TPW Commission

Special Commission Meeting, March 4, 2024


TPW Commission Meetings


March 4, 2024






CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Good morning, everyone. Before we begin, I'd like to take roll. I, Chairman Jeffery Hildebrand, am present.

Vice-Chair Bell?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Abell?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Doggett?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Foster?




CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Rowling?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Scott?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. This meeting is called to order March 4, 2024, at 10:03 a.m.

Before proceeding with any business, I believe Dr. Yoskowitz has a statement to make.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agendas has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as an -- as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.


All right. Before we proceed, I'd like to announce that Commissioning Agenda Item No. 2, Exchange of Land, Cameron County, Acquisition of Approximately 477 Acres in Exchange for Approximately 43 Acres at Boca Chica State Park will be heard first on the agenda.

We will now proceed to Action Item No. 2, Exchange of Land, Cameron County, Acquisition of Approximately 477 Acres in Exchange for Approximately 43 Acres at Boca Chica State Park. Mr. Estrella --

DR. YOSKOWITZ: I have an opening statement first.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Oh, okay. Go ahead. Sorry. All right, you go first.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: All right. Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. Thank you for setting a Special Commission Meeting at staff's request to discuss this unique opportunity for the Commission to consider a request to authorize the acquisition of approximately 470 -- 477 acres at Bahia Grande near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in exchange for approximately 43 acres from Boca Chica State Park.

This Special Commission Meeting was announced on February 1st on our website. We also placed the necessary real estate transaction public notices in the Brownsville Herald, Valley Morning Star, and Corpus Christi Caller-Times between February 7th and 22nd to ensure that the public was aware of this proposed transaction.

A stand-alone meeting for this sole topic provides ample opportunity for robust and thoughtful consideration for the Commission and comments from the public to give this the -- this item the attention it deserves, while not overwhelming other critical business needs that occur at our regular Commission meetings.

As neighboring landowners, TPWD and SpaceX have worked for more than a decade on our respective missions. In 2019, SpaceX first approached the Department to discuss its potential need to expand facilities via a land exchange. Then during the fall of last year, TPWD and SpaceX again had discussions on the possibility of a land exchange. SpaceX and the Department agreed that an appropriate exchange for the 43 acres at Boca Chica would be those 477 acres known as Bahia Grande, which abuts the Lower Laguna Madre on one side, the National Wildlife Refuge on another, and the South Texas Ecotourism Center on its northwest side.

This property has been on the Department's radar for a couple of years, given the conservation and habitat value and increased public recreation it could provide and the potential that the property could be sold for a non-conservation use moving forward was very important.

A few weeks ago, I met with state and local elected officials in Cameron County where we had very open and productive discussions about the potential opportunities and a shared vision for the 477-acre Bahia Grande tracts. We recognize the questions that many stakeholders have raised regarding what the future of Bahia Grande may look like. We have in front of us though a unique and rare opportunity to bring all the pieces together, working with our partners to deliver a conservation and recreational win for the county, region, and state.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my comments.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Dr. Yoskowitz.

And as well, I'd like to thank all the Commissioners present today. I really appreciate you guys personally taking time to make the trip to Austin to come to this Special Meeting. So thank you very much for coming. Certainly appreciate it.

All right. We now get to proceed to Action Item No. 2, Exchange of Land, Cameron County, Acquisition of Approximately 477 Acres in Exchange for Approximately 43 Acres at Boca Chica State Park, Mr. Estrella.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chair, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Jason Estrella with the Land Conservation Program. Today we're going to be discussing the exchange of land, Cameron County, approximately 477 acres in exchange for approximately 43 acres at Boca Chica State Park, which is located in the southern tip of Texas.

The park was acquired by the Department in 1994 and at the time, encompassed a total of 1,027 acres. Presently, it sits at 1,354 acres. Until recently, the park was leased to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, who managed it as a unit of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. There is no current state park development.

Here we see a vicinity map of the proposed land exchange. The north part of the map noted by the blue star, is the subject property for acquisition, adjacent to the Laguna Atascosa National Refuge you can see in pink. Approximately 10 miles to the southeast noted by the red star is Boca Chica State Park, adjacent to the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge also seen in pink.

Staff request authorization to pursue acquisition of approximately 477 acres near the Laguna Atascosa Refuge in exchange for approximately 43 acres from Boca Chica State Park. SpaceX desires to expand its operational footprint around its existing facilities at Boca Chica and is currently in negotiations to acquire the 477 acres from a willing seller. It should be noted that SpaceX would assign the purchase and sale contract to the Department or transfer the property directly to TPWD at closing, pending Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval and due diligence.

The park was originally funded and acquired through a National Coastal Wetlands grant program and due to this federal nexus, exchange requires approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director. At the time of acquisition, the total cost was $430,000, 75 percent of which was federal match equaling $322,500, 25 percent was state match equaling $107,500.

This acquisition would provide increased public -- public recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, water recreation, and wildlife viewing and also allow for greater conservation of sensitive habitats for wintering and migratory birds. Additionally, this land is within the broader conservation landscape of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The Department would receive a 10-to-1 acreage ratio, which increases conservation land acreage in Cameron County.

The proposed Bahia Grande acquisition are contiguous tracts of land and are adjacent to the Laguna Madre along the north side and Laguna Larga along the south. Acquisition also leverages adjacent conservation lands within the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and Cameron County's South Texas Ecotourism Center. Valuable habitats on the property include Tamaulipan Lomas, tidal flats, salt marsh, and coastal grasslands and the property is expected to support similar plant and animal species as Boca Chica.

Here we see a site map of the proposed acquisition of Bahia Grande with the subject tracts in yellow. Along the northwest sits the South Texas Ecotourism Center. Along the long southwestern boundary is the National Wildlife Refuge, and along the southeastern boundary is land owned by the Conservation Fund. Please note the proximity of the property to the Laguna Madre along the north and Laguna Larga to the south, which will increase public -- public access to water.

A couple of weeks ago, Department staff hosted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff down in the area of Cameron County for a site visit of both properties. So here we're going to be looking at some pictures of Bahia Grande. Staff noted diversity of habitats for the property, including wide viewsheds and expansive shorelines, with topography adding to these viewsheds and impressive elevation changes overlooking the water. There was a diversity of bird species noted by staff, including American white pelicans and Oystercatchers. Also adding to the diversity are extensive coastal grasslands. Add rolling hillsides and pretty extensive mudflats as well.

Refuge staff on hand also pointed out that there was -- not far from this property -- an Aplomado falcon nesting site. One thing that a lot of staff noted while there was the very little to no human noise impact.

So turning to the disposition tracts. Here is a site map of the proposed exchange, with the subject tracts for disposition seen in green. The state park boundary of Boca Chica is outlined in red. Here is another view, subject tracts in green. Here we see a close-up of several of the tracts that are not contiguous to each other. Those are highlighted in yellow. Please note the red areas which is all private property surrounding several of these tracts, which is hindering public access.

So in this disposition transaction, the state would receive more than a tenfold return on disposed acreage. These tracts again are not contiguous and are surrounded or adjacent to development and private property and most of these tracts do not offer any public access and due to this fact, the tracts no longer serve their intended purpose. Also it should be noted that the tracts up for disposition do not provide beach access.

Here we'll see some pictures of several of the disposition tracts, which range are -- mostly small lots ranging from tenths of an acre in size up to about 5 to 7 acres. They are mostly surrounded by development and construction. Staff noted a high amount of human noise due to this construction. Several of the tracts are also surrounded by private housing.

So here we see a side-by-side comparison of a standard disposition tract -- again, in-between private housing or development -- and an acquisition tract on the right showing some pretty extensive shoreline.

In regards to Public comment from the January Commission meeting, the Department received 1,332 responses. 264 in support or approximately 20 percent and 1,068 in opposition, approximately 80 percent. As of this morning, the Department has received 989 total responses. 662 in support or approximately 67 percent and 327 in opposition, approximately 33 percent.

Letters of support include those from Senator Morgan LaMantia and Representative Jane Lopez of Cameron County; Chairman Charles Perry of the Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs; Chairman Trent Ashby of the House Committee on Culture, Recreation, and Tourism; Chairman Brian Birdwell of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development; and Comptroller Glenn Hegar; Commissioner Dawn Buckingham of the Texas General Land Office; the Texas State Parks Advisory Committee; the Honorable Scott Felton, McLennan County; and Kristina M. Collins, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and the McLennan County Spaceport Development Corporation.

Letters of opposition from NGOs include Juan B. Mancias, a Triable Chair; the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club; Another Gulf is Possible Collaborative which includes groups such as Voces Unidas, South Texas Environmental Justice Network, the Carrizo/Comercrudo Tribe of Texas, Sierra Club, the Democratic Socialists of America, Divest/Invest RGV, the Society of Native Nations, Southern Sector Rising, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Border Workers United, and ENTRE Film Center, and La Union del Pueblo Entero. We also received some additional letters from Save RGV and Friends of the Wildlife Corridor.

At this time, staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. This concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Estrella.

For all the Commissioners, after we meet -- after we hear testimony from various speakers today, we'll go into Executive Session and then you'll have chances to ask Mr. Estrella questions about the land swap thereafter. So if you'll just hold those in abeyance for a moment.

So before we start, we've got a lot of folks signed up to speak today. But I'd like to first call up to the podium the Honorable Judge Trevino and Commissioner Garza. They have particular standing in this issue and we'd like to show respect for you gentlemen. So if you'd like to come and speak, the podium's yours.

HONORABLE EDDIE TREVINO, JR.: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, esteemed members of the Commission, Director Yoskowitz. My name is Eddie Trevino, Jr. and I'm honored to serve as the Cameron County Judge. Thank you for the opportunity to address you this morning in support of Item 2 concerning the acquisition of approximately 477 acres in exchange for approximately 43 acres at Boca Chica State Park in Cameron County.

Before the upcoming March 4th Texas Parks Commission meeting, our county expressed valid concerns regarding the proposed acquisition of these properties. We were initially troubled by the lack of communication between Texas Parks and Cameron County regarding this significant proposal. However, through constructive dialogue with Director Yoskowitz and his dedicated team, it became clear that this exchange transcends a simple swap of land and it embodies our shared commitment to preserving the essence of Cameron County's culture within the rich tapestry of the State of Texas.

The 477 acres earmarked for acquisition harbor invaluable habitats, nurturing a diverse range of plant and animal species. From fragile coastal dunes to sanctuaries for endangered birds, this land is a treasure-trove of biodiversity. By endorsing this land exchange, we not only expand opportunities for outdoor recreation, but also cultivate a profound respect for the environment that sustains us.

The proximity of the 470 acres to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, the Bahia Grande Unit, and the South Texas Ecotourism Center will, of course, be mutually beneficial. The South Texas Ecotourism Center -- or STEC, as we call it back home -- stands as a beacon of education showing the intricate ecosystems of South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. Through nature trails with outdoor exhibits and interpretive panels and sculptures of native wildlife, the Center enriches the visitor's understanding of our natural heritage.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to Texas Parks and Wildlife for their unwavering partnership and generous funding for the South Texas Ecotourism Center. Over $15.3 million in grants Cameron County has received, which have significantly enhanced the quality of life for both residents and visitors of Cameron County and to that, we are eternally grateful to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Cameron County eagerly anticipates nurturing our long-standing partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife. We eagerly await the diverse recreational opportunities slated for the development of the 477 acres, including fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking, wildlife observation, family gatherings, and camping. Together through the development of an MOU, let us embrace this opportunity to safeguard our natural heritage, foster community engagement, and create enduring legacies for generations to come.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak in favor of this acquisition here this morning and thank you for your work for the State of Texas.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much, Judge Trevino.

Commissioner Garza.

COMMISSIONER DAVID GARZA: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. It's a pleasure to be here. First of all, I thank you for canceling the item at the previous meeting when I was here to speak because I think if I would have spoken then, I would have been persona non grata today. You know, my thoughts and my emotions were high and as the Judge mentioned, you know, our concern was that we had no involvement in what was going on when we had been planning as a county to acquire these properties that we see under developmental pressure that is beyond bounds exponentially growing daily along the corridor of Highway 100.

So after learning what has happened, after being informed of what has been done by the Parks and Wildlife Commission, I stand before you also in support of this acquisition. The property in question was being -- you know, trying to be acquired by the county through two different sources. One was NOAA and the other one was a Restore Act allocation that we have in Cameron County and we were looking at acquiring these pieces. We had been working and planning for years as to develop and plan and I shared that plan with all of you at the last meeting and left a booklet on your dais, you know, for you to look at as to what we had done.

But I'm not going to follow script because everything has been said already, but I do want to say that Cameron County is totally committed to partnering with you in developing this area. We look forward to providing more access to the Lower Laguna Madre. You know, Cameron County -- I've been a Commissioner for 24 years and we've been working hard to increase access, especially in areas where you have low socioeconomic folks living in them and the area that is adjacent to these acquired tracts that you're going to be owning soon have such a place, which is Laguna Heights.

We've been -- we've working hard to preserve, to restore. Working hard to create educational awareness. We've been working hard to provide more recreational opportunities. We've been working hard too at the same time, including potential economic benefits to our region and our county and most importantly for me and many areas is the community engagement that occurs from these efforts that we're doing. We're bringing people in. We're bringing school children in. We're bringing winter visitors in. We're bringing local visitors from our area into a place -- and I know that this sounds a little bit trite to some people, but as I told Director Yoskowitz and his team, the Ecotourism Center which you graciously helped us fund and create a gem in South Texas with, is a totally free to the public access opportunity. There is no charge. It's funded through a venue tax that the Judge and Commissioner's Court supported and there's no local taxpayer involvement with it, which is the beauty of that; but the quality of life improvements for our area have been tremendous and, of course, the long-term sustainability that we have because of the funding source that we use.

You know, we have opportunities to expand that footprint, which is what we want to do. We want to make sure that we partner with you in making sure that this happens not in the next 24 years because I won't probably be around then, but within -- we were part of the Bahia Grande Restoration Project. It began 24 years ago. Twenty-four years later, our friends at U.S. Fish and Wildlife have yet to approve a recreational plan that will allow a human being to step on that site and it is appalling to me as a Commissioner having worked for the last 24 years of that project that they can't figure out how to allow a walking trail, a running trail, a biking trail, or a hiking trail to be opened on that property.

So I hope that with the collaboration with you-all and us, we will make that happen and that's the challenge that I give your staff to, you know, get us in front of these folks, try to help us make those necessary partnerships with them and just open the property that belongs to the people so that they can use. So I look forward to hearing from you. I look forward to meeting with the staff. I look forward to -- we've developed a plan already for the 43 acres and we've shared it with the staff because we've been working on that for a while. So we look toward to being able to sit at the table and show you what can be done in 18 to 24 months after you acquire this property and we stand ready to allow -- we applied for our NOAA grant for that application. Found out last week from the General Land Office that if and when that is awarded, it's the only one project in the State of Texas that was submitted, so we anticipate favorable looking at, you know, that we can use a good portion of those moneys to develop the plan for those 43 acres and provide where that particular NOAA grant would do our endangered species studies, our architectural studies, and then we can help you hand over a project that would be ready go.


