I was distressed to read this morning that housing development is threatening to eat into the small area of remaining habitat for the majestic, endangered Whooping Crane on the Texas gulf coast.
From the San Antonio Express-News:
An Austin developer who insists he is doing everything possible to protect the species wants to be the first to build a subdivision in an area deemed critical habitat for the sole remaining wild flock.
The dispute centers on 100 acres of the roughly 35-mile-long swath of Texas coastline named critical habitat for the species' survival by the federal government in the 1970s. The development, if allowed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is being touted as a potential precedent setter by both sides and has caught the eye of national environmental organizations.
Those who are adamantly against the project worry that it could open the floodgates for development in the environmentally sensitive habitat. They are pressuring the corps to order a full-scale environmental impact statement on the project.
[Developer Bill] Ball is a managing partner of Seadrift Ranch Partners. The corporation bought the roughly 6,000-acre ranch near Seadrift last year. Current plans call for developing a 700-acre residential and marina subdivision on the San Antonio Bay. Roughly 100 acres of the property on the southern end of the development are in critical habitat.
[Tom] Stehn [of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] said it's too early to cast judgment on Ball's proposal, but he said he is worried about the overall impact of coastal development on the whooping crane.
"I'm afraid that development will rob the species of the opportunity to grow," he said. "This is just one. There will be others. We all knew (development) was coming, but it's just exploded."
As Stehn points out, this is just the beginning. If we are not careful, before we know it, we could lose a major chunk of habitat. If that happens, we could well lose the Whooping Crane once and for all.
For more on this impressive bird, see my December 2005 post, Whoopers put on a show.