For Immediate Release, May 19, 2016
||Jenny Loda, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7100 ext. 336
Kelly Davis, Save Our Springs Alliance, (512) 477-2320 ext. 306
Lawsuit Launched Challenging Texas Highway Project Threatening Rare Salamanders, Birds
AUSTIN, Texas— The Center for Biological Diversity and Save Our Springs Alliance filed a notice of intent to sue the Texas Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration for approving a major highway project in Austin without adequately considering potential impacts to three federally protected species.
The construction of the MoPac Intersections Project across the environmentally sensitive Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone in southwest Austin is likely to harm federally protected Barton Springs salamanders, Austin blind salamanders and golden-cheeked warblers. The Texas Department of Transportation conducted an inadequate, cursory environmental review of the project and did not consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure the project would not jeopardize the survival of these endangered species, a violation of the Endangered Species Act, according to the notice filed by the conservation groups on Wednesday.
“Unchecked sprawl and transportation projects have already played a critical role in pushing these endangered salamanders and birds toward extinction,” said Jenny Loda, a biologist and attorney with the Center dedicated to protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. “The highway expansion called for in the MoPac Intersections Project, along with adjacent highway expansion projects, is only going to accelerate the threats that are quickly wiping out these amazingly unique species.”
Central Texas’ Edwards Aquifer region provides habitat for more than 50 species of animals and plants living nowhere else in the world. Since the Edwards Aquifer also provides much of San Antonio's water supply and about 50,000 people rely on Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer for their drinking water, their cleanliness is a critical issue for both local salamanders and people living in Texas. Despite the obvious importance of this habitat to the health of wildlife and people, Texas transportation officials continue to push ahead with a major effort to construct and expand highways over the sensitive Edwards Aquifer without adequate environmental review.
“The failure by Texas officials to consult with federal wildlife experts on this project reflects their pattern of incomplete and woefully deficient evaluations of the environmental effects of highway projects in the Barton Springs Recharge Zone,” said Kelly Davis, an attorney with Save Our Springs Alliance. “They have artificially segmented these road projects in order to find that the impacts of each individual piece will be insignificant, but even these circumscribed analyses are not supported by science, as is the case with the MoPac Intersections Project.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Save Our Springs Alliance is an environmental nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas dedicated to protecting the Edwards Aquifer, its springs and streams, and the natural and cultural heritage of the Hill Country.