Judge rules against Texas in whooping crane case

Mar 12, 2013 | Associated Press by Christopher Sherman | TAP In The News

A federal judge found Texas officials responsible for the deaths of nearly two-dozen whooping cranes and ordered the state to develop a conservation plan that would protect the last naturally migrating flock of the endangered birds.

Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack ruled Monday in Corpus Christi that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was responsible for the deaths of 23 whooping cranes in the winter of 2008-2009, because its management of the rivers that feed San Antonio and Aransas bays caused their salinity to rise. The saltier water hurt blue crab and wolfberry supply, two of the cranes’ primary food sources, as well as the birds’ primary freshwater drinking source.

In a 124-page verdict, the judge found the TCEQ officials violated the Endangered Species Act and ordered a conservation plan that would balance the interests of water users with the need to protect the whooping cranes’ habitat.

“This is really about the future,” Jim Blackburn, lead counsel for the group that sued the state, said Tuesday. “What has happened has happened. We were not seeking penalties. Rather we were thinking changes in the future to try to prevent these takes from occurring.”

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