The Center for Biological Diversity and two GEAA member groups, AGUA and Citizen’s Alliance for Smart Expansion (CASE), settled a major lawsuit to protect endangered species found only in the Edwards Aquifer and Comal Springs on Friday, December 18, 2009. The settlement with US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) represents a significant victory in the aquifer protection wars.
In response to the lawsuit, the Obama administration agreed to reconsider critical habitat designation for 12 endangered Texas invertebrates, including three species from Comal Springs and nine species from caves in Bexar County. These 12 species are immediately threatened by excessive water withdrawal and urban sprawl. This decision reverses previous critical habitats, designated by the Bush administration, that failed to include areas deemed by scientists to be essential to the survival of the 12 species.
“Consistent with their efforts to minimize protection for the nation’s endangered species, the Bush administration shortchanged these 12 Texas species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “These 12 rare and unique species need increased critical habitat protections if they are going to have any chance at survival.”
For the three Comal Springs species, the Bush administration ignored the advice of expert peer reviewers and only included the small area around the springs themselves, even though the primary threat to the species is groundwater pumping from the larger Edwards Aquifer. For the nine Bexar County cave species, the administration slashed critical habitats proposed by the agency’s own scientists by 82 to 100 percent, leaving them vulnerable to sprawl from San Antonio.
The USFWS agreed to submit new rules designating critical habitat for nine endangered species by 2012. When it originally designated critical habitat areas in 2007, the USFWS slashed scientists’ recommendations, designating only 1,060 out of 9,516 recommended acres. For three other species, FWS designated a mere 50 acres of habitat, of which only 13 acres are privately owned.
Thanks and kudos go to Center for Biological Diversity and SOS Alliance for spearheading this effort, and to GEAA member groups CASE and AGUA for signing on.
To read the Center for Biological Diversity’s full Press Release, click here.
To view the settlement text in its entirety, click here.
To read Greg Harman’s amusing editorial from the San Antonio Current, click here.