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Energy & Environment

Efforts to Get Golden-Cheeked Warbler Off Endangered Species List Ruffles Feathers

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Isaac Sanchez/flickr
The golden-cheeked warbler, a bird species with a large Austin population, remains on the endangered list. But now some groups are trying to have it removed.

Some conservative groups are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the golden-cheeked warbler from the list of endangered species.

But environmentalists say the species, which thrives here in Central Texas, should remain on the list because its numbers aren’t strong.

The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, northwest of Austin, is home to an endangered bird that doesn’t nest anywhere else but in Central Texas, because of the Ashe-junipers here.

According to this video from Texas Parks and Wildlife, this bird is a native Texan.

But not everyone agrees that this warbler should be on the endangered species list.

"Because the golden-cheeked warbler is not endangered — certainly not in Texas," says Rob Henneke with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. He says the population of this warbler is now 19 times what it was when it was listed as endangered in 1990. "The restrictions that would apply to the golden-cheeked warbler that also limit growth and development here in Central Texas don’t make any sense to be continued, because there’s not a need given the strength of the population of the warbler."

So groups like Texas Association of Business and the Texas Wildlife Association are petitioning the U.S. Parks and Wildlife Service to take it off the list and do away with the protections for its habitat.

Luke Metzger, however, disagrees. He directs Environment Texas, and he says the ongoing destruction of the bird’s habitat in the Hill Country keeps the golden-cheeked warbler at risk.

"The groups that are arguing for de-listing are trying to claim different counting methods in order to suggest the population is more robust than the scientists working with the Wildlife Service have found," Metzger says. He adds that the species draws many birders to this area, and even helps generate tourism money for Texas. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service has about three months to respond to the de-listing request. 

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