About the Author
Mark Richardson is a multimedia journalist, editor and writer who has worked in digital, print and broadcast media for three decades. He is a nationally recognized editor and reporter who has covered government, politics and the environment. A journalism graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, he was recently awarded a Foundation for Investigative Journalism grant and has three Associated Press Managing Editors awards for excellence in reporting.
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Industry continues battle against endangered species listings
Energy industry lobbyists and conservative political organizations are moving quickly after a lawsuit settlement in August allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move on more than 750 threatened species waiting to be named to the Endangered Species list.
Two species in the
But because of the settlement, some of the state’s most powerful oil and gas lobbyists are using their money and influence to try to gain control over the Endangered Species process in Texas, hoping to block land they plan to use for exploration from becoming the protected habitat of a lizard, a salamander or a Prairie Chicken.
Local politicians and business leaders in the county north of
More recently, Williamson County officials have complained that the naming of the two salamanders to the Endangered Species list could cost upwards of $29 million in administrative costs and loss of use of some land over 20-plus years. Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey told KEYE TV last week that such expense could have a ripple effect through the local economy, affecting schools, cities and the county’s future tax base.
In other locations around the state, the oil and gas lobby has worked to gain control over the fate of key species that it believes could interfere with energy exploration. In far West Texas ranging into southern
Heartened by that victory, the energy lobby has set its sights on the Lesser Prairie Chicken in southeast
The first test of this process will be to take money from the credits and buy potential habitat land for the Prairie Chicken, blocking the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing it as an Endangered Species. The plan isn’t foolproof and even faces some opposition from smaller energy companies that don’t have deep pockets and some Texas state officials worried about losing control of state lands.
The plan is likely to end up in the courts.
He added that the Austin Blind salamander is already in a protected habitat near the Barton Springs pool.
On August 19, the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity announced it had reached a settlement with the federal Fish and Wildlife Service on the status of 757 species whose petitions for Endangered Species status had been on hold, some for up to 20 years. The settlement bestowed Endangered Species status on many of the animals, and for the others establishes a schedule on which the Fish and Wildlife Service will make a determination on the rest of the species, with a schedule made out through 2018.
Tierra Curry with the Center said the delay in getting determinations was mostly political.
“It’s no secret that our agenda is opposed by many conservative political groups,” she said. “The problems began during the (George W.) Bush Administration. For almost a decade, they blocked all efforts to move forward with determinations of Endangered Species.”
She said things began to improve with the election of Barack Obama to the White House, but that her agency almost always faces an uphill battle to protect threatened species.
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