COMMISSIONER DAVID GARZA: Thank you so much for your time and look forward to the future, next 18 to 24 months.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Commissioner Garza. And I cannot tell you how much we appreciate the support of Cameron County in this project. We do too look forward to partnering with Cameron County because our job here is we want to make the lives of the citizens in Cameron County better and that's more access to open spaces so that they can experience the great outdoors. And so thank you very much. We appreciate your support in this process.



All right. We will now hear from those who have signed up to speak. As a reminder, if you need assistance with Spanish translation, please go to the registration table. Furthermore, you'll have three minutes to speak and I'm going to put in the queue a roughly ten people. So if you would be ready to speak, it would really promote the process and accelerate this.

I would ask as well, be respectful to the rest of the group here. Be respectful and as well, we're here to discuss the land swap issue. If other non-related topics are raised, you are going to be directed to stay on point. So please keep your comments limited to the land swap issues.

So with that, let me go ahead and get you guys queued up. First will be Mary Branch, No. 1; second will be Marisa Perales; third -- you guys just come up to the podium. So we've got Mary Branch, Marisa Perales, John Shepperd, Susan Lippman, Molly Smith, Robert Achgill, Sydney Ribera, Lianna Reynaga, and that's it for now. So if you guys...

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: You have Alex Ortiz.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I know, but he's at the end. He's at the end, so.

Okay. Mary Branch.

MS. MARY BRANCH: My name is Mary Angela Branch and I'm speaking on behalf of Save RGV, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. I ask that they be made a part of the public record.

Texas Parks and Wildlife's own words in a 1992 federal grant application to acquire over 1,000 acres of state parkland at Boca Chica from the Nature Conservancy stated: We identified 523 species consisting of 179 plants and 344 animals. These include mollusks, crabs, and shrimp, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

The Boca Chica tract is an area of immense value to wildlife and internationally recognized for shorebirds, wading birds, millions of migrating bird species from the Central Flyway migration corridor, thousands of pollinators, and a number of rare and endangered species including Kemp's ridley sea turtles. There are few habitats like this on the entire Texas coast. You cannot -- you cannot assign the ecology of Boca Chica to the 477 acres of Tamaulipan thornscrub. Shorebirds don't forage or nest in thornscrub. Please read your COO's 2021 scoping comments to FAA regarding the importance of the Boca Chica tract and your mission to protect its gene pools and sustain wildlife populations throughout this corridor.

It is still undisclosed who owns the 477 acres. Is it SpaceX? Is CEM Investment? Is it Bahia Grande Holdings? We need to know.

Cameron County, formally opposed to this swap, now supports it. It is unclear what deal was made or promised to coerce county support. In November, Texas voters approved a 1 billion appropriation for purchase, protection, and conservancy of state parks. It would appear these 477 acres can be purchased outright. What about the South Bay Coastal Preserve Management Plan? Anyone who's been out to the Boca Chica tract can see that the current development is a significant threat to South Bay.

If the Texas coastal preserves still mean anything to you at all, you must protect them, considering the stated goals of the plan are to protect unique coastal and fragile ecosystems and biological communities, explore methods of preservation of the state's natural resources, and involve all concerned parties. Will increased SpaceX industrial runoff into South Bay by granting more land expansion be a violation of this plan? Has a full environmental assessment been done on all parcels to determine if species and habitat conservation is of equal of greater value?

This must be made public prior for more informed comment. Per Policy No. LFO 301, to which you are legally bound, you most hold a minimum of two Commission meetings on this matter and one local public meeting. Proponents claim with extreme hyperbole and speculation that this 477 acres is, quote, cherished land to be, quote, developed into a remarkable habitat and, quote, enjoyed by the public for generations to come.

Well, Boca Chica has always been cherished, does not need to be developed into a remarkable habitat as it is a remarkable habitat, and has been enjoyed by families for generations already. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Mr. Perales? Ms. Perales? Not there.

John Shepperd.

MS. MARISA PERALES: Hi. Good morning. My name is Marisa Perales. I'm an environmental attorney and I'm speaking in opposition to the item on your agenda and on behalf of Save RGV and the Carrizo/Comercrudo Nation of Texas. We submitted substantive legal comments online explaining why this land swap proposal does not comply with the legal requirements that apply here and I won't be repeating those comments or arguments here. Instead I'd like to use my time to focus on the procedural process that got us here today.

For context, this land swap is not a minor thing. As you all know, almost 97 percent of Texas is -- of Texas land is privately held. So for good reason, the Commission's precedent, up until today, has reflected a high bar for conveyance of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department property interest. There aren't that many examples of the Commission approving these types of land swaps; but among the few that exist, the exchange has typically been 20- or 30-to-1 and here the proposal is only 10-to-1.

All this is to say that this isn't an insignificant decision that you'll be making today and this decision, in particular, impacts an important ecologically sensitive and culturally significant part of our state. So the process by which we got here today should reflect that, but it doesn't.

It should -- the process by which we got here today should have ensured that the residents of Texas, particularly those in the impacted area, had a real meaningful opportunity to weigh in on this important decision. Instead the process, the notice, and this public meeting seems to have been intended to impede participation by the public, especially those who would be most impacted by the decision.

For instance, the first meeting during which this land swap was purposed to be considered was preceded by inadequate notice. It didn't even comply with the legal requirements. Then this public meeting was preceded by a public notice that was mostly in English. Almost none of the substantive information regarding the public hearing was translated into Spanish, not withstanding the fact that many of the folks that would be most impacted are Spanish speakers. The comment deadline was on a Sunday, and the meeting location itself here in Austin does not encourage public participation. The land that's being considered for disposition today is about six hours away and folks are given only three minutes to offer comments, after having driven about six hours to get here. Backup materials, real meaningful backup materials were not available. Even after we filed a Public Information Act request, we couldn't get those documents.

I ask you: Why didn't you hold a meeting, at least one meeting in the area where the folks reside who will be most impacted by this decision? Why not in dual languages?

We all know that SpaceX representatives have had ample access to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. So not -- why not invite the real experts, the residents who have experienced visiting the beach and the state park who know the actual value of the property and who provide --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Ms. Perales. Appreciate it.



MR. JOHN SHEPPERD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is John Shepperd. I'm the Executive Director of the Texas Foundation for Conservation and a member of the State Parks Advisory Committee. I'm here today to speak in support of the agenda item and I'm also speaking on behalf of George Bristol, who is a founding member of the State Parks Advisory Committee, couldn't make it here today.

Hopefully you've seen the op-ed that appeared in the Houston Chronical a couple of weeks ago. It was signed by George Bristol, Andy Sansom, and former Parks and Wildlife Commissioner Nacho Garza in support of this land swap. And Pete Moore, a fellow member of the State Parks Advisory Committee and resident of Harlingen, has also asked me to pass along his comments in support and I've got those packets. I'll give them to Dr. Yoskowitz here shortly.

In a nutshell, this is a good deal for the people of Texas. It's 43 acres with negligible recreational and conservation value in exchange for 477 acres that has a very high recreation and conservation value. This is incredibly -- this 477 acres is incredibly important wildlife habitat and it's a fantastic opportunity to protect that land for future generations of Texans to enjoy. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Shepperd.

Ms. Susan Lippman.

MS. SUSAN LIPPMAN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: You can -- Ms. Lippman, could you please?

MS. SUSAN LIPPMAN: Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. Thank you for being here to take our comments today. There are dozens of issues that other people are going to talk about today. I'm going to keep my comments more personal. I take issue with the interchangeability of the value of Boca Chica beach compared to different kinds of habitats, for people as well as for animals.

My personal story begins in 1949 when I was a baby in a bassinet and my parents drove around Texas and chose Brownsville for where my father hung out a shingle. And, you know, the high point of every week was my father taking our family out to Boca Chica beach. Now and then out to Padre Island, but that's much harder to get to. It still is, even though then we had to get -- drive our car onto a ferry to get over to Padre Island. But today to go over to Padre Island, you cross the bridge, you can pass miles of skyscrapers, tourists, and with very little beach access until you get much farther up the beach.

But in those days, many, many people went and Boca Chica beach was being used back then and the families came from Brownsville and they parked and they camped and put out shade and enjoyed the waves and the water and I learned to swim. And those are the high points -- high point memories of my childhood. And already -- you know, I'm here in Austin now. I didn't have to travel six hours to talk to you, but I'm -- last I heard, SpaceX had taken over the -- a certain number of days. They were supposed to only close the beach access road a certain number of days, a small percentage of the time that Boca Chica beach used to be available to people and now I'm hearing from the people down there that most -- that they're treating it like their private road and you can't get in a great portion of the time. You can't find out when you're going to get in.

You know, if you picture the working people of Brownsville and the entire area enjoying that beach and getting the rest and restoration and family contact, you know, maybe getting together with their extended families and having that time on the beach, it means everything. And you can't -- how are you going to organize getting together with your expended family and go out there if you don't even know if it's going to be open when you drive out there?

So that's very discouraging, and I wish the state -- I wish Texas Parks and Wildlife would make a great effort to make sure that that beach access is supposed to be as open as it originally used to be.

And the 477 acres sounds wonderful. Please buy it. Just buy it and continue to protect -- expand your efforts to protect Boca Chica beach for the use of the people. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Lippman.

Ms. Molly Smith.

MS. MOLLY SMITH: I'm Molly Smith and I'd like for this to go be in the public record. I'm opposed to ceding more land of Boca Chica to SpaceX. There's no land gain for the people of Texas. The acquisition of the 477 acres was already being negotiated by representatives from the Restore Act, NOAA, and Cameron County Commissioners who saw an opportunity to expand public land acreage. If that funding had not been sufficient, Texas over -- Texans overwhelming voted last year to spend money to acquire lands for public recreation and wildlife protection.

The mission of the Texas Parks and Wildlife is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas for the use and the enjoyment of present and future generations. The mission of Texas Coastal Preserves is similar and also includes, quote, involvement of all concerned parties.

In correspondence in the '94 coastal wetland grant proposal for the acquisition of Boca Chica, the Executive Director of the Commission was enthusiastic about the preservation and public access opportunity. And in January of 2021, the Commission sent scoping comments to the FAA, a long list of concerns regarding the ever-changing project, including the impacts on endangered species, problems with increased lighting and noise, interference with migratory bird flight and nesting, and many other issues.

So when did the Commission turn away from its proud mission as the protector of our ecosystems and public access?

This giveaway surprised us as one of the concerned parties that should have been involved. Why has there been no public meeting in Cameron County?

Oversight and enforcement of permitting is lax. Will Texas Parks and Wildlife and TCEQ enforce their mandates to protect the area?

Until the current violations are addressed, there should be no shopping malls, no more housing developments, giving roads over to private entities, no discharging deluge water into the wetlands, no building of wastewater treatment facility that will discharge into the hypersaline South Bay and forever change its unique and rich productivity. I strongly disagree that the land should be given away just because the sixth "whereas" in this resolution states with a shrug the exchange tracts are no longer -- no longer serve conservation and recreational purposes for which they were acquired.

Yes, SpaceX activities have ruined much of the area and similar -- severely limited public access and those activities cannot be fenced. The more land that's given away, the further the natural boundaries are eroded. Explosion debris and runoff from unmonitored development has spread far beyond the boundaries of a corporation. This giveaway will further restrict public access to the beach and harm a greater swath of Boca Chica and the adjacent wildlife refuge land that is supposed to be protected. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

All right. Mr. Achgill, before you speak, we'd like to insert Alex Ortiz into -- he's on the telephone.

Mr. Ortiz, the podium is yours via phone. Mr. Ortiz?

MR. ALEX ORTIZ: Hello Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. Thank you so much for taking the time to hear public testimony today. I apologize that I'm giving remote testimony. I am en route to New Orleans, Louisiana, for a different engagement; but I did want to weigh in on behalf of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club against this land swap.

As most of you know, my name is Alex Ortiz. I was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley for a chunk of my childhood and I know the specialness of Boca Chica beach to the people that live there. It was one of the first places my dad took me fishing and the same is true of my little sister. I -- our opposition stems primarily from the difference in habitat, as well as the community reaction to the proposed land swap, as well as the fact that the 477 acres to 43 acres, while a large change in land, it is still a net loss. There is still a net loss of land associated with it and that habitat is distinct.

I would also be remiss not to point out what others have already started to get at, which is the change in conservation value of the 43 acres of Boca Chica State Park are almost entirely attributable to SpaceX development and so to cede 43 acres to SpaceX additional development will only cause further harm for communities and wildlife that call the Rio Grande Valley home.

I sincerely hope that the Commission can move forward in considering all factors and with awareness that there is likely to be federal processes after this; but because this is the only state opportunity to provide public comment, I must respectfully show the Sierra Club's opposition. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Ortiz.

Mr. Achgill.

MR. ROBERT ACHGILL: Yeah. I'm coming from a perspective of having worked in the -- on the NASA project back in the day when Challenger had just exploded and they were -- thousands of engineers were re-going over all the failure modes and effects analysis and I was the -- I was the mechanical engineer to pull all that data together from 18 different companies and get it online so managers could have better decision-making about safety for the astronaut, safety for the vehicle, and safety for the mission.

I looked at the amount of data that had to be brought together. If it were all on 8-and-a-half-by-11 sheets of paper, the stack was 18 feet tall. When I heard about the space tourism thing going to be morphing into something else, into something big, I went down to Boca Chica just to see --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Mr. Achgill, just I apologize. But we are talking about the land swap only. We're not talking about SpaceX and all the elements of space tourism. So --


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- if you'll keep -- keep your comments --


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- please on the land swap.

MR. ROBERT ACHGILL: Respectfully, from my background, a launch pad explosion scenario will affect everyone across the land that's in question. It will affect people beyond. The leader of SpaceX had once said that AI is a very dangerous tool.

I put in the data in the AI and the sound pressure level will be 172 decibels at 5 miles out. I don't think that Texas Parks and Wildlife is ready to be able to clear the land to make sure there are no souls on the land because the results of that kind of -- that's a thousand times louder than a rock concert. Deafness. Brain damage. Think IED under a Humvee. Everyone within 5 miles is going to be toast.

You guys don't have indemnity because you're appointed by the Governor. So when litigation comes around after a launch pad explosion, your wife is going to be saying, Where did our fortunate go?

Because it will all be on the table. You're making a big decision personally and Texas Parks and Wildlife, they can't keep alligators away from swimmers in Huntsville State Park. There is no background of public safety relative to -- what about terrorism?



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

MR. ROBERT ACHGILL: -- it's going to blow up.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Next, Ms. Sydney Ribera. And please keep order in the crowd, or you'll be asked to leave.

Ms. Ribera.

