Texas Leads Fight Against Endangered Songbird

AUSTIN (CN) – The golden-cheeked warbler, a migratory songbird whose loss of habitat landed it on the endangered species list a generation ago, has been targeted by a Texas group that’s fixin’ to sue the United States to delist the bird.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation sent an intent-to-sue letter to the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying it was acting “on behalf of” the Texas General Land Office.

The golden-cheeked warbler grows up to 5 inches long and nests only in Central Texas. Male warblers attract females by song and also sing to warn of danger.

Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the eldest son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has headed the General Land Office since 2015, claimed the year he took office that the songbird’s protections at Ford Hood affected military readiness.

Bush’s theory was debunked by an official at the military base, who told the Austin American-Statesman that it no longer operates under training restrictions because of the warbler. That official subsequently restated his position to be more in line with Bush’s.

The foundation claims in its intent-to-sue letter that the warbler’s population and habitat are greater than believed in 1990, and that it should not have been listed as endangered.

“The effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act should be measured in the successful delisting of species, not by the number of species on it,” Bush said in a March 9 statement. “The golden cheeked warbler is a success story and now that its population is up, we can remove it from the list and focus on the species needing our protection and attention.”

The Travis Audubon Society disagrees, as does the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which refused to delist the species in June 2016, citing continuing destruction of its habitat.

“No new information is presented that would suggest that the species was originally listed due to an error in information,” Fish and Wildlife said in the June 3, 2016 Federal Register.

It found that the 20 15 petition to delist the songbird lacked “substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted.”

“The golden-cheeked warbler has not recovered, and due to ongoing, widespread destruction of its habitat, the species continues to be in danger of extinction throughout its range,” Fish and Wildlife said.

The federal government placed the golden-cheeked warbler on the endangered list in 1990.

Its population is endangered because many tall juniper and oak woodlands where they nest have been cleared for residential, commercial and infrastructure development, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The 60-day intent to sue notice expires May 1.

It was filed by Robert Henneke, general counsel and director of the Center for the American Future and Texas Public Policy Foundation.