HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Just add water: Texas environmental agency must do more to protect whooping crane refuge ecology

Mar 30, 2010 | Houston Chronicle by Editorial | TAP In The News

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 1384

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 700

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 707

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 4 in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 700

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /nfs/c02/h05/mnt/46206/domains/thearansasproject.org/html/wp-content/plugins/lightbox-plus/classes/shd.class.php on line 707

Pulling the whooping crane back from the brink of extinction has been one of the premier environmental success stories of the last half century. During their winter stay at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge the statuesque, red-crowned birds attract thousands of admiring birders to the South Texas coast.

From the species’ nadir of 16 adults in the early 1940s, the crane flock that annually migrates between Texas and Northwest Canada rebounded to a high of 270 in 2008. Then came the searing drought of last year, and the Guadalupe River that supplies vital freshwater flow to the cranes’ Aransas nesting grounds fell precipitously. With blue crabs and other marsh food in short supply because of high salinity levels, the crane population was weakened by malnutrition. Fifty-seven birds, nearly a quarter of the flock, died in 2008-09, 23 of them in Texas.

The Aransas Project, a conservation group, is pointing an accusing legal finger at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which grants permits for commercial usage of river water.

The group filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month charging that the agency is violating the federal Endangered Species Act by allowing the diversion of too much water from the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers that flow into the crane refuge.

It seeks an injunction to stop TCEQ from approving water rights permits until a court oversees a habitat conservation plan for the cranes.

A TCEQ spokesman disputed the charge, saying the effect of lowered water flows on the crane habitat “is far from certain.”

It’s obvious that the birds and their wetlands food chain depend on fresh water to survive. It would be a tragedy if the effort to save the whooping crane flock dried up along with the life-sustaining flow of Lone Star waterways.

Read the entire article »