MS. SYDNEY RIBERA: Yes. Good morning. I would like to start by acknowledging that we are meeting on the homelands of the Lipan Apache, Comanche, and other indigenous nations who have stewarded these lands.

As an environmental scientist, I am urging the Commission to vote no on Agenda Item 2, since it is my professional stance that this land exchange will have a detrimental impact on the land, water, wildlife, and people of "Somi Se'k," also known as the Rio Grande Valley.

SpaceX has demonstrated that it is an irresponsible company that disregards natural spaces, legal procedures, and the sovereignty of the Carrizo/Comercrudo Tribe. In 2022, SpaceX closed Boca Chica beach for over 1,000 hours, which is twice the amount they are allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration. SpaceX further violated their license by launching an --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Ms. Ribera, I remind you once again, we are relating to land swap issues. Not SpaceX.

MS. SYDNEY RIBERA: And I'm reminding you that this will go to SpaceX and --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: We are going to cut the mic off --

MS. SYDNEY RIBERA: -- all of this secured without the consultation --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- if you don't refer to the land swap.

MS. SYDNEY RIBERA: -- of local residents. If this exchange goes through, we will receive a net loss of conservation because the proposed acquisition is a designated mitigation bank. So it will always be conserved and never developed. Therefore, you can freely pursue your vision of conservation without sacrificing more public beach to be destroyed, which is just as bio diverse and beautiful as the land acquisition, but we are no longer able to enjoy it due to SpaceX violating their license and security harassing the locals on a public road during open hours.

Many people here today, including myself, are locals who have traveled over six hours for only three minutes to declare our opposition. The Commission is required to, quote, consider clearly enunciated local preferences and I believe that we have made our preferences very clear. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Ms. Lianna Reynaga. And, Ms. Reynaga, I apologize. Could we get the next ten up? We've got Ms. -- or Mr. Basaldu', Christopher; Ms. Torres; Ms. Lopez; Dina Nunez; Jane Padron; Maria Elsner; Anaid Zapata; Paul DiFiore; Alex Alexia Leclercg; and Venisha Colon. If you guys would line up please, appreciate it.

So, Ms. Reynaga.

MS. LIANNA REYNAGA: Okay. Can you hear me?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yes, we can. Thank you.

MS. LIANNA REYNAGA: My name is Lianna Reynaga, and I am here on behalf of Texas Rising. I am here asking you to vote no on Agenda Item No. 2, the proposed acquisition of approximately 477 acres in exchange for approximately 43 acres at Boca Chica State Park. This would remove protection of the Boca Chica State Park and enable SpaceX to continue operation.

This will cause air pollution, harm the environment, limit residential access to Boca Chica beach, and continue to harm those that are already living there. SpaceX testing causing damage to our atmosphere and ecosystems. It pollutes the air with smoke, fire, a hazardous fumes from the chemicals used to launch or test. These chemicals also affect water and the earth and have detrimental consequences. Explosions also leave the debris in the ocean, the land, and let's not ignore the fact that testing creates literal fireballs.

It's not complicated to understand how this can damage wildlife. I worry about the sea turtles, the migratory birds, aquatic life that are burned to a crisp during every launch. I wonder how many mortalities go unreported because of a lack of accountability.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is the agency that is supposed to protect these animals. Why are you answering to a polluting -- why are you answering to a polluting industry like SpaceX?

It shouldn't take rocket science to understand how allowing SpaceX to expand is going to continue to harm wildlife, no matter how many acres are added to the National Wildlife Refuge. Nature does not work that way. SpaceX also regularly closes the beach during unscheduled hours when it should only occur at nighttime. This is 600 more hours than what the Federal Aviation Administration allows.

Boca Chica is a place where families have gathered for decades and for several recreational activities and has been an important part of the community. With the onset of SpaceX operations, the closures have made the beach intolerable. Spaces like the public beach are vital for the community, and we require a say in what it is used for. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

All right. Ms. Basaldu'.

DR. CHRISTOPHER BASALDU': "Etayaup'le, Mautepele'x yen." I am Dr. Christopher Basaldu'. I grew up and I live in Brownsville. I am a member of the Carrizo/Comercrudo Tribe, and I also am part of the South Texas Environmental Justice Network. Families have been gathering to enjoy Boca Chica beach for 25,000 years. Longer than Texas has existed. Longer than the United States has existed.

On the point of due diligence, this council, this Commission, you have not done your due diligence. There has been no consultation with the Carrizo/Comercrudo Tribe of Texas at all. Therefore, your proceedings are actually in violation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. That first and foremost, these proceedings should be delayed and proper consultation must happen. Consultation is not consent, and you don't have consent. You haven't even bothered to consult. Neither has SpaceX. Neither has Cameron County. All of you are in violation of human rights, in violation of the United Nations Rights -- Declaration of Rights of the Indigenous People.

As someone who grew up in Brownsville and has many fond memories of family gatherings and enjoyment in the area, we know that the beauty has already been marred. But you're saying that this 43 acres has a lot of noise and damage and it's ugly. Well, it's ugly because there has been allowed in there heavy space industry, which is unnecessary, private, and has nothing to do with adding value to either conservation wildlands or to the local community. It has been damaging local community.

Again I say to you, families have been enjoying the area and it's beauty and it's sacredness for 25,000 years, for all of human occupation in that area which is reflected in the descendants of the "Esto'k Gna," the Carrizo/Comercrudo nation. Not in Cameron County Commissioners and not in the County Judge and certainly not in a CEO like SpaceX.

You have deliberately ignored us and you are trying to silence us now, Commissioner Hildebrand. All of you should be listening to us and you're refusing to. That is also an injustice. So we are asking for environmental justice. We are asking for -- we are asking to be heard and considered, and we also encourage you to vote no against this transfer. Thank you and --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Dr. Basaldu'.

DR. CHRISTOPHER BASALDU': Dr. Basaldu'. Thank you.






All right. Ms. Estrella Torres.



MS. ESTRELLA TORRES: Estrella. Good morning. My name is Estrella Torres and I am the Regional Program Coordinator for Cameron County, for Texas Rising. I am testifying in opposition to the proposed land swap. The reason for my opposition lies in the fact that industries such as SpaceX have never viewed our region as one that is worthy of protecting its ecological diversity and the well-being of its residents.

Boca Chica is not a playground. It is not a testing site or an experiment, nor should it be treated like one. Public land should not be a bargaining chip, especially when talking about what is worthy and what isn't. Instead, we should start trying to dismantle the notion that ecological destruction has to come at the hands of advancement. An advancement for who exactly?

Not advancement for the residents whose families have spanned generations in this area, not for the wildlife deserving of protection, and not for the overall future of our county. SpaceX or any other industry is not the all-encompassing solution it claims to be and the prosperity of area can be achieved through listening to the actual needs of our citizens and listening to their needs starts with accessibility to these notices.

The Commission -- the Commission has to acknowledge that 70 percent of our residents in Cameron County speak Spanish. Therefore, materials regarding this issue should have been made available in that language. We cannot expect residents to engage meaningfully if they are left out of the conversation altogether. The same residents who have made Cameron County a place I am proud to be of and have done the actual work to make it a place where everyone can thrive, not just those seeking to exploit and profit.

I would like to see a future in which we don't have to constantly have to concede to the whims of a corporation and have to make concessions over our own natural resources. For these reasons, I hope you note no on the land swap and prioritize the interests of our residents and it's sounding environment. Your consideration on this matter is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Torres.

All right. I may not get the phonetic enunciation correct, so I apologize in advance on everyone.

Citlaly Lopez.

MS. CITLALY LOPEZ: Citlaly Lopez.


MS. CITLALY LOPEZ: So my name is Citlaly Lopez and I'm here on behalf of Texas Rising and I urge you to join me and the rest of the crew that are here with me today on voting no on Agenda No. 2, the proposed acquisition that threatens very heart of Boca Chica State Park.

Today we stand at a critical juncture where the decision we make are for reverberated through the generations to come. This proposal puts forth under the guise of progress to seek to exchange a subtle portion of our beloved parkland to the interest of the entire single entry[sic]. SpaceX expansion ambitions must not come to an expense of our environment, our health, and our community.

If you were to compare land before and after SpaceX arrived, you will see the huge difference. We used to have a beautiful green land and now that green land is gone. It's been the people recording that fishes around that area and the oceans have appeared dead. Earlier you said -- and I quote -- you want the people in Cameron County to have a better life with nature.

Will having more air pollution connect us with nature? Will degrading our fragile ecosystem connect us with nature? Will limiting our cherished access to the residents of the pristine shores of Boca Chica beach connect us more with nature?

The Boca Chica State Park is not just the land. It's a sanctuary to refuge both wildlife and the people alike. It is a testament in our -- a commitment to preserve and protect our nature heritage. Surrendering it to the interest of the industry is a betrayal in our (inaudible) responsibility. We cannot allow short-term gains to cloud our visions for the future. We must stand firm in our resolve to safeguard our environment, to safeguard the rights of our community, and to safeguard the legacy we leave for the generation yet unborn.

I implore each and every one of you to vote on your conscience, to vote on defense of Boca Chica State Park, and to vote against the Agenda for No. 2. Let us send a resounding message that will -- that the will of the people cannot overshadow by the corporate interests. You yourself said that you want what's best for people, and I hold you on that quote. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Ms. Lopez.

Ms. Dina Nunez.

MS. DINA NUNEZ: (Through interpreter) Hello. My name is Dina Nunez. I'm from South Texas. I also represent neighbors of Flores Isabel Heights. For the past six years, we've been trying to help the residents against companies coming to our area. We're asking for your vote against in -- against representation of oil companies. They don't want to take missions against the proposed, although the company SpaceX in Cameron County, super-suing the LNG Gas in the area. Those industries are contaminating the air and the water in the area.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Sir -- Ms. Nunez, please stay on point with the land swap.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Translate correctly.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: This is Commissioner -- this is Commissioner Bell. Please make sure -- I see some people in the audience nodding their head as if we don't have a proper translation. Let's try to make sure we get our translation as close as possible, as accurate as possible. Okay?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Let's keep rolling.

MS. DINA NUNEZ: (Through interpreter) This company is like SpaceX and LNG are continuing to contaminate with emissions of carbon dioxide. They are damaging our community and the lands, the air, the water, the health, the (inaudible) and the health of our communities.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Ms. Nunez. Appreciate it very much.

DR. CHRISTOPHER BASALDU': Let her finish. She needs more time because --


DR. CHRISTOPHER BASALDU': -- of the translation.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Thirty seconds. Go.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: You didn't even translate the last part.

MS. DINA NUNEZ: (Through interpreter) These companies are damaging our lands, water, and air and the health. We're fighting for the agencies that fight for our community, Carrizo/Comercrudo.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Ms. Nunez.

Ms. Jane Padron.



MS. JANE PADRON: It's Padron.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Guys, please keep it down in the audience. Last warning.

MS. JANE PADRON: Okay. Well, good morning, everyone. My name is Jane Padron, and I am also here on behalf of Texas Rising. Today I stand before you to tell you to vote no on Agenda Item No. 2, which is the acquisition of 477 acres for 43 acres of Boca Chica State Park. I say no because going through this plan would greatly harm not only my hometown of Brownsville, Texas, but will greatly affect the environment.

Boca Chica State Park is public land, a place where family and friends have gone to spend quality time. Having this agenda go through will not only take away that place of memories, but will hurt any living organism in the area. Once a launch happens, heavy smoke and harmful chemicals go up into the atmosphere and into the ground. This act alone kills our trees, harms -- kills our grass, harms our trees and the animals that are in the area. Why are we adding onto it?

With that said, when these launches take place, fire comes out at the end hitting the ground. Any living organism, including aquatic animals, are immediately burned to death. Any debris that falls from the launches does not disappear. What goes up needs to come back down. This means that we will be killing our aquatic friends by destroying their literal homes by polluting and making their water even more hazardous.

Isn't funny how we complain that there are not enough or no animals at the zoo, but where is that same energy when it comes to the animals that live in the Boca Chica State Park and Boca Chica beach?

As a citizen in the small town of Brownsville, why would we agree to this damage? This is common sense. Nature is not an -- nature is an important part of human life. Why would you want literal fire to ruin the childhood place of many of us, one of our most loved and in many ways sacred to us as a community?

This goes to the Texas Parks and Wildlife, the ones responsible for the protection of these animals. You know what your job is. Why are you not acting on it? Why are you -- what are you gaining from the deaths of these animals you are allegedly protecting from dangerous acts such as the SpaceX practice launches?

Remember that our public beach has to close during unscheduled hours during the day, when closing time should only occur at nighttime. Doesn't that go against what the Federal Aviation Administration has placed? Because of that, we are not allowed to thoroughly enjoy our public beach anymore. Take the time to process this. Let it sink in. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Ms. Padron.

Ms. Maria Elsner.

MS. MARIA DEL REFGIO ELSNER: (Through interpreter) Hello. Good morning. My name is Maria Elsner. I'm from Brownsville, Texas. I represent South Texas -- south -- south of Brownsville, Texas. I'm here to represent that I'm not in favor of the land swap. These installations have brought contamination. It's eco suicide. The loss of biodiversity is alarming. Our ecosystems are being destroyed. Our air is being contaminated more and more each day with each test and launches of these rockets. How would you feel if that fallout will fall and it's very hard for it to be removed?

That's what the rockets -- this chemical adheres to the plants and ourselves on the skin and animals and contaminates the aqua diversity. The communities living in South Texas are being affected by the land scriptures. And those practices, the -- in the land are creating -- our causing devastation and destruction for companies like SpaceX. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Ms. Elsner.

Ms. Anaid Zapata.

MS. ANAID ZAPATA: Anaid Zapata. Before I start, I think we should all take a breath. Some of y'all seem a little -- you know, a little distracted. So I'd only -- please.

Good morning. Good morning.


MS. ANAID ZAPATA: As a Cameron County resident, as a beachgoer, as a person who cares about beach conservation, I want not only my generation, but generations after mine to have access to clean, accessible beach with flourishing flora and fauna. When reading reports by the Federation Aviation Association by the environmental -- the environmental impacts of SpaceX, everything seems fine. In fact, a report done by Environmental Protection Specialist Amy Hanson, the FAA acknowledges that the construction and operation of SpaceX launching will generate greenhouse gases emissions. The report states that SpaceX construction and operation will generate an estimated 43,892 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The FFA[sic] then compares these emissions to the United States national average generating greenhouse gases and proclaims that, quote, the project's estimated GHG emissions is not likely to have any global impact or global -- on global climate change, sea level rising, or any potential impacts on climate change. Therefore, the proposed action is not expected in any result to significant climate impacts, end quote.

What this report fails to take into account is the local impact, as it talks about the climate change effects in a global scale. When looking at a FFA[sic] report, I found many fallacies presenting statistical data in a manipulated way to paint a picture that environment impacts have minimal impacts and no concern. But I am concerned. I am very concerned as there are people in South Padre Island and Port Isabel, in Brownsville, as this directly impacts our health, our environment, and our lives. We are not just numbers in a stat sheet. Your decision will not just change our lives, but the lives of the generations that come after us for the better or for the worse, depending on your vote.

