Image: Woodlands Township Board Chairman Gordy Bunch.
The Woodlands, April 28 – Woodlands Township Board Chairman Gordy Bunch, as an individual, has endorsed the substitute bill for Senate Bill 1964 regarding the W.G. Jones State Forest. The substitute bill provides:
…the “entire territory of the Jones State Forest must remain natural, scenic, undeveloped, and open. No statute, rule, policy, or ordinance may be enforced with respect to the territory of the Jones State Forest, other than a statute, rule, policy, or ordinance that protects and preserves the natural resources, air quality, or water quality of the Jones State Forest.”
Bunch explained to SB 1964’s author, State Senator Brandon Creighton (R-The Woodlands), that if the bill contains the foregoing language, “I am comfortable in stating my support for the committee substitute as an individual. However, I cannot endorse the committee substitute as a representation of the Township Board of Directors without full board approval.”
Senator Creighton had originally introduced a version of SB 1964, which might have allowed Texas A&M University to engage in some private commercial development of portions of the State Forest which primarily fronts F.M. 1488 and portions of State Highway 242 north of The Woodlands. Recently, Creighton has filed a substitute for his original bill which would mandate that “the Jones State Forest must remain natural, scenic, undeveloped, and open.” Creighton introduced his substitute bill during a hearing before the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.
All seven members of the Township Board spoke in favor of a resolution opposing development at any time of the Jones State Forest during their Board meeting during the evening of April 26. Board member Bruce Rieser clarified that the Board is not supporting (or opposing) Creighton’s legislation even in its substitute form. Chairman Bunch expressed his disappointment that representatives of Texas A&M University declined to participate in any public forum to discuss future plans for the Jones State Forest. Board member Ann Snyder said, “What concerned me about the process was that there wasn’t any effort [by Texas A&M] to include the public in the process at all.” The Township Board voted unanimously to oppose development at any time of the Jones State Forest.