about SpaceX owning part of a public state park, given its environmental track record. In May 2023, environmental groups and the Carrizo/Comecrudo tribe sued the Federal Aviation Administration for failing to take into account environmental impacts before allowing SpaceX to launch in April. After the launch, the rocket exploded in midair, sending harmful debris into the very sensitive habitats as far as 6.5 miles north of the launch pad – near where TPWD would be expanding, should they okay this swap.

“It is incredibly disappointing that TPWD is considering this,” Emma Guevarra, a field organizer with Sierra Club in Brownsville, told the Chronicle. “SpaceX has proven time and time again to be a bad neighbor, causing a small earthquake, burning acres of wildlife refuge land, and launching rockets that turn into fiery explosions, but seems driven to control the entire Boca Chica Beach area. This goes to show that TPWD leadership is not listening to the residents of Brownsville, members of the Tribe, or organizers who have been working on this issue for years now. We will definitely see a decline in wildlife and available greenspaces if this decision is passed.”

TPWD is taking public feedback until Jan. 24 via email to Trey Vick, TPWD project manager, at [email protected] or through the TPWD website.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

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