I would like to mention that an interview with CEO SpaceX Elon Musk -- who does not live in Cameron County -- in 2018, he did a press conference saying -- talking about the rocket explosion, saying, quote, most likely it's going to happen at our Brownsville location because there's not a lot -- we have a lot of land with nobody around and so if it blows up, it's cool, end quote.

Ignorant to the fact that Boca Chica Village is 1.5 miles away from the launch of SpaceX and is surrounding beach and protected lands that are -- that are home to endangered species and wildlife. Ultimately it is evident that pursuing a land exchange with SpaceX will lead to Musk profits at the expense of locals and our environment. Space Exploration will continue to ruin our local environments and over --


MS. ANAID ZAPATA: -- a long period of time --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Zapata.

MS. ANAID ZAPATA: Thank you so much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Very much appreciate it.

MS. ANAID ZAPATA: Thank you so much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Mr. Paul DiFiore -- DiFiore.

MR. PAUL DIFIORE: Hey, good morning. My name is Paul DiFiore, and I'm a law student at the University of Texas. I'm an avid birder and a frequent user of the state park system. I'm here today to urge you to reject this exchange as unjust and a violation of the law. Speaking of which, we need to lock it up with the interpretation services because public participation -- including in the language of people's choice -- is a federally protected civil right under Title VII. So just to start with that. But I'm going to speak in plain English for you today.

So I will admit that trying to come up with meaningful comments on a deal for which you've release so frustratingly little public information was not easy. All we have to go on is a brief resolution stating, in so many words, that SpaceX desires this property, this public land, and the Commission is going to give it to them.

But that resolution does little more than pay lip service to the legal standard required by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code. The code, as I'm sure you-all know, sets out three criteria that must be met for these types of exchanges, all of which the Commission claims to have been met without any documentation. So first under Chapter 13, Parks and Wildlife can only make the exchange if ownership of the property is no longer in the best interest of the Department.

Not only has that been demonstrated, it actually can't be demonstrated here. A transaction that sacrifices what little buffer exists between rocket launches and endangered species habitat cannot be in the Department's best interest. A transaction that satisfies a private company's endless craving to pave, pollute, and burn public lands cannot be in the Department's best interest. And A transaction with a net conservation loss for the people of Texas cannot be in the Department's best interest.

Second, under Chapter 26, Parks and Wildlife can't complete the exchange unless there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use or taking of Boca Chica State Park.

Well, the alternative is clear. Simply do not bow to Elon Musk's wishes and protect our parkland in accordance with Texas Parks and Wildlife's mission. We are not here to further the singular profit-seeking interest of the state's already richest individual.

And third, under Chapter 26 as well, the exchange must include all reasonable planning to minimize harm to the land.

That standard obviously cannot be met here since we all know the expansion of SpaceX will mean effective destruction of the now public property. So where is the reasonable planning? Where was -- why was there no public meeting held in the local area? Even the TCEQ does a better job on that, and that's saying something.

The public needs to understand on what basis the Commission believes these criteria have been met. They are not optional. They are your only statutory authority to execute this deal.

Finally, beyond the legal deficiencies I just explained, I want to emphasize that this proposed transaction is just the latest in a pattern of public officials giving away the store to SpaceX in South Texas. It has been and continues to be a disaster for local communities, habitat for wildlife, and for our state generally. As a born and raised Texan, it is embarrassing. When Elon comes to the government looking for handouts, we have to learn to say no. You have a chance to start that today, and I'm asking you to take it. Thank you.


Ms. Alexia Leclercg -- Leclercg.

MS. ALEXIA LECLERCG: Hello. My name is Alexia and I'm the Policy Director of PODER, an environmental justice organization based in east Austin. I'm here today to stand in solidarity with the Carrizo/Comercrudo Tribe and the residents and organizers of Brownsville to ask for the protection of the sacred Boca Chica beach.

Allowing this land swap and for Elon Musk's SpaceX to take over Boca Chica beach is present day colonization and environmental racism. This land swap will continue to cause harm. SpaceX has already caused severe environmental degradation and gentrification. SpaceX has triggered multiple fires, explosions, earth shaking noise, and bolder-sized debris which threaten the ecosystem where there's multiple endangered species and even the smallest sea turtle in the world. And most importantly, SpaceX sits on a sprawling compound that is on sacred indigenous land.

This deal does not further conservation efforts. It supports corporate interests and it doesn't even meet the legal criteria for an exchange. It was not shown that this is in best interest of community, alternative sites were not explored, and they're not showing that they're minimizing harm. Furthermore, this land was already of interest to be purchased by Cameron County and this can become parkland without this deal.

So what does this deal really do? It furthers colonization. It destroys sacred land. And it is for Elon Musk, a billionaire, to make more money. We've seen that time and time again, the U.S. government, Texas government, agencies, politicians, corporations have stolen, destroyed, and extracted from mother earth. They have stolen indigenous land and ensure that communities of color do not have access to nature. Today is your chance to not repeat history. Say no to this land swap and protect Boca Chica.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Ms. Venisha Colon -- Colon.

MS. VENISHA COLON: It's Colon, by the way.


MS. VENISHA COLON: Good morning, Commissioners. My fellow Cameron County residents and I have made the long journey to oppose this land grab by SpaceX on the grounds that it would incredibly detrimental to the local environment and residents surrounding the area.

SpaceX has already showed complete disregard for the local flora and fauna, including endangered species that call Boca Chica their home by continuing to explode a total of six rockets that have led to the destruction, pollution, and incineration of the land. The explosion of these rockets, which have spread debris containing large chunks of concrete up to six and a half miles from the launch site and into the water, have led to the documented decline of shorebirds -- birds that you're supposed to protect -- up to 54 percent from 2018 to 2021 since the introduction of SpaceX to Boca Chica. The few birds who managed to survive the chaos were found struggling to nest and resorted to using debris from launches to build their nests.

This land is also not only sacred to the Carrizo/Comercrudo indigenous nation, but to the entirety of the Valley and the wildlife. Before approving any sort of land exchange, the Commission must clearly consider enunciated local preferences, which according to the initial vote considering this proposal were overwhelming opposed, citing over a thousand comments submitted in opposition. It is clear that the community does not want this land exchange to take place, and we will not be ignored.

As was mentioned by a speaker before me, CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk stated that the test flights would happen at Boca Chica because, quote, we've got a lot of land with nobody around. So if it blows up, it's cool.

You know who doesn't think it's cool? The residents of Boca Chica Village, a mere one and a half miles from the launch zone, the animals and plants that surround the launch zone, the hundreds of residents and buildings that feel each and every launch and subsequent explosion in South Padre Island and even up to 27 miles away in Brownsville will my entire home rattle and locals were left terrifies.

It is evident that the community opposes this land exchange and the approval of this would only cause negative impact to residents and wildlife. This land grab is only the beginning. It is clear that Mr. Musk continues to expand his reach in order to achieve his dream of creating a shopping district and eventually a city on this land. Musk, SpaceX, and any entity that supports this land exchange has no concern for anything or anyone that does not bring in profits.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, it is your job to ensure the safety and conservation of wildlife. If you are truly in service of them, you will not allow this land exchange to take place. Thank you.


All right. We've got our next ten up. Sabrina Gabbert; Juan Mancias, M-a-n-c-i-a-s; Eddie Espinoza; Lesly Marks[sic]; Rebekah Hinojosa; Gerardo Ruiz, I believe; Sky Lenaghan; Josetti Hinojosa; Emma Pabst; and Emma Guevara. So if you guys will be ready.

Ms. Gabbert.

MS. SABRINA GABBERT: We're gathered here today not as strangers, but as a community who made the collective sacrifice of leaving our work, education, family, and home to travel six hours to speak to you concerning the decision to cast a revote despite having an 80 percent majority vote opposing the land swap. It is questionable whether it was done to silence the people of the RGV thinking we wouldn't come 400 miles to fight for our home.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, you are an agency created to ensure the safety of wildlife and according to the Laguna Atascosa website, there's an emphasis on protecting endangered species and the management for shorebirds. Voting for this land swap violate everything you stand for because, as seen from the past, SpaceX has created a hostile environment for wildlife. 458 species of bird from 19 countries travel to migrate in Boca Chica and five endangered species reside here, including the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, which lays eggs less than a quarter mile away from the launch facility, and the Piping plover, an endangered shorebird which has decreased 54 percent between 2018 and 2021 since SpaceX set up operations for testing and launching rockets, indicating the declining of the health of the bird's habitat.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the explosion from Super Heavy caused a 3.5-acre fire south of the launch pad site on Boca Chica State Park land, which incinerated a group of Blue crabs and Bobwhite quail eggs. Impacts from the launch also left a massive crater beneath the launch pad, sending concrete chunks and stainless steel flying 6 miles from the site and into the ocean. Which is important because the FAA stated that in the event of an anomaly, the debris field of the launch would be limited to a 700-acre area equivalent to 1 mile surrounding the site.

Other damages from the explosion include a 385-acre debris field and dust rain, which covered Port Isabel homes, across the beach where endangered species reside. It was also reported that the explosion led Port Isabel's homes and businesses to experience shaking and broken windows. The FAA also stated that SpaceX deployed biologists from Raba Kistner and SWCA for avian monitoring before and after the launch. During the pre-launch survey on April 16th, a total of 67 Piping plovers were observed and two days after the launch, there were only 22 birds, marking a significant decrease. Two months after the launch, shorebirds such as the endangered Snowy plovers were seen making nests using debris from the rocket.

Aside from animals, plant life has also been affected by SpaceX. Between 2021 and 2022, there was a 57 percent decrease in total live plant coverage in mudflats and 20 percent in transitional plots. Across from SpaceX facility is a wetland where ATV tracks haphazardly followed the edge of mudflats for miles, creating damage for the birds who reside in the area. Between 2020 and 2021, when Starship prototypes exploded across Boca Chica, SpaceX had to recover the debris from the algal flats using vehicles whose tracks are still present three years later today, due to mud and algal flats taking decades to heal. The damage to the flats will only worsen if SpaceX gets what it wants with the land exchange and builds its desired second launch pad on our land, which will only continue to grow and colonize local area which I call my home.

And I would also like to add, Mr. Hildebrand, you are CEO Hilcorp Energy, the largest held oil and gas company in the U.S. --

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Thank you very much. Your three minutes is up.


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Are you Mr. Mancias?



MR. JUAN B. MANCIAS: My name's Juan Mancias. I'm the Tribal Chairman for the Carrizo/Comercrudo Tribe of Texas, and we prefer to call ourselves the "Esto'k Gna." And I just want to make sure that you understand that for us and a lot of the things that have been happening this morning are connected because a lot of these people live down there, my land is down there, we own land in that area. Right now we're neighbors right next to the Ecotourist Center there and they're trying to pass pipelines through there, through my property, both -- through two of my properties -- three of my properties. And so I'm concerned about how connected this fossil fuel industry is involved in this thing.

So again, I don't consent or give consent to any of the swapping or land sale of the land because this land is our ancestral land. These are lands that were fishing areas for my people. Villages were all along these areas and it is foretold -- well, you can also look at the area where the sotol grows and these areas are where our villages were. That sotol was used to make nettings so that we could -- so that we could fish. These were our fishing areas. Our fishing areas during the offseason. The hurricane season came in, we came in to hunt.

But one of the -- one of the things that I think that you need to continue to realize is that "out of sight out of mind" is only a plantation mentality and that you're looking at us that we don't exist. We're here. We've been here for a long time and will continue to be here and will continue to be a thorn in everybody's side until you recognize that you're making it a human rights issue.

Texas is notorious for being genocidal on all Native people, all Esto'k Gna people, the original people of the lands. So I think it's time that you recognize the fact that the genocide here has got to stop or you're just perpetuating these kinds of deals. The swapping of land and the selling of land without consent is not suitable. It's not something that we want or do we -- or we want to be able to -- to be able to say it's okay to happen and especially if these lands are going to be used for more fossil fuel industry.

And with the trade for SpaceX, who owns 43 and who owns the 477 acres? We don't know. So we haven't really been consulted on any of this and this is one reason that I just want you to know that I'm concerned about what's happening here. Once -- when every tree and every river stops run -- every tree is gone and every river stops running, you'll find out that you can't eat your money.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Mr. Eddie Espinoza.

MR. EDDIE ESPINOZA: Good morning, Commissioner. And good morning, fellow Texans. My name is Eddie Espinoza and I'm from the Rio Grande Valley and this is a bit of an oxymoron, but I'm Green party candidate for the Texas Railroad Commissioner. I am against this proposed land swap and here is why.

We are in a full-blown climate emergency and ignoring global warming and continuing to grow our economy at the expense of our Texas ecosystems is not showing ecological wisdom. If we save this area, this area will lessen the blow of more powerful tropical storms that are headed our way. Ecosystems are the foundation of life. If you damage these fragile ecosystems, you damage life. Case in point, the Permian Basin in West Texas. There's no hiding from physics and no hiding from karma. We reap what we sow.

Better to be a poor person with clean soil, land, and water than a rich one with poor quality air, water, and soil.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Mr. Espinoza, I appreciate your comments. This does not relate to the Permian Basin.

MR. EDDIE ESPINOZA: Okay. Yeah, this is going -- right here.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, please.

MR. EDDIE ESPINOZA: We want to keep Boca Chica State Park and Boca Chica beach pristine so that the ecosystem, vegetation, insects, birds, fish, and wildlife can thrive and be healthy. Stop the billions. Stop the development. Stop the asphalt parking lots. Stop the concrete. Stop the rocket launches. If it damages ecosystem, it's not economic progress. You know it. We all know it. It's common sense.

What it is, it's more money, more land, more power for a handful -- more power for a handful of corporations and individuals. Texas must end the war on mother earth and inspire other states and countries to do the same. If not Texas, then who? The Russians? The Chinese?

It's got to come from Texas. You have an opportunity to cancel this land grab and show ecological wisdom. You have an opportunity to be great. Not just good. Great. And that's what Texas needs. The question for us Texans is: Do we side with mother earth, the giver of life, or do we side with corporate growth and profit?

I've made my choice. No amount of money, oil, or gold is worth more than bees, trees, and clean air and water. Healthy ecosystems are the key to surviving our global warming challenges. We respectfully request that the Commission live up to its name and protect all parks and all wildlife.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Espinoza.

MR. EDDIE ESPINOZA: Let all Texans in support --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank, Mr. Espinoza. Next --

MR. EDDIE ESPINOZA: -- hold our Texas ecosystem --


MR. EDDIE ESPINOZA: -- with highest regards.


LESLY MORALES: All right. Hi, everybody. My name is Lesly Morales. I use they/them/their pronouns. I am a first generation graduate of Michigan State University. I was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas. I was actually the first in my family to be born in the United States, and so Boca Chica is very near and dear to my heart.

