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Texas Parks and Wildlife faces still more budget cuts

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Amarillo, TX -- The great outdoors could get a bit smaller in Texas as the state legislature looks for more ways to cut costs in spite of a projected $8.8 billion dollar surplus.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is no stranger to budget cuts - since 2000, the department has seen its budget continuously pared down and 27 parks permanently closed.

This biennium, the department asked the legislature for an extra $18.9 million on top of its operating budget to maintain and improve the park system.  Instead, The Legislative Budget Board, the state's financial advisory entity, is recommending about $28 million in cuts and closing 11 more of our remaining 95 state parks, which has park officials understandably concerned.

"Parks are critical to a healthy lifestyle, to have that connection with nature," says Cory Evans, Palo Duro Canyon State Park Superintendent.  "Our state is increasingly urbanized and just the opportunity to get out and visit and be exposed to nature and the outdoors is absolutely critical."

Depending on the park, 50 to 70 percent of park revenue comes from visitor fees, so Evans says one of the most effective actions you can take is simply getting out the door and into our state parks.

Environment Texas, an advocacy group, says besides the obvious therapeutic value of our parks, such untouched and protected areas have more tangible benefits felt by all.

"Our parks provide hundreds of millions of dollars in value in cleaning up our air and protecting our water supply," contends the organization's director Luke Metzger.  "If we didn't have our parks, we'd have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on water treatment plants and other remediation projects to protect our environmental quality."

Metzger also brought up the issue of sales tax on sporting goods, which is intended to fund the park system, but the legislature doesn't always appropriate that revenue accordingly.

Bear in mind these recommendations are exactly that - recommendations meant as a guide for legislators.

If you'd like to learn more about the issue or see the recommendations for yourself, follow the links attached to this story.

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