There was a popular bumper sticker a few years back: “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.”
It’s valid today, as millions of Americans who want to share the pride of being a Texan are predicted to settle Coastal Texas in the coming 30 years.
The Texas Coast faces many challenges and, as the Texas song goes, “it’s time to pay the fiddler.”
We’ve reaped the fruits of the land and sea and need to understand that our yields are only as strong as the coast that secures them.
Dramatic population growth, coupled with sea-level rise, subsidence and erosion are stressing the state’s coastal region.
At risk are the livelihoods of millions of Texans, unique communities and cultures, historic coastal cities like Galveston, a world navigation hub, globally significant fish and wildlife habitat and assets critical to U.S. energy security.
Waiting until it is too late to adapt to coastal deterioration and the certainty of future storm events has enormous financial and personal costs.
The good news is Texans never shrink from a challenge and are proud stewards of their natural resources.
A recent statewide poll commissioned by the America’s Wetland Foundation revealed that 95 percent of Texas voters agree that protecting the Texas Coast should be a high priority.
Eighty-six percent of those polled said a strong Texas economy is dependent on a healthy coastal environment, and more than three-fourths are concerned about loss of coastal habitat.
Texans also worry about water as their highest priority, and all Texans seem to agree it is time to act.
The poll findings show Texans support actions to meet the scope and urgency of these challenges.
Texans are looking for leadership.
They do not want politics as usual.
Ninety-five percent of respondents feel that perceived conflicts between energy production and environmental protection have become too politically divisive and that greater cooperation is needed to address coastal sustainability.
Texas faces a rapidly eroding coast and daunting freshwater shortages.
The Gulf Coast as a whole — particularly Texas and Louisiana — are facing stronger and longer lasting storms that endanger some of the country’s most valuable infrastructure and most vulnerable communities.
Abundant hunting and fishing are threatened by eroding habitat.
Beaches and back bays for tourism and recreation are losing ground to the rising tide.
Shoring up the future is going to require a renewed spirit of cooperation — in Austin, throughout Texas, across the Gulf Coast and in Washington.
We simply cannot afford to waste time with piecemeal efforts.
A comprehensive coastal plan is needed that connects to statewide water management needs.
With its vast coast, Texas can be a strong voice.
Valsin A. Marmillion is managing director for America’s Wetland Foundation.