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For Immediate Release, February 18, 2011

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Rare Texas Cave Species Get Big Increase in Protected Habitat

SAN ANTONIO— In response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Citizen’s Alliance for Smart Expansion and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to designate nearly 7,000 acres as critical habitat for nine rare, cave-dwelling invertebrates in Bexar County, Texas. Today’s announcement reverses a previous Bush-era critical habitat designation of about 1,000 acres, which left out a number of places where the species live and failed to protect sufficient area around the caves.

“This nearly sevenfold increase in protected habitat gives these nine unique Texas species a chance at survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center. “With just a modest restriction on urban sprawl, these species that occur nowhere else on Earth may be saved.”

With colorful names like “robber baron cave harvestman,” “vesper cave spider” and “Comal Springs riffle beetle,” these nine species are immediately threatened by urban sprawl. Although the species have adapted to the moist, dark environs of caves, having lost sight and pigmentation, what happens at the surface near the cave entrances directly affects their chance of survival. Intact native vegetation around the cave openings is a source of nutrition, helps maintain the temperature and moisture levels of caves, and helps stop the spread of invasive species like fire ants, which threaten these species. If surrounding areas are turned into housing developments the caves will be permanently altered, and the species will disappear. 

“Most scientists believe we’re in an extinction crisis much like the one that destroyed the dinosaurs, except this time the cause is us,” said Greenwald. “Ending this crisis and saving species is about choosing to make some places off-limits to development — there is no other way.”

The groups were represented in the litigation by Bill Bunch of Save Our Springs Alliance.

The species named in today’s decision are the robber baron cave harvestman, vesper cave spider, Government Canyon cave spider, Madla’s cave spider, robber baron cave spider, helotes mold beetle, Cicurina venii, Rhadine exilis and Cokendolpher cave harvestman. These nine karst-dwelling species all occur in one or more caves of Bexar County, Texas, and are threatened by rapid urban sprawl around San Antonio.

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