But I just wanted to call out that, Chairman, the first two people that spoke, you know, you gave them a little bit more time. You gave them, I think, two times extra than everybody else. I made a note on my watch. So I hope you give me the discretion of giving me --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: You'll have three minutes.

LESLY MORALES: -- maybe one more minute.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: You'll have three minutes, please.



LESLY MORALES: I know Mr. Yoskowitz was talking about how they were working with partners. But partners aren't the community. I know we often work with politicians, right? The politicians in Brownsville, specifically in Cameron County, are not representative of the community and that's for a variety of reasons. You have families that are intergenerational, families that are working and don't even know about politics. And so just wanting to remind that, to highlight that, that just because you take -- you speak to politicians and you speak to partners, that doesn't necessarily mean you're speaking to the community or listening to the community concerns.

I have my degree in sociology, specifically community governance and advocacy. And as I'm looking at y'all's faces, with the exception of one, just by looks I can tell a lot of you are white. You-all probably haven't gone to the Valley and if you have, maybe you haven't, you know, spoken to the people. So just wanting to highlight that as well. So just because you're speaking to people in power doesn't mean it's the people that are going to be affected by it.

Another thing is that the city was always not aware about the land swap and then they were and they felt some type of way. Well, that feeling that y'all felt is how the people in Brownsville and Cameron County are feeling. They're feeling some type of way because they're not involved in this. Somebody said already that 70 percent of our residents are Spanish speakers. Where is the equity in that? Where is the information for them to be able to know what is happening, what is going on?

And so I know you don't want us to speak about Elon Musk or SpaceX, but the truth of the matter is that this land swap will be going to SpaceX. So we have to speak on it. We don't know what they're going to be -- what they're going to use this land for and so the possibility is that they might use this land for more rocket -- you know, more rocket explosions and things like that.

So I just have real quick screenshots of November 18th. These are from Facebook. You know, people that can't be here today that are working. That's another thing. This meeting is on a Monday where people are working. A lot of people can't afford to come over here. So I just wanted to highlight that as well. So now I will go on to the screenshots. Someone said: Who -- so who else just heard and felt Elon Musk's rocket crash with the -- of course, they don't know. But this is like our population.

Someone said: Bro, I left. I thought we were having an earthquake.

Another said: Bro, my house trembled. This was in Brownsville.

Another screenshot said: I really woke up thinking the world was going to end this morning. That my dad ran out of the room saying it's the rocket from SpaceX.

Somebody else commented: Girl, me too. I was over here thinking we got nuked or something.

Another comment said: Girl, what in the earthquake.

Another Facebook post said: Thought the aliens were invading. Stupid SpaceX.

Another one said: I jumped out of bed. My whole house was shaking.

Another comment said: Absolutely no reason for it to feel like that when we don't live near it --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Thanks, Ms. Morales. We very much appreciate your comments.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And once again, speakers, please stay on point, land swap issues. Okay?



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Land swap issues. Okay?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And please, keep it down in the crowd.

Yes, ma'am.

MS. REBEKAH HINOJOSA: Hello. My name's Bekah Hinojosa. My pronouns are she/her. I live in Brownsville, Texas. I'm from the Rio Grande Valley. My organization is South Texas Environmental Justice Network. I'm here to ask you to vote no, to vote against this what we call a land grab. Factually, it is a land grab.

I'm also disgusted by the behavior of Texas Parks and Wildlife today. It's wrong that this meeting is in Austin. It should be in our community. It's unfair that we had to drive up minivans full of people from our community, people that are directly impacted in the Rio Grande Valley. This should be in our communality, this meeting.

I'm also disgusted by the bad language interpretation. Our community is bilingual. Our community is Spanish monolingual. You-all did not translate the newspaper advertisement in Spanish. You didn't even put newspaper notices in the Port Isabel-South Padre Island newspaper that serves also our community. Frankly, SpaceX is environmental racism and you-all are aiding it -- okay -- by this bad, broken process. What feels like an intentionally broken process. Okay?

The fact that you've been interrupting our people who drove six hours to make public comments is shameful. Okay? It's bad enough that we had to come all the way over here and it's rude that you-all are impact -- are disrupting our community members that are making comments. They should be allowed to speak over three minutes because they're going to be negatively impacted by SpaceX operations for their entire lives. Okay?

For all of these reasons I said, this resolution, this agenda item should be thrown out because it's environmental racism; because you have bad translation; because you put bad notices; because you didn't translate materials; because when we did public info requests, you didn't even give us all the information. It's clear you-all are acting on the side and in favor of a billionaire.

SpaceX issues are all interconnected. When we talk about our community experiencing earthquakes because of the SpaceX activity, y'all are aiding that by considering an expansion for their facility. I ask you to vote no. We will not go quietly. We will continue to speak up against the expansion of SpaceX, against the harms that we are experiencing, against the fact that you-all are paving the way for more biodiversity loss, more habitat loss in our community. This resolution is unjust. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Hinojosa.

Gerardo Ruiz, I believe.

MR. GERARDO RUIZ: Oh, I don't care if you mispronounce my name.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Sorry. My apologies.

MR. GERARDO RUIZ: Oh, no, no. It was imposed since 1492, just like slave owners did.

Mr. Bell, I'm sure you could agree.

But thank you for letting me -- my name is Gerardo Ruiz. Thank you for letting me speak on Native land currently called Austin, Texas. And I'm against the land swap on "Somi Se'k," land of the original people "Esto'k Gna" in my hometown.

My script has changed, kind of what Bekah just said, because -- wow. Are y'all going to all go out for beers later? Just wondering, that little rapport I saw between those shameful, do not represent us at all, those officials from my county. The bar is pretty low there for those people to be elected and it was just disgusting how they just lied at you and couldn't even read and do the math that the majority don't want this to happen. So obviously I'm against this land swap, this land grab. The stealing has got to stop.

I mean, you saw that. 80 percent against the land swap. You saw it on your screens. And not the minority of filthy rich people those Cameron officials work for and who you, Mr. Hilderbrand, would gladly work with. You said that in front of everybody and it's on screen. You would gladly work with those charlatans. You literally said that. You're okay with that. Incredible. I ask you to have integrity. Have honor. What kind of people --

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: I'm going to ask you to stay on point and we're going conduct ourselves --

MR. GERARDO RUIZ: We're talking about --


MR. GERARDO RUIZ: -- the land swap.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: I understand, but --

MR. GERARDO RUIZ: Do it honorably. Do it --

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: -- you've already taken --

MR. GERARDO RUIZ: -- truthfully.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: -- you've already taken -- you've already taken two personal swipes at the Commission since you started, which fine. We can handle it, but please stay on topic.

MR. GERARDO RUIZ: That is part of the topic. You made it that.

Well, I'll just keep it short. And in many ways, I and many of us are fighting for your health and the good health and life of you and your loved ones. So all I'm asking is do your jobs because we're fighting for yours, believe it or not. Fight for ours. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

All right. Ms. Sky Lenaghan.

MS. SKY LENAGHAN: Hello. I am here to speak against the project as someone concerned for wildlife and to support the "Esto'k Gna" and the surrounding community having the right to decide what happens to their land. I'm here to stand against the land acquisition and to add to a chorus of voices speaking for people who could not make it to Austin on a Monday morning or for people who were not aware the Commission is meeting at all. And nothing I'm about to say is going to be anything you haven't heard before.

Y'all named a bunch of people in support with official titles, but are these the people that live near Boca Chica and whose lives will be impacted?

The Commission is required to consider clearly enunciated local preferences before coming to a decision. How then can you make a decision when you have failed to gather local opinions?

Cameron County, where SpaceX is planning on destroying the land, is 70 percent Spanish speakers, like someone said before. And the Commission did not deliver adequate notice in Spanish, which is a failure to engage community members of the community most impacted by this disturbance. To approve Agenda Item 2 is to prioritize profits over the health, safety, and well-being of the surrounding community.

Let's not forget the 2019 test flight that started 100-acre bushfire outside of Brownsville or the rocket that exploded last year near the wildlife refuge and ash rained down onto people's neighborhoods. Please ask yourselves: How would you feel if this happened to your family? If you stepped outside your home and your children were standing under ash?

Not only are the people and the land affected, but also protected animal and plant species. To go through with this project despite community backlash is to continue land displacement on stolen land, to promote cultural erasure, and advance genocide, like Juan said when you stepped out to get a drink during his speech. Okay?

Please ask yourself if you want to be complicit in approving this land acquisition. Please think further than your own day, further than your own life. Is this the kind of future you want to build for everyone's children? A future where we prioritize profits and space exploration over plant, animal, and human life. I guarantee if you went home and explained the decision to your children, they would agree that it's more important to keep the community safe and ask the community's input before stealing more land. Say no to the land acquisition. Protect the land. Protect life. thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

Ms. Josetti Hinojosa. And after that, we're going to take a five-minute break. So you ladies that are standing, you guys can sit down for a few minutes and I'll call you back.

So, Ms. Hinojosa.

MS. JOSETTI HINOJOSA: Yes. My name is actually Josetti Hinojosa.


MS. JOSETTI HINOJOSA: So I am here with my children, my two beautiful children here and I'm here today to speak in opposition of this land exchange on behalf of my children and future generations of Brownsville. I speak on behalf of my daughter because she's disabled, and she can't speak for herself. She's an adult and I wish that she could speak on behalf of herself and be here to advocate for her community, but unfortunately that's not the case. So I'm mama bear and I'm here to speak on behalf of her, on behalf of my daughter who is terrified at the rocket launch. Scared the crap out of her. I don't think that you understand how this is impacting our community.

Anyways, let me continue before my time is up. So I urge you to oppose this land swap on behalf of my daughter Daveigh, who is part of the disability community and they are some of the most vulnerable populations, along with children, who are often overlooked and never considered in any decision-making. My daughter and her friends deserve to enjoy Boca Chica State Park and all the wonders of creation our homelands have to offer.

As it is, this -- our pristine ecosystems have already seen significant damage due to the occupation of our lands by SpaceX. According to the law, the Commission may not approved the proposed land exchange without first determining that the exchange includes all reasonable planning to minimize harm to the land resulting from the use or taking. In this case, the Commission plans to hand over our park, our parkland in order to maximize harms to the lands without repercussion, instead of minimizing harm and ensuring its protection.

The lands belong to the public. They belong to the future generations, which is my children, my nieces, my nephews. They belonged -- these lands deserve to remain in stewardship of the Carrizo-Comercrudo Tribe of Texas. SpaceX CEO continues to throw around the narrative that he's the sole person who can save humanity. There's nothing humanitarian about destroying ecosystems and public access in the name of a selfish vanity project. What it means to show humanity is to care for one another and forget one's selfish interest. Unfortunately, it seems that there has been nothing but selfish interest in this decision-making.

Humanity is about the human race and human beings collectively. We have driven six hours to collectively share our community opposition and I urge you to open your hearts and once again ask you not to forget about the most vulnerable population and vote in opposition of this land swap. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much, Ms. Hinojosa. Thank you for making the drive.

And with that, I think we're going to take a five-minute break. Do I need to gavel out?

MR. MURPHY: (Nods head affirmatively).

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Do -- yep? Okay. All right. Stand adjourned for five minutes.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. I think we're -- we are re-adjourned. Do I need to call roll for all present, James, or...

MR. MURPHY: Yes, please.


MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Chairman Hildebrand's present.

Vice-Chair Bell?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Abell?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Doggett?






CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Patton -- nope. Excuse me. Rowling?




CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, great. Okay, thanks.

All right. So we're going to start again, but one addition and our apologies on Dina Nunez. We did not allow -- she was going through our translator and I didn't give her more time.

So, Ms. Nunez, we are happy to give you more time with the translation. So I believe she's still here.

MS. SUNVISON: She is, Chairman. We're going to give her a minute with the interpreter, and then we'll bring her in.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: That's fine. So just insert her in, you know, kind of whenever and we'll take her.

Okay. So let me -- let me line you guys up. We've got ten. The next ten are Emma Pabst, Emma Guevara, Sharon Wilcox, Celine Rendon, Cyrus Reed, Craig Nazor, Teresa Almager, Valerie Menard, Pedro Hernandez, and Miranda Campos. Let's do those.

All right, Ms. Pabst.

MS. EMMA PABST: Thank you. All right. Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Emma Pabst. I am a lifelong Texan, and I'm also the field manager for the Sierra Club here in Texas. I am testifying today against the land swap trading away Boca Chica beach.

I want to start off my testimony by sharing that usually I'm a big Texas Parks and Wildlife supporter. Back in 2019, I campaigned all across the state in support of Proposition 5 to get y'all's Department more money to buy up more state parks. I also supported Proposition 14 this year. Normally, huge fan. But unfortunately the way this process has gone down and this proposed land swap, has me quite frustrated with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department today.

Your organization is supposed to be about people; about families; about enjoying time out at parks, out at the beach, and other places. Not about corporate profits, which I feel like is the undertone of everything that's been discussed this afternoon.

Now I'm not from Brownsville and I don't purport to be from Brownsville, but I do know right from wrong. And in my mind, there are two key reasons that I would like y'all to oppose this land swap. First, is that it is clearly a net loss for conservation. The area that you would receive in return for this land swap is already slated for conservation, which means that at the heart of this decision, it is a bad decision for conservation purposes. We already have both of these areas conserved, Boca Chica and the other slice of land, but y'all want to trade away Boca Chica for a piece of land that will already be conserved. Logically that does not comport with the mission of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Secondarily, it is unfair without any sort of consultation to trade away Boca Chica beach, which is a sacred site to the Carrizo/Comercrudo Tribe of Texas. As Dr. Basaldu' pointed out, that goes directly against the UN's Declaration of Indigenous Rights. Now you have no idea how the new owner of this land will treat the slice of land that you will be trading away and if the new owner Elon Musk or SpaceX, I can tell you with certainty that he will not treat that land well. Already Boca Chica beach has experienced negative implications -- debris, ash fall, et cetera -- because of the rocket launches being conducted at SpaceX. He is already damaging that ecosystem and giving more away will only allow him to damage it further.

Now those are the two reasons to oppose the land swap. I would also like to share a few other things. Spanish translation. Please do better. If you have someone translating every sentence that someone is saying, that person deserves twice the time in order to be able to get their points out. Secondarily, this meeting is happening in Austin. People had to travel six plus hours from Brownsville to get here. Please do not make this decision today. Host a community meeting in Brownsville where the people are so they have the opportunity to speak out on an issue that they care deeply about. And third, please stop telling people not to talk about SpaceX. Boca Chica beach is tied to SpaceX because of the closures --


MS. EMMA PABST: -- and that is how --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Pabst.

MS. EMMA PABST: -- people's realities --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Appreciate your comments.

MS. EMMA PABST: Thank you.


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: No. That's Ms. Nunez.


Ms. Nunez, yes. Come up. Come up to the podium.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Have your translator pronounce our names correctly.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: We'll do our best, ma'am.

