A Message to the Community:
From the beginning, Save Jones State Forest (SJSF) has only sought to raise awareness of SB 1964 and advocate for opportunities for community feedback to be held locally with the goal of protecting the forest. The SJSF steering committee has not, nor will we, endorse any bill, though individual members may decide to do so as individual members of the community. SJSF will work to research issues, raise concerns, and recommend changes to the bill and subsequent revisions.
On April 21st, members of the steering committee met with Sen. Creighton to discuss the bill. He presented the updated revision to the bill and we expressed several concerns regarding the new language at the meeting. SJSF did not negotiate any part of the language and made it clear that we did not endorse the revised bill. We only requested that he consider our concerns and post the final language publicly to get community feedback.
After having time to review the new language and conduct preliminary research, we would like to raise the following concerns:
To address these concerns we recommend the following:
Our community must also consider that better protections might be offered by not moving forward with any bill at this time. Texas A&M needed a bill in order to develop the forest. The forest may be better protected under the status quo. The process for SB 1964 has been rushed and now we must travel to Austin less than a week after the new language was posted; leaving little time to research and respond. A better approach might be that no bill move forward at this time and our representatives work to develop a better alternative for the next legislature.
Finally, this issue has been shrouded in secrecy. Many do not trust politicians or institutions to act in the best interest of the People. The lack of transparency has only amplified that mistrust. At our last meeting, Sen. Creighton repeatedly said that the actions of SJSF had been ahead of the process and that he always intended to fix the language, but we, the community, is where the process should start. Our representatives should have taken the lead in alerting our community and facilitating the public feedback process locally. Instead, the community has been left out of the process with much of the conversation set to occur in Austin. SJSF appreciates the step forward that the new language represents, but maybe this is the time to slow the process and begin a dialogue with the community to build trust and develop a plan to protect the forest for future generations.
This Wednesday, members of the SJSF steering committee will attend the public hearing in Austin to make personal statements regarding SB 1964. We encourage the community to attend the public hearing, if possible, and leave feedback on Sen. Creighton's Facebook post. After the public hearing, SJSF will continue to work for the protection and preservation of Jones State Forest.
The Save Jones State Forest Steering Committee