Protecting our unique South Texas environment and ensuring my constituents and visitors to Texas 34 have access to these natural resources for generations to come is vitally important to me.
In South Texas, we are fortunate to live in a region like no other with incredible beaches, refuges, national parks, rivers, and wildlife. The Laguna Madre is one of only five hypersaline lagoons in the world. Visitors from across the globe come to see the over 500 individual species of birds in the area and endangered species such as Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Preserving wildlife and making them more accessible to visitors allows for greater ecotourism opportunities.
In addition to my general support for funding of the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I also work with federal, state and local officials, as well as non-profit organizations, to provide more resources for our South Texas national parks and refuges.
During my time in office, we have helped to secure approximately $22 million to support the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and increase ecotourism. Some of the funds improve roads up to and inside the Laguna Atascosa NWR, which provide a better experience for visitors and a safer environment for wildlife, especially the endangered ocelot. We are increasing the size of the Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR and Laguna Atascosa NWR, which includes Bahia Grande, and I am working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to open more of the refuge areas to visitors. The U.S. Economic Development Agency is investing in infrastructure for the South Texas Ecotourism Center in Laguna Vista. Cameron County is leading the development of this Center which will be directly adjacent to Bahia Grande and support ecotourism and future economic development in the area.
The Palo Alto National Battlefield Historic Site is another federal park in South Texas. Not only do I support funding for the Palo Alto Battlefield and Resaca de la Palma Battlefield sections of this national park, I am also working to preserve the critical archeological remains of the original Fort Brown with legislation to add the Fort Brown Earthworks into the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site.
Our beaches at South Padre Island are critical to our lives and livelihoods in South Texas. Working with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to add sand to the beaches not only keeps them ready for beachgoers, but it also strengthens the resilience of our barrier island that protects the mainland from major storms and helps provide the endangered Kemps’ ridley sea turtles a place to lay their eggs.
As a leader in the fight against the border wall, I am an outspoken defender of our environment. Not only is a wall an ineffective way to provide border security, the damage that construction and maintenance of this barrier is devastating to the environment. I have secured legislative language to block the wall in environmentally- sensitive areas, including Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and have vehemently opposed funding for the wall.