MS. DINA NUNEZ: (Through interpreter) My name is Dina Nunez, Human Rights Center representative -- okay -- representative of (mistranslation) -- representative of neighbors for the well-being of the coastal life. We been resistant for six years for the care of the land.


MS. DINA NUNEZ: (Through interpreter) Environmental, water, the wildlife, of these areas. With "litigio" representing this committee. For the well-being of the health of the living and the environment.


MS. DINA NUNEZ: (Through interpreter) We're going to continue fighting to protect the lands against companies that are contaminating. We're going to continue forward to protect our communities of low income in these areas. We want to protect the work, the tourism of the island and all the work of all the people that work in Port Isabel, Laguna Heights. All this is important for us. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Ms. Nunez.

Ms. Guevara.

MS. EMMA GUEVARA: Hi there. My name is Emma Guevara. I'm a member of South Texas Environmental Justice Network and I'm also the Brownsville organizer for the Sierra Club. So Boca Chica beach is located -- or located on Boca Chica State Park, is a place in the Brownsville area that has held immense community memory and cultural value for generations upon generations. One of the last free spaces that the community can recreate on. Loss of access to it would be unimaginable.

If this land is swapped with SpaceX -- which SpaceX does not own the land that's already being swapped, so I don't understand how that swap is happening to begin with -- beach access will diminish significantly, regardless of whether or not this is Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's intention.

To reach Boca Chica beach, there's only a singular street, Highway 4, which SpaceX in tandem with Cameron County now control, already making it extremely difficult to access the beach, deterring many of our community members from even going. If this land is officially swapped with SpaceX, the access will drop to virtually none. Not to mention the encroachment on sacred Native lands, which the Carrizo/Comercrudo Tribe of Texas uses in order to perform ceremonies and have already been turned away multiple times.

Access to these sacred lands has already been significantly reduced as a result of these beach closures. Boca Chica beach is also used by some families for subsistence fishing. We are a low income community, majority minority with about 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line, with a lot of the population being just above. So additionally, the vast majority of residents in Cameron County also speak primarily Spanish, which we really need the interpretation services, translation of documents. Like, that's important to do your due diligence when it comes to anything involving our community.

Our community feels like the Commission failed to properly provide enough notice in Spanish and meaningfully engage the community that would be most impacted by the land swap. I'm speaking to you today here as just a regular person. I don't have any interest. I'm not a company. I'm not -- you know, I'm a person who lived in -- lives in Brownsville. My family lives in Brownsville. My grandparents lived in Brownsville. And Boca Chica beach is incredibly important to not only my family, but to everybody's families that came here. That's why we drove six hours to come tell you this.

Boca Chica beach is the first place that little brother went to a beach. I went there the day my sister was born. And most recently, I spread my uncle's ashes there. So loss of access to this beach just ruins and is already being ruined by this company. It ruins, you know, our community's cultural memory. So it's important to take that seriously and because of that, I ask you to please vote no and be in opposition of this land grab because we're here. We're making our statements. We're letting you know how we feel, and clearly the way that we feel is we want our beach. So please do not give them an inch because SpaceX will take a mile. Thank you.


Ms. Wilcox.

DR. SHARON WILCOX: Hello. My name is Dr. Sharon Wilcox and I speak today in the capacity of my role as Senior Texas Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. Defenders is a national nonprofit organization focused on conserving native wildlife and their habitats across the United States. Defenders represents the interests of over -- of over 150,000 members and supporters in Texas.

I would like to thank the Commission for calling this special hearing. The proposed exchange of land in Cameron County is, indeed, a complex issue. I speak in opposition to the land swap. Although I live in Austin, I have worked for 15 years in wildlife conservation in and around Laguna Atascosa and Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuges, an area that includes both parcels of land -- both parcels of land involved in this swap. I've witnessed firsthand the radical changes SpaceX's operations have brought to the unique habitats of Boca Chica and surrounding areas.

Boca Chica is home to ten federal endangered and threatened species and many more that are state listed. The reason for our concern with this proposed swap is simple. It involves two very different habitats utilized by different species. While we absolutely agree that the parcel of land proposed for the swap also has significant conservation value, this is a different biogeography. Boca Chica provides habitat for shorebirds, including the endangered Piping plover and the threatened Red Knot that use mud and algal flats to sustain themselves and to nest.

The land being proposed for swap is part of the Bahia Grande wetland system and is comprised of Tamaulipan thornscrub and coastal plains. These landscapes are not used by these endangered and threatened animals.

This proposed land swap would only be TPWD's 17th land swap in the past 25 years. This rarity means that this is a significant event and one where we must consider precedence. The proposed ratio of land is paltry compared to earlier swaps that involved double or triple the amount of land gained for the public good. We must also recognize that the parcel of land involved in this swap was targeted for conservation by Cameron County, and so this must be factored into our calculation of net benefit. We have to ask: Is wildlife being given suitable habitat? Is the public truly gaining more green space from this swap?

And finally, I would really like to urge the Commission to listen to the voices speaking today. They are speaking in unison. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Wilcox.

Ms. Rendon.

MS. CELINE RENDON: Okay hello. My name is Celine Rendon and I'm organizer here in Austin, Texas, with Community Powered ATX and a specialist in environmental and urban planning speaking in opposition to the land grab with SpaceX. We're here to stand in solidarity with the Carrizo/Comercrudo Tribe and the residents and organizers in Brownsville here today to demand the protection of the sacred Boca Chica beach.

Trading public land for already protected land only results in the net loss of conservation land for the folks of Texas. You're going against your own mission, and we and many others from the impacted area who could not make it here today are closely watching. Tech billionaires are preying upon Texas to make profit off of extracting our land and resources and influencing public officials, policies, and agendas like today at the expense of low income communities. This is modern day colonization. This has contributed to the displacement and negative species[sic] in peoples, has caused fires and explosions -- explosions that impact people's air quality and has brought major damage from the explosive earthquakes that have crack and disrupted the foundations of people's homes.

None of you or those in support of this item are impacted, but will see through that you benefit. As mentioned, public comment regarding the land swap was limited and information was not given in a timely manner or in the dominant Spanish speaking language, where most -- that most, as mentioned, speak in the area. And you continue to silence and have indifference of people's concerns up until today's public comment with the silencing and interruption during people's limited three minutes to speak.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is a direct contributor in harming communities relationship with the land and our neighboring species in the name of profit. You would be allowing SpaceX to further steal indigenous land and ensuring that communities don't have access to this resource. Stand with the land and the people that have a direct relationship with the land and each other. Do not repeat history and protect Boca Chica.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Mr. Cyrus Reed.

MR. CYRUS REED: Yes. Thank you. For the record, my name is Cyrus Reed. I'm here on behalf the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. I'm the Legislative and Conservation Director. You've already heard from a number of people from the Sierra Club. So I'll try not to repeat what was already said in the letter we sent in.

But I'll just say, y'all need to look: Is it in the public interest and is the conservation value greater?

And we think the answer is no. And the reason we think the answer is no, you've heard from some experts that this is a different type of topology. The types of endangered species that are present in Boca Chica are different than the types of species that are involved in the 477 acres that is the subject of this swap. And more importantly in your own presentation that you heard this morning, they're not even yet the owners of the land. It's a negotiation, which means you don't have to approve this swap today. In fact, as an organization that was -- along with a lot of the organizations -- worked very closely with all of you to make sure that we got a billion extra dollars for land acquisition, we think as an alternative if we think the 477 acres are valuable, go and buy it. We, the voters of Texas, have given you money to purchase valuable land. If the 477 acres is valuable -- and I think it is -- we should buy it without giving up 43 acres.

And remember the precedent you're setting. If you approve this deal, that means every industrialist, everyone who has an interest in expanding is going to look at this and say: Where can I go find some land that I can exchange to continue to pollute and hurt other land?

And so that's not a net benefit for Texans. So I'm asking you to hold the line, vote no, and absolutely let's look for that 400 -- let's work with Cameron County and other folks and get the 477 acres to expand access, but let's not do it at the expense of the folks that enjoy today Boca Chica beach. Thank you.


Mr. Craig Nazor.

DR. CRAIG NAZOR: Hello. My name is Dr. Craig Nazor, the volunteer elected at-large Conservation Chair of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. Recent research conclusively shows that access to wildlands improves the psychological welfare of people, particularly those of less financial means. Boca Chica has always been an important access point for the local community to visit the rejuvenating surf of the Gulf of Mexico. As you all know, SpaceX has already seriously damaged that connection. Why enable more of this?

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is a great park deserving of expansion. However, it has more restrictions than Boca Chica and there is an entrance fee. At the 88th Texas State Legislative Session, I testified in support of 1 billion of budget surplus to be spent expanding Texas parks to better serve Texas' rapidly growing population. I had hoped that more money for parks would avoid any need for trades like this.

As a child, my first park experience was a vacant lot down the street where I would spend hours observing grasshoppers, butterflies, centipedes, spiders, and if I were very lucky, a black rat snake. Even these small parcels of land are important to children who are the environmental champions of the future. We need children everywhere to experience nature or we will certainly lose it all and earth ecosystems with it. We are already too far down that road.

In the words of John Fire Lame Deer, a Native American of extraordinary knowledge and vision: If this earth should ever be destroyed, it will be by desire, by the lust of pleasure and self-gratification, by greed of the green frog skin -- that's money -- by people who are mindful of their own self, forgetting about the wants of others.

This trade is a bad deal for the majority of people of the Rio Grande Valley and, indeed, all Texans. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Nazor.

Ms. Teresa Almager.

MS. TERESA ALMAGER: Hello. My name is Teresa Almager and I come from PODER in San Francisco and we're here with our sister organization PODER in Austin and coming from San Francisco, we stand in solidarity with the indigenous people and the working class families of South Texas, as well as all living creatures. I have a lot of family in Texas and Boca Chica beach holds a special place in my heart and I stand against the land transfer because personally, I know that leadership of SpaceX has left a legacy of exploitation and extraction in San Francisco.

Under that leadership, the businesses have refused to pay rent. They've laid off thousands of workers. They have refused to pay bills. And so I would question the integrity of just the swap when it's with an organization that openly -- you can Google it -- is refusing to come pay -- keep their end of the deal. And so this scares me as I hear all my brothers and sisters from South Texas speaking their concerns and just it being even contemplated to make a deal with this corporation that obviously does not care about anything but their profits.

SpaceX creates a toxic environment affecting whole ecosystems, especially in working class communities of color. It is the American way about siding with the highest bidder over the health and well-being of our communities. Is this Commission going to be the first one to privatize a beach in the United States? Is that really the American way? And not just privatize it, but then create opportunities for folks to continue to have asthma, cancer, and exuberate[sic] the climate change?

I ask you to please listen to the stories of all the folks here and really think about the next seven generations. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Almager.

Ms. Valerie Menard.

MS. VALERIE MENARD: Good afternoon. I'm here -- my name is Valerie Menard, and I'm here as a representative of PODER, which is the People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources, based here in Austin. But I'm also here in solidarity as a Texan with my fellow Texans who have traveled not just six hours. Remember, it's a round-trip. It's 12 hours. It's 12 hours to be here to speak to you today. So I'm here in solidarity with them to tell you to please vote against this swap.

When I first came here, I was against it, but just basically on the experiences we've had here in Austin with Mr. Musk and his business. But we'd also heard that what has happened in Boca Chica has been devastating to the community and residents and now I've heard from them personally that, yes, that is true.

So I don't know about you, but I have been not only impressed, but moved today by the folks who've traveled so long and sacrificed so much to speak to you. And, you know, a couple of elected officials does not a county make. It's these people who are here in this room and the people who could not come and are still in the Valley.

So, again, this is not a good deal. I think it's a little disingenuous to say that you're flipping 43 acres for 477. On paper, sure, that's a good deal. But now I'm hearing that these 43 acres are invaluable. That it doesn't matter how many -- the other acres, they're valuable too. But you can't -- these are apples and oranges here, people. These 43 acres are worth much more than the number that you've presented here today.

Also I want you -- I think it was a little disingenuous to list the pros and -- the support and opposition. I think initially you had over a thousand people who opposed it, compared to 200. Then maybe it went caught up to 800/600 that were for and against. Now today just a straw poll, you've had over 30 people to three who have spoken in favor, 30 against. So you have a consensus here that this is not a good deal and the residents have spoken and please listen to them. Thank you so much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Menard.

Mr. Pedro Hernandez.

MR. PEDRO HERNANDEZ, JR.: Hello. My name is Pedro Hernandez, Jr. and I am with PODER Austin and I'm here to state my opposition to the land grab exchange. Keep it simple and direct. Please vote no on Agenda Item No. 2. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Hernandez.

Ms. Miranda Campos. And before you start, we've got our, I think, last batch here. Marian Sanchez, Susana Almanza, Madi Gutierrez, Adrian Macias, Kathryn Lueders, Samantha Acuna, and Aly Tharp. Yeah.

Ms. Campos.

MS. MIRANDA BEST CAMPOS: Good afternoon. My name is Miranda Best Campos. I'm also a representative of PODER. I can see you-all are pretty bored, disengaged, tired, whatever that may be. I encourage you to put a little smile on your face, release some dopamines and endorphins into your body so you can feel a little bit more engaged for the rest of the testimonies today.

I am against the land swap proposal for Boca Chica beach. I am originally from Utah, where national and state parks are around every corner. I grew to love these parks and appreciate the beauty of the sacred lands and my community. As a relatively new Texan, I have enjoyed exploring Texas' diverse nature as well, which is why I'm advocating for the preservation of Boca Chica.

I'm also a graduate student in social work and public affairs and given my training and education in these fields, I have become concerned about the Commission's lack of concern for the local individual at the micro level, as well as the larger family and community levels -- or community systems at the meso and macro levels in the RGV.

Following through with this land swap will further promote the erasure of culture -- of the culture and of people who have lived there for generations. It will result in further negative repercussions down the road for human community and ecosystems that exist there. The discussion of this swap focuses too much on the benefit of gaining acreage of land, but no transparency from involved stakeholders about what the negative impacts will be.

Tesla and SpaceX have already done enough to hinder Texans access to their land and have damaged the local communities and environment. We must not let this continue happening. I stand in solidarity with those who have lived experiences and expertise regarding Boca Chica and the RGV. I urge you to use your privilege and your power to vote no against this land swap, to show that you are serious about prioritizing the well-being of our people and our ecosystems over the advancement of corporation's interests. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Campos.

Ms. Marian Sanchez.

MS. MARIAN SANCHEZ: Marian Sanchez.


MS. MARIAN SANCHEZ: So I'll keep it very brief. There's quite a few people after me. So good afternoon, Commissioners. My name's Marian Sanchez. On behalf of PODER, I'd like to echo the sentiments of the speakers that precede me and ask that you sincerely listen to and meaningfully engage with the community who has come before you to oppose this proposition today.

