Federal agency refuses to remove cave species from endangered list


Highlights

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declines petition to remove the Bone Cave harvestman from the endangered list.

A federal lawsuit filed to delist the spider-like creature had been delayed when the petition was filed.

The spider-like creature is found only in Travis and Williamson counties.

A fight to remove a spider-like creature that only lives in limestone caves in Williamson and Travis counties from the endangered species list might be headed to a showdown in federal court. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that a petition to remove the Bone Cave harvestman from the list didn’t present “substantial information” to warrant the delisting.

Those who oppose listing the arachnids as endangered have said the designation threatens the rights of private property owners to develop their land.

“I’m quite disappointed with the decision,” said Paul Weiland, an attorney for American Stewards of Liberty, a nonprofit group protecting private property rights.

The group — along with some Williamson County residents, including rancher John Yearwood — filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 seeking to remove the eyeless, pale orange creature from the list. The lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service, which was later joined by Williamson County, has been delayed while the petition was being considered.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed the petition.

“It looks like for the time being we will be in court,” Weiland said Wednesday.

He said that when the Bone Cave harvestman was listed as endangered in 1988, it was only found in a half-dozen sites, but it has now been found in more than 170 sites and is protected “in a vast majority of those.”

Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey said Wednesday the county’s habitat plan has set aside enough caves for the Bone Cave harvestman to ensure the species “won’t go extinct.”

Yearwood has said he aims to attack the federal government’s authority to require habitat protections for such single-state species as the Bone Cave harvestman.

“This isn’t just about a cave bug,” Yearwood has previously told the American-Statesman. His property has been in his family’s hands since the 1870s and has three of the crevices where the harvestman has been found. “It’s about the private property rights, about overreach from the government,” he said.

Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation group, said the federal agency’s decision to not delist the Bone Cave harvestman was “what we expected.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service announced its decision not to delist the cave bug Wednesday but said details about it wouldn’t be available until Thursday.

Margolis said the federal agency’s decision was consistent with what the agency found in a previous review of the species, which was that they were “still threatened and subject to extinction because of their limited range and the impacts to them.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Barrier on U.S. 183 damaged before 3 killed in crash, officials say
Barrier on U.S. 183 damaged before 3 killed in crash, officials say

The cable barrier separating the northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. 183 – where police say a suspected drunken driver crossed into oncoming lanes and slammed head-on into a family of four – had been damaged just hours before the fatal collision. Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Chris Bishop said the agency received a report...
UPDATE: SWAT situation on West Parmer Lane ends peacefully, police say
UPDATE: SWAT situation on West Parmer Lane ends peacefully, police say

4:12 p.m. update: A person came out of an apartment in the 5400 block of West Parmer Lane after a SWAT team responded to a call about the residence. The SWAT situation has now ended, police said. Earlier: An Austin police SWAT team is responding to an incident in the 5400 block of West Parmer Lane, police officials said. Police got...
Avoid serving up ‘fire bird’: Tips for a safe Thanksgiving meal
Avoid serving up ‘fire bird’: Tips for a safe Thanksgiving meal

Cooking fires occur more often on Thanksgiving Day than any other, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. To help keep your family safe, here are a few tips from the Austin Fire Department on safely deep-frying your turkeys this year: 1. Don’t use too much oil: The turkey will displace the oil in a fryer pot. So if there’s too much...
UPDATE: Texas Tech issues ‘all-clear’ message after suspicious device removed from vehicle
UPDATE: Texas Tech issues ‘all-clear’ message after suspicious device removed from vehicle

5 p.m. update: Texas Tech University has issued an ‘all-clear’ message after a suspicious device was removed from a vehicle near a dorm. University police have searched the area and are letting people return after the Talkington Hall dorm was evacuated. 4:45 p.m update: Police have evacuated a Texas Tech University dorm while...
NEW DETAILS: Barrier on U.S. 183 already damaged before 3 killed in head-on collision, officials say
NEW DETAILS: Barrier on U.S. 183 already damaged before 3 killed in head-on collision, officials say

The cable barrier separating the northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. 183 – where police say a suspected drunken driver crossed into oncoming lanes and slammed head-on into a family of four – had been damaged just hours before the fatal crash. Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Chris Bishop said the agency received a report...
More Stories