July 14, 2012

Golden-cheeked warblers - endangered or not?

Austin American-Statesman pic
The colorful Texas Hill Country songbird has been listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act for years, but a new Texas A&M study claims they've been grossly undercounted.

Some environmetalists say the A&M method lends itself to overcounts, but even if it does? I think the totals are still going to rise. After all, there's a huge difference between 9,000, the low end of environmentalists' and others' old estimations, and the new count number of 263,000.

I agree they're not likely to be delisted. But, given this is Texas and oilmen got the feds to cave on listing the sagebrush dunes lizard, don't you think that Rick Perry's best bud, homebuilder Bob Perry, would like to get a bunch of residential developers to fight on this issue?

That said, there is another issue.

Environmental groups have worried about their habitat. For the unfamiliar, they nest only in Ashe junipers (the same ones that trigger allergies from midwinter through early spring). But ... Ashe junipers, in high profusion, are one of the top signs of cattle-overgrazed land in Texas. (In the Hill Country, too many prickly pear is No. 2; that "iconic Western" scenery of the southern Hill Country wasn't that, 150 years ago.)

So, maybe cattle ranchers altered their environment for the better 100 years ago? That, in turn, points out some of the issues with things like "wilderness" or semi-wilderness today. A lot of land requires human management to look pristine.

That said, a cute and lovely bird like a GCW makes a great environmentalist selling point, just like polar bears, pandas, and other "charismatic megafauna." And, I'm not against that, to some degree.

But, at the same time, let's be realistic on how non-pristine much of our environment is.

1 comment:

Stanley Miller said...

I am a rancher. We have fought cedar for years. The worst managed tract in the hill country is Inks Lake
State Park. It is covered with cedar. The problem is once it becomes completely infested there is nothing for deer or any other animal to eat even the GCW. There is a program to establish the Balcones Canyon Land. They have tracts they have purchased that will also be infested with cedar. Someone needs to look at old landscape pictures. There is more cedar than ever before. Cedar in the canyons was not burnt out in the 1800's like it was ever where else. GCW raised their young in those places and ate somewhere else. Someone do a study to determine how much food is in a cedar break.