And I'd also just like to add, I know somebody earlier mentioned the Permian Basin. I'm from the Permian Basin. I got out of there as quick as I could. I needed an escape from the wasteland that it became and just the lack of quality of life really that there is there. So I ask that you consider these things. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much, Ms. Sanchez.

Ms. Almanza.

MS. SUSANA ALMANZA: (Starts reading speech in Spanish) --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Do you want speak -- can you speak in English? Or we'll get you a translator.

MS. SUSANA ALMANZA: No. I can do it. (Reads speech in Spanish). My name is Susana Almanza. I am the organizer with PODER. We are presently living in an era of injustice. An era in which the very rich can buy public land, beaches, villages, sacred land, towns, cities, and elected officials. We must take a stand against the oppressors and their money.

The right to the people's access to our natural resources is being stripped away by Elon Musk's use of money to persuade elected officials. Elon Musk is a colonizer using his money and policy control over a dependent area of people. We must work together to protect our environment and the people. I am against the land swap. "Gracias." Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Next, Ms. Gutierrez.

MS. MADI GUTIERREZ: Hello. My name is Madi Gutierrez. I'm also here with PODER, and I'm here to oppose the land swap. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Gutierrez.

Mr. Macias?



MR. ADRIAN MACIAS: Okay, thank you. Good morning, Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Adrian Macias. I am with PODER Austin. I am the youth coordinator for the youth program under PODER, YSJ. I'm going to keep it brief. I'm just opposed with the land -- I mean, the land swapping and please vote no. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Macias.

Ms. Kathryn Lueders.



MS. KATHRYN LUEDERS: Yes. Hello. I'm Kathy Lueders and I'm the General Manager of SpaceX Starbase and I'm here to represent the over 2,000 employees that work at Starbase, along with close to 600 contractors. I'm also here to support the mission that Starbase has in front of it, to be able to support not only for our nation, but for our citizens of Texas.

Prior to joining SpaceX, I had the honor of becoming the first woman to head human space flight for NASA. In that role and as a program manager for the Cargo Resupply Missions and Commercial Crew Program, I had the thrill of seeing a ton of launches from the Florida coast. I saw the value that emerging commercial space flight opportunities provide to our country and, in particular, the surrounding areas to those launch sites.




MS. KATHRYN LUEDERS: In fact, last night I was able --

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: You're not on point.

MS. KATHRYN LUEDERS: -- to see Crew-8 fly from historic 39A. Even though that was exciting to me --


MS. KATHRYN LUEDERS: -- what is most important --


MS. KATHRYN LUEDERS: -- is that those missions --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Ladies and -- hold on.

MS. KATHRYN LUEDERS: -- are exciting --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I'm going to let you go on.

But just please be respectful to her. I've given full --

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: You weren't respectful to us.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- authority for your statements. So please give hers.



MS. KATHRYN LUEDERS: Are exciting to young minds that are watching them and they are then able to see the benefits of studying core subjects like math and science. Children become what they see and today it is not an aspiration to be a rocket scientist and work in the Rio Grande Valley. It is a reality. And one day we hope those kids that are following the launches are seeing themselves in a future spacecraft launching from Starbase.

In today's proposal to exchange real estate, I believe both sides are winners. Working in the Florida space coast, I've seen wildlife and rockets coexist. At the same time, this swap aligns property in a way that allows SpaceX to expand operations in Cameron County, further expediting our lunar mission objectives. At the same time, it further expands on a critical refuge and allows Texans to receive a coveted property which has been sought by multiple state and federal agencies for conservation efforts for over a decade.

It's important to note that the 43 acres SpaceX might receive is not beachfront property, nor is it in one piece. The acreage is scattered in small pieces over a radius of about 2 miles. I live in Starbase. I see where these pieces are. They are not -- they are not huge Texas property access to the population. Those 43 acres are not easily accessible to the public, as the partials are located behind fencing installed by the federal government years ago.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Lueders.

MS. KATHRYN LUEDERS: In contrast --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you. Thank you very much.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Just be respectful like everyone else. Thank you.

Ms. Samantha Acuna.

MS. SAMANTHA ACUNA: Hello. Good morning, Commission. I appreciate you-all's time, taking the time out of your day to hear all of us out today. I will begin by saying my name is Samantha Acuna. I was born in Brownsville. I hail from the Rio Grande Valley. That is the area I know the best and that I love the most. I've been an immigration attorney. I've practiced with various people down from the southern tip of Texas where a lot of people hail from here to up in the Austin area. I've seen a lot of people come and go and give their thoughts on what Brownsville is, what it could be, and today I'm going to focus on three key points.

No. 1, your mission here today. Your mission is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas. On paper, 43 acres for 400 plus, someone would read that and automatically think, Wow, you know what? Maybe this is something worth looking into.

But then you start reading it. Like any other lawyer would, you start reading the text and you realize, Oh, this is not what I was expecting.

Under your mission, it is really important to conserve this area. It's unlike any other area in -- I'm going be honest -- the United States. It's so unique. Everyone who visits Brownsville will say it's unlike any other place I've ever visited and I've worked with hundreds of people who have said that and who have crossed through that part of the border.

Next, the ecological and cultural impacts that this would have. You've heard many people here say today about the impacts that it has on their own families, on their loved ones, on their friends, and I'm here to say it will have the same type of impacts on me. I've also heard people say that they couldn't get into Boca Chica because of the road closure on the Highway 4 and experience a delay in either, No. 1, going to the beach; No. 2, maybe spreading ashes on behalf of someone who clearly loved that area; No. 3, even just trying to visit it and see what's going on there, what is this mystery that everyone is talking about in the Rio Grande Valley that we don't know about.

So there's many reasons people want to see, yet we don't have access and that's tying into my next point. The main point and my reason for being in opposition of this, is the lack of notice. It's absolutely deplorable the lack of notice that was bestowed upon our communality. If I'm being honest, it is in complete violation of due process and the 14th Amendment. We have -- we require notice, we require an opportunity to be heard such as this forum here today, and an impartial tribune. Yet our community who is 70 percent Spanish speaking, a lot of our the community, upwards of 30 percent, some parts upwards of 40 percent, and our children 35 to 40 percent live in poverty.

Do we really think they will have six hours out of their day to drive out to Austin, Texas, stay at a hotel, have time to speak in front of all of you here today, wait in line, and then drive another six hours back to their hometown? It's just unrealistic and it's something that we can't expect of every single person and every person who visits Boca Chica beach because nonetheless, it's not just Brownsville being affected. It's --


MS. SAMANTHA ACUNA: -- the Rio Grande Valley, a lot of people where --


MS. SAMANTHA ACUNA: -- they go and enjoy it.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Ms. Acuna, thank you very much. We appreciate your comments.

MS. SAMANTHA ACUNA: Thank you so much.


MS. SAMANTHA ACUNA: I appreciate your time. And lastly, yes, the children, they do what they see. I agree with that message. I agree children do what they see. But there's also something incredibly scary about a child waking up 6:00 in the morning --


MS. SAMANTHA ACUNA: -- mom, what is happening? It's an earthquake --


MS. SAMANTHA ACUNA: -- because of this organization.


MS. SAMANTHA ACUNA: And that's sad.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Acuna.

All right. Let's see. We've got a few more, Ms. Tharp, before you speak. Sadie Hernandez, Lia Pena, Eliza Renner.

Ms. Tharp.

MS. ALY THARP: Thank you. I am a resident of Austin, Texas. I'm visiting here today to testify in solidarity and friendship with those who have opposed. I join in that. I am moved by testimonies today. I will say I find it emotionally, spiritually, and logistically challenging to show up and testify.

I have been told by numerous people, everyone thinks you've already set up your mind before this hearing, that there's so little faith that you are actually listening. And so I would love to see any signal whatsoever that you're considering the testimony given here today because what the public thinks is that you've already made up your mind. So that's my request, that you actually deliberate based on what's been said today, primarily with regards to having another hearing in Cameron County that has sufficient notice in Spanish, sufficient translation services available for written materials, for all the background information, and for those giving testimony.

So please don't make a decision on this today. Please hold another hearing in Cameron County. Please also consider what's been said about the precedent of land swaps that Texas Parks and Wildlife has given, what the precedent would be if you approve this. Look into those legal concerns about the standard in your own code, about what's required and whether this meets it. Give a more discerning eye based upon the testimonies today. It would restore my faith in representative governance if you did that. There's so little faith. It's so hard to come up here and do this because we can't trust that you're listening. There's so little proof that you're listening. So please give us more proof that you're actually paying attention, that you actually care, that you're actually willing to consider what's being shared.

I will say I haven't been to Boca Chica beach yet, but it's on my bucket list that I wish to go, that I can see the tremendous cultural value that it holds. And I also believe it's very relevant what people are sharing about the consequences of SpaceX already on the beach. I know you also are concerned about this. The debris from rocket launches, you also are concerned about this. But to cut off people giving testimony about what SpaceX has been[sic] done, makes no sense.

It is substantively relevant who you're giving this land to. So looking at what they do with the land, what they're already doing to the land is substantively relevant to considering this land swap deal. It's not like you're -- if it were a clown school, it would be different. If it were a cultural center, it would be different. If it's heavy industry, it's different. It matters who you're giving the land to, what they're doing with it, what they're already doing to Boca Chica beach. so it's procedurally wrong to cut off people giving you testimony about the consequences of SpaceX's actions in this place. Please consider changing that in your procedures moving forward. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Tharp.

Ms. Hernandez.

MS. SADIE HERNANDEZ: Hi, everyone. My name is Sadie Hernandez, and I'm up here to say I am wholeheartedly opposed to this land swap. I am proudly born and raised in Brownsville, Texas. And as someone who's been fortunate enough to travel the nation from California to Iowa to D.C., I can say there's truly no place like home. As great as Brownsville is though, there's no denying the impact that things like this have had on our community and the rot and spoils that have come from it and allowing this and following through with the land swap would be another blow to our community.

Allowing the land swap would literally be ripping away our culture and our history. And the way that y'all have kept the locals out of consideration, makes it clear to me, as a local, that y'all are willing to dispose of people. Y'all are willing to dispose of low income, minority folks that live in a place that you don't care about. So to think about that, do y'all even know the cultural significance Boca Chica has? Have you ever been in a conversation with people from the Valley talking about I prefer South Padre, I prefer Boca Chica, what that means in connection to our history and our culture? Can you even say Boca Chica?

But I say that to say it's not just a beach. It's our beach. It's not your. It's our beach. And when I say "our beach," again, I'm not talking about y'all. So people who aren't from here and don't live here, should not be making decisions on behalf of residents who have come out in droves to tell y'all no.

But I want to end this with saying that, like, watching this as a local, as a Texas resident, as someone who works in policy, this is especially bleak considering the state doesn't gain anything from this land swap. It would not be a deal to post about if you were, like, business oriented. But clearly it seems to me that the folks who are interested in this land swap, while disregarding people here, are more interested in the validation and the fantasy of pretending they're rubbing elbows with Elon Musk over people that live in the community. So don't swap the land. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Hernandez.

Ms. Pena.

MS. LIA PENA: Hello, gentlemen and ladies. I tip my hat to you with all due respect. I forgot my ball, but I still have my chain. I would like to start out with the chaos effect. It's called the butter[sic] effect as to why I'm here. I am an activist and a speaker for the common people of the United States America as a united front. It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.

I am hoping that you see within me the light that I see within you because I still believe that you have the capacity to be human. I am asking for a miracle. Today I am asking for a miracle.

This past weekend I wrote this letter to an eight-year-old. She turned eight years old and I'm going to read it out loud to you and to all your children. There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein.

Mira, you are so beautiful and talented. I hope to see you grow up and follow your dreams. You are capable of anything you put your mind to. Love you, Lia. You are a star with an inner light that shines bright.

I will go on to read my post that I made on Tuesday: Gaia, mother earth brought me to my knees this past week. I wanted to turn away from my duty. She will bring you to yours too. Just wait for it. You will understand me some day. You can't outrun her or your fate. I was close to losing half of my family this past week in the Texas panhandle fires and experienced true hell on earth that very moment. I thought I had been to hell and back many times in my life, but this was another level, another realm of reality I would never wish even on my worst enemy. It shifted my whole perspective. It awoke within me the courage to be brave and use my words, choose my words wisely, and speak out for those I love and even for you. You might not appreciate the way I'm not only standing up for my children and my family, I am standing up for the future of yours. I will hug my children the day that disaster strikes, will die comforting them. I won't cry because I gave it my best shot. They will feel the comfort of my embrace and warmth. You will shake with regret because you allowed it to happen and you will cry. Your children will only know fear, not courage or comfort. They'll be so cold and empty not even the solar flames of the sun could warm them. My children will be brave and either live or die in peace. I speak truth to power.

And I would like to end with my hero, the song made by Woody Guthrie and if you guys want to sing with me, go ahead: This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island, from the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me and as I went walking --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Wonderful. That's great. We --

MS. LIA PENA: -- that ribbon of highway --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: We appreciate it. Great lyrics. Thank you, Ms. Pena.

MS. LIA PENA: He's legendary.


MS. LIA PENA: Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Absolutely. Thank you.

Ms. Renner, our -- I believe our last speaker. If there's anyone else in the crowd that wants to speak, they should sign -- they should sign up, so.

MS. ELIZA RENNER: Good morning, Mr. Hilderbrand, Mr. Bell, Mr. Abell, Mr. Foster. Good morning, Mr. Doggett. Good morning, Mr. Scott, Ms. Galo, Mr. Rowling. I'm last on the docket because I didn't plan to speak today. I came to enjoy McKinney Falls State Park. I'm a teacher and I blessedly have a day off, but this is more important than my pleasure in the springtime.

I come today in solidarity with the people of Brownsville and Boca Chica beach and all those who couldn't come up here today and get off work and I also come as someone from southeast Georgia, from Camden County, Georgia, where SpaceX has already been booted because we decided that our coast was worth preserving. We've got a hundred miles of coastline in Georgia and like the incredible coast of Texas, we are the home to many migrating birds and the endangered North American Right whale and even though the rocket launching sites from private rocket companies, including SpaceX, were rejected in our region, you know, those rockets were only going to be launched over private land where a few people had second homes.

These rockets are being launched over where everyone is telling us they live. Lots of people live right now. So you know your job. I love how someone phrased it earlier: Is the swap in the public interest?

This is the public. So you decide based on the almost unanimous words you've heard today. And I love the point that if you want the 477 acres, perfect, buy it. I also voted to get Texas Parks and Wildlife more money. I love to fish. I love to hunt. I love to be here in the parks. I want Texas Parks and Wildlife to keep our land protected. So it sounds like we don't need to acquire the 477 acres at the expense of the Carrizo/Comercrudo people and the land. They've made that quite clear. In fact, why even support commercial exploration of space when we have so much here that needs our protection and our care.

