Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Plan to Save Texas Cave Bugs: Is It National Model or Mistake? Some Environmentalists Worry Plan Will Undermine Federal Law

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Plan to Save Texas Cave Bugs: Is It National Model or Mistake? Some Environmentalists Worry Plan Will Undermine Federal Law

Article excerpt

The Clinton administration is attempting to breathe life into a plan to save endangered cave-dwelling insects and two bird species in Texas - part of a federal effort to find common ground in balancing economic and environmental interests.

But some environtmentalists warn it may be setting a weak precedent that could undermine the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA), which is the primary legal tool for protecting biodiversity in the United States.

The act is overdue for reauthorization and now faces a Congress whose Republican majority was elected, in part, for standing strongly for the rights of property owners. The new conservation plan

The Balcones Canyons Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) would set aside 30,500 acres in Austin, Texas, and surrounding Travis County as a preserve for eight endangered species. Another 150,000 acres conservationists wanted preserved would be open to development.

National publicity given to Austin's quality of life - including, ironically, its beautiful natural surroundings - has boosted the population. But putting in housing subdivisions, roads, and shopping centers for the new arrivals would require bulldozing the habitat. Developers can proceed without the plan, but the cost is so high that construction in the habitat area is essentially stalled.

The habitat has been the focus of seven years of wrangling between real estate developers and conservationists.

Resolving the dispute has become a personal crusade for Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. A success here could be a model for several hundred other efforts getting under way around the country, say Interior officials who have spent six months brokering a compromise.

On Wednesday, they announced an outline plan. So far, 21,000 acres have been acquired for the preserve. It envisions Travis County taxpayers contributing $10 million to buy some of the additional land for the preserve.

The remainder would be bought over time with money paid by developers for the right to destroy habitat elsewhere. An as-yet unnamed committee of environmentalists, developers, and local officials will have 60 days to work out numerous other specifics.

John Duffy, counselor to Mr. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.