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For Immediate Release, December 21, 2009

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Reversing Bush Political Corruption, Feds Agree to Increase Critical Habitat Protection
for 12 Texas Endangered Species

AUSTIN, Texas— In response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Citizen’s Alliance for Smart Expansion, and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, the Obama administration agreed late Friday to reconsider critical habitat designation for 12 endangered Texas invertebrates, including three species from Comal Springs and nine species from caves in Bexar County. With colorful names like the robber baron Cave harvestman, vesper cave spider, and Comal Springs riffle beetle, these 12 species are immediately threatened by excessive water withdrawal and urban sprawl.

Today’s announcement 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.

“Ignoring science was the name of the game for the Bush administration,” said Bill Bunch, attorney on the case and executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance. “We trust the Obama administration will give science its due and dramatically increase the area of protected critical habitat for these species.” 

The Center for Biological Diversity has been actively working to overturn Bush-era decisions limiting protection for endangered species, including suing to overturn decisions affecting 55 species. To date, this campaign has been highly successful, with the Obama administration agreeing to reconsider 45 of the 54 decisions, including the 12 Texas species today.

Background on the Species:

Peck’s Cave amphipod, Comal Springs dryopid beetle, and Comal Springs riffle beetle. These three Texas invertebrates occur in only four springs where they are threatened by ground water pumping in the Edwards Aquifer. After Fish and Wildlife Service scientists drafted a proposed rule that included subterranean waters in the aquifer, Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald ordered that only the small areas around the springs be designated despite the fact that threats are to the aquifer and not the springs.

Robber baron cave harvestman, vesper cave spider, Government Canyon cave spider, Madla’s cave spider, robber baron cave spider, and helotes mold beetle, Cicurina venii, Rhadine exilis, 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 in and around San Antonio. Critical habitat had been reduced for these species from between 82 to 100 percent, with a total of more than 15,000 acres removed from protection.

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