And we heard from someone who traveled all the way from San Francisco, how SpaceX has exploited her city. I've seen it firsthand in Camden County and in Brunswick, Georgia, how commercial space interests have exploited our people and polluted our waters. And as we heard from the SpaceX employee who spoke, children become what they see. I'm a teacher. I know children become what they see. So do we want to model exploitation, greed, unkindness, not listening, or do we want to model listening to the people and acting in the best interest of the people and the land? Thank you. Please make the right decision.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much, Ms. Renner.

All right. At this time, I'd like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act and seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act.

I'd like to inform the audience you are welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However, we will now leave to go into Executive Session and return upon adjournment. We will now recess for Executive Session at 12:45.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right. Welcome back. We will now reconvene the Commission Meeting on March 4th, 2024, at 1:33 p.m.

Before we begin, I'll take roll. Chairman Hildebrand, I'm present.

Vice-Chair Bell?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Abell?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Doggett?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Foster?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Rowling?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Scott?



Okay. We're now returning from the Executive Session where we discussed the deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act and seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act.

Action Item No. 2, Exchange of Land, Cameron County, Acquisition of Approximately 477 Acres in Exchange for Approximately 43 Acres at Boca Chica State Park. Mr. Estrella, please come up to the podium.

All right. We've heard your presentation. We've heard testimony today from various -- various individuals.

So is there any discussion by the Commission on the proposed exchange that we may have for staff?

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: This is Commissioner Rowling. Jason, just to clarify. What percentage does is the 43 acres represent of the total of Boca Chica State Park?

MR. ESTRELLA: That would be about 3 percent. 43 acres out of 1,354, so about 3 percent.


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: And, Jason, while we're on that 43 acres, I've heard various comments on challenges to access. What are some of our challenges to access?

MR. ESTRELLA: Well, most of these tracts do not connect to each other.


MR. ESTRELLA: They do not connect to beach access. There's no beach frontage of any kind. Several of them are surrounded by private property, including SpaceX facilities. From a management standpoint because they're not contiguous, they're less cohesive and so better -- easier management on a larger contiguous tract.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Okay. Thank you.


COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: I want to say I deeply appreciate the passion -- I thought I was being load enough. Deeply appreciate the passion, the love, and the history and enthusiasm for the people that came up to speak about -- clearly Boca Chica is very, very meaningful to the people down there in Brownsville and we appreciate that.

I've been told that -- didn't you just say that it's 3 percent of the Boca Chica Park is what we're talking about?

MR. ESTRELLA: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: So just to clarify, so the portion of that 3 percent that is not a vacant lot -- you know, the bigger portion -- is that accessible today to the public?

MR. ESTRELLA: There are a few of the tracts that would be accessible maybe off the road. I'd have to see the map again, off the top of my head, but most of them are not.


MR. ESTRELLA: But some of them may be next to the highway.

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: Yeah. It's currently behind SpaceX. It's not on the beach side, right?

MR. ESTRELLA: That is correct. There's no -- none of the tracts up for question today provide beach access.

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: Okay. So if this -- if this 3 percent transaction occur -- 3 percent of the Boca Chica Park transaction occurs, will it negatively affect access, use, appreciation of the 97 percent of the park that remains, in your view?

MR. ESTRELLA: No. The subject tracts, again, since they don't provide beach access, nothing -- nothing from that side would be affected with this transaction as far as that access with these tracts.


MR. ESTRELLA: There are several other parts of the park that could be accessible that are not involved in this project at this time.

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: So your opinion -- and you've studied it excessively, I think -- is that the 97 percent of the park that remains, won't be negatively affected in a measurable way. Is that -- is that true, or am off base on that?

MR. ESTRELLA: I would say that that's true.


Thank you, Chairman.


Anyone else?

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: I'll ask one. Has -- has the Department conducted land exchanges similar to this in the past?

MR. ESTRELLA: We have, yes, when it suits the mission of the Department. In 2019, one of the more recent ones, the Department received 1,280 acres in exchange for 126 acres over at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area for Port Arthur LNG to allow expansion of its facilities. That right there would have been an 10-to-1-acreage ratio as well.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: And when was that?


COMMISSIONER FOSTER: '19. So five years ago. Okay.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. Rodney, this may be a question more directed at you or, Jason, feel free to answer too. But the new acres, the 477, what do you see as the recreational and conservational values, recreational opportunities, and a potential future of the Bahia Grande property?

MR. FRANKLIN: Thank you. For the record, my name's Rodney Franklin, State Parks Director. We did recently have a team that hosted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife as part of the federal process for this consideration and they were able to look at Bahia Grande and they were really excited about the potential for outdoor access, trails, for example, hiking and biking, plenty of wildlife viewing and also some overnight opportunities, whether it be tent camping or some elevated platforms. One of the big things is going to be wildlife viewing. There are plenty of birds and wildlife to view there and that's one of our more popular activities.

And so we look forward to working -- continuing to work with Cameron County, who's had a vision for that property, so we can see that shared vision realized. But we hope to continue to work with state and local officials, our partners, and also the public for input on what else they'd like to see on that property. So we're excited about that access it will provide.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I'm not sure which one of y'all needs to answer this, but I'll ask it and y'all -- somebody jump up. So just to clarify, what is the actual return on the land that we're looking at swapping versus what we're going to receive?

MR. ESTRELLA: The acreage return is 10-to-1. So for every acre we dispose, we will receive approximately 10 acres back. So that's 43 acres disposed for 477 acres acquired by the state.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Is that pretty close to what we did on that Port Arthur LNG? If I remember, I was here when we voted on that, and I believe that was about the -- that was about the exchange rate, wasn't it?

MR. ESTRELLA: Yes, sir. Again, 1,280 -- for the Port Arthur, it was 1,280 acquired versus 126 disposed. So, yeah, 10-to-1.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So we're still being pretty consistent on that being kind of what we try to get?

MR. ESTRELLA: Yes, sir.


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Hey, Jason. Commissioner Bell. I actually have two questions. One has to do with -- and this is kind of a follow-on to Commissioner Abell's question because he was asking about the property itself.

And I think, Rodney, you were talking about the conservation value.

During the public comment, we had a lot of comments around the -- saying that this -- the land in question, the 477 acres had already had a conservation set aside or a conservation evaluation against it. Is that -- was that -- is that accurate? How do we -- I don't know who should answer that question, but -- and I don't know if I'm phrasing it right.

MR. ESTRELLA: Right. I believe what you're referring to is they refer to it as a mitigation bank. And as of right now, my team can find no evidence of a mitigation bank. I think it may be proposed as one at some point or maybe it was in the past, but available records right now don't show that.


MR. ESTRELLA: Like, official -- official records.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: And the other question, just because we're talking about land use in general, as far as SpaceX and their options, what about alternatives to this requested property? Have we looked into that at all for...

MR. MURPHY: Commissioner -- for the record, James Murphy, General Counsel. I might just field that question, if I could. The short answer is, no, SpaceX really doesn't have any options down there at Boca Chica. As you saw from the map, they're surrounded by National Wildlife Refuge lands and TPWD property. There's very little private property remaining for them to grow. There's certainly no private property around some of their facilities that they could expand into. And so, you know, they have contracts with both NASA and the federal government for space exploration and national defense and they do have a growth need and so we do think that that finding has been made here.


COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Commissioner Foster. So you mentioned Fish and Wildlife. What -- help me understand. If we were to go forward with this today, what is the process with Fish and Wildlife and kind of how does that -- how does that roll out and what does the -- kind of both timing and process.

MR. MURPHY: For sure. So this is a disposition. It's considered a disposition of federal property that has a federal nexus under that National Coastal Wetlands grant and so there is an environmental assessment process that this triggers. That means that there will be an EA or environmental assessment document prepared, as well as coordination with other aspects of the federal government. So Endangered Species Act coordination and consultation, national cultural resource consultation as well and that environmental assessment usually includes a 30-day public comment period on that document as well. So this is the kick-off step to this negotiation in the sense that there's a number of approvals that are required and one of those is the Fish and Wildlife Service process and that will take some time before that environmental assessment is completed and then all of those consultations are finished before they could then approve the disposition of the 43 acres. As you heard from Mr. Estrella, they did do a site visit. That's one of the requirements of the federal disposition process. So that's already underway.


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: And, James, about -- if that process were going on -- because totally separate from us, but how long does that take?

MR. MURPHY: Yeah. We've worked --


MR. MURPHY: We've worked dispositions on federal grants. You know, periodically there are needs to change the configuration of a TPWD property or put in some additional utilities or infrastructure. That tends to range somewhere between 6 to 18 months. Six months for kind of a very simple, small request. Probably closer to 18 months on the side of a more complicated one like this. So I think that range is, I think, pretty accurate for this disposition.

COMMISSIONER GALO: James, I have a question. What reasonable measures can be taken to minimize the impacts to the remainder of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department lands at Boca Chica from this proposed exchange?

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Commissioner. So there are a couple that I would have in mind here. The first is already in place. We have a memorandum of agreement with SpaceX related to debris removal, anomaly response, and restoration measures that come from those impacts. We negotiated this a number of years ago with SpaceX and so that provides some clear terms on how they enter the property to remove debris, the types of equipment that they can use to remove debris. Obviously, you don't want them dragging things along those mud flats. So we've looked at improved techniques to remove that material and as well as some restoration research that's underway right now to improve those mud flats from any disturbances. So I'd say that's the first one, and that's already in place.

The second is a standard part of our process when we dispose of property or otherwise. You know, say have a pipeline easement, we typically have some terms that come along with that. For example, you know, we don't want you planting invasive vegetation there on the property that we convey out because we don't want that spreading within that very fragile ecosystem in terms of the vegetation there. Another example is no discharge of, say, water pollution through our property. You know, so those types of terms that we include in our contract with the entity that we're disposing of that property to. That's a pretty standard process. That contract has -- is another necessary step in this process and so that will be negotiated, appropriate terms on that document.


COMMISSIONER FOSTER: And, Jeff, if I may. And this has already been asked and answered, but I just want to make sure. If we go forward with this, we're not giving up any beach access either in terms of beach real estate or access to the beach. Is that correct?

MR. MURPHY: That's correct. The decision around beach closures and the number of launches, for example, that SpaceX is allowed is through the FAA licensure process and FAA puts out a notice and receives public comment on that process. So ultimately that's a federal authorization that dictates the -- sort of the frequency and intensity of launch exercises.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: So there's clearly a frustration among the people there about the road closures and all that kind of stuff. But this land swap really doesn't impact that in any way; is that right?

MR. MURPHY: That's correct. Any enhanced rocket activities out there would be through a federal authorization process and certainly not something that's authorized by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

(Multiple people in audience speaking)

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: And I have -- Commissioner Bell -- one other question. Just from the perspective -- and I kind of lost my train of thought there for a second. But the -- when we talk about this, if this were approved today, that doesn't actually mean it's going to happen. What it means is we're not -- the Commission's not the impediment because there's -- because of the other processes out there, this could still be turned down.

MR. MURPHY: That's correct, Commissioner --

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: It's not a given.

MR. MURPHY: -- or Vice-Chairman Bell, I should say. That's correct. This is an authorization to delegate to our Executive Director the authority to close and complete the deal, but a couple key things need to occur before that can happen. The first is that Fish and Wildlife Service approval process that we just referenced. The second is we have to do full due diligence. You know, this triggers some authority for us to now expend funds to invest in researching this project and completing all the surveys, appraisals, and other due diligence that comes with any real estate transaction. So certainly there -- as we go through that process -- there could be deal breakers that are discovered. Certainly nothing on our radar now. But, you know, this is just a delegation of authority to the Executive Director.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any other questions?

I've got one. So, Jason or James or whomever on the staff, so it's been, I think, erroneously reported that this, the 477 acres, is slated for conservation purposes already, correct?

MR. MURPHY: (Nods head affirmatively).

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Now we just heard a statement from Mr. Estrella that it is not in a mitigation bank, correct? And it is owned by private individuals, correct?

MR. ESTRELLA: Correct.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. And the notion that this was going to be conserved was based on an applied for grant that I believe the landowners didn't even know was in existence. And so can you give us some clarity? Because my point being is through this transaction, we are guaranteeing the conservation of 477 acres, which would otherwise potentially be developed into condominiums or strip centers or whatever it may be. So some clarity on that issue, Mr. Estrella.

MR. ESTRELLA: That is correct. We would be obviously conserving it, you know, in perpetuity as part of our mission. As the county officials stated earlier, they had been working on some grant proposals in an attempt to get the property. My understanding is nothing was --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Which had not been approved, correct?

MR. ESTRELLA: Which had not been approved. Right. Nothing had been set in stone.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And those were federal grants?

MR. ESTRELLA: Some federal grants, correct. And I believe they may have had, you know, some dollars saved up that --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: They were fairly di minimis numbers too, correct?

MR. ESTRELLA: I don't have the exact numbers, but that's my understanding. Just a portion of it.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. And so, in fact, this transaction actually conserves more acreage than might otherwise happen, correct?

MR. ESTRELLA: It's possible. This -- as I stated earlier in my presentation, this acreage does increase the amount of conservation land acreage in Cameron County itself.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And once again, you would agree that it is owned by private individuals who have the right -- land ownership rights that do exist in the State of Texas -- to sell it to any party they so desire, that through the necessary permits could actually develop this acreage --

MR. ESTRELLA: Yes, sir.


MR. ESTRELLA: I believe it's possible.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And so second point is if this land swap goes through, then we will be able to use a portion of the centennial fund, the billion dollars, to start building infrastructure on the land so that the citizens of Cameron County and the State of Texas can utilize the resource available to them; is that correct.

MR. ESTRELLA: I will look to Rodney to answer that question.

MR. FRANKLIN: Yes, sir. For the record, Rodney Franklin, State Parks Director. Yes. Our understanding on the centennial fund is that it can be used to develop new park acquisitions and so this would fall in that category.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Certainly this is a new park for us.

MR. FRANKLIN: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So as the State of Texas, we should be very excited about the expansion of our park system, correct?

MR. FRANKLIN: Yes, sir.


All right. With that, any other questions?

Okay. So I'll entertain a motion for the exchange of land. Is there a motion?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So motion that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Scott, yeah, I'll make the motion.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So move. Is there a second?

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: Commissioner Doggett second.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for your participation and for the folks that drove a long ways today. We appreciate -- as Commissioner Doggett said -- your passion, your intensity. That's what makes Texas a great place, and so we just appreciate your opinion. Thank you very much.

With that, Dr. Yoskowitz, the Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned at 1:54 p.m. Thank you.

(Special Commission Meeting Adjourned)

In official recognition of the adoption of

this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this _____ day of ______________, ________.


Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Chairman


Oliver J. Bell, Vice-Chairman


James E. Abell, Member


William "Leslie" Doggett, Member


Paul Foster, Member


Anna B. Galo, Member


Robert L. "Bobby" Patton, Jr., Member


Travis B. Rowling, Member


Dick Scott, Member



I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand

Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such

were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my

hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, ________.


Paige S. Watts, CSR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: January 31, 2025

TPW Commission Meetings