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AGUA lawsuit forces redrawing of endangered species habitat
December 18, 2009

More information
Press Release
AGUA v. USFWS settlement agreement
AGUA files suit to protect endangered species
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
E-N story:
More habitat is sought

AGUA has settled a major lawsuit to protect endangered species found only in the Edwards Aquifer and its recharge zone. In its settlement with AGUA, defendants US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agreed to develop new critical habitat designations for the species.

AGUA had complained that USFWS designated far too little critical habitat to conserve the species. AGUA was joined in the lawsuit, filed January 14, 2009, by New Braunfels-based Citizens' Alliance for Smart Expansion and Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.

USFWS is required to submit new Karst Invertebrate habitat designations by February 7, 2011 and finalize those rules by February 7, 2012. Critical habitat for Freshwater Invertebrates must be finalized by October 13, 2013. USFWS also agreed to pay plaintiffs' attorney fees.

Three of the species occur in only four springs where they are threatened by groundwater pumping. After USFWS scientists drafted a proposed rule that included subterranean waters in the aquifer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald ordered that only the small areas around the springs be designated despite the fact that threats are to the aquifer and not the springs. Both USA Today and the New York Times reported on Bush appointees' political interference with scientists' recommendations.

Scientists originally recommended 9,516 acres of critical habitat, but only 1,060 were designated in the final ruling. For three other species, USFWS designated a mere 50 acres of critical habitat, and only 13 of those acres are privately owned.