June 25, 2008

Camp Bullis and critical habitat

By Camp Bullis and critical habitat

An interesting Endangered Species Act story is occurring in and around Camp Bullis, near San Antonio.  Camp Bullis is a military site, used for live-fire exercises and medic team training.  With development nearby, the problem is that construction may result in the Golden-cheeked Warbler, an endangered bird, taking up habitat in Camp Bullis, and the military may have to set aside land for the Warbler's habitat.  This, in turn, would inhibit military field training, making Camp Bullis less likely to serve as an important military hub (which is important for San Antonio economic interests), and so you have the rare situation where "the interests of the U.S. military, environmentalists, and chambers of commerce coincide" (as the San Antonio Express-News puts it) to oppose the private development's bulldozing of trees.

Of course, the developer opposes the corresponding threat of ESA litigation, but for now, as WOIA reports, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and INTCO-Dominion Partnership (the developer) have come to an "agreement" to regulate development near Camp Bullis.  "Agreement" is in quotation marks because, in the same WOIA article, Army spokesman Phil Reidinger is quoted as saying "We understand that Fish and Wildlife has issued a preliminary enforcement letter to the developer," which suggests that it was not really an "agreement" at all. 

More on this in the coming days, but for now it appears that the private lawsuit against the developer by Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas to stop INTCO-Dominion's development is on hold.

Update: KSAT reports that Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas "dropped its lawsuit against the developer and are now hoping federal officials can step in and advise the developer on how to protect an endangered species in the area." According to KSAT,

A letter sent to the developer Tuesday from the Fish and Wildlife Service warned that if construction were to continue on the site, the developer would run the risk of violation the Endangered Species Act. The letter also suggested the developer cease construction until the two parties could meet, and that federal agents were monitoring the construction site to document any unpermitted activities that might harm the endangered bird.

Alan Glen, the attorney for the developer, said his client "looks forward to working with Fish and Wildlife," and "will probably hold off on construction" for the time being.

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