I decided to focus on an environmental law article today. Lots of times I hear about conservation actions being taken, but I don’t know the background about them or what steps/challenges there are leading up to the actual passing of protection laws. This article is about a court case in Texas relating to the current level of care and protection for whooping cranes. Whooping cranes are endangered, but their populations are increasing. In the 1940s, the estimated whooping crane population was down to 21! With intense preservation efforts, the current population is around 600 cranes. In the winter of 2008-2009, 23 cranes died in the south Texas marshes from excessive salinity. The cranes are protected under the Endangered Species Act, which means companies and organizations are required to follow governmental regulations to ensure the continuation of threatened species. Whooping cranes migrate to the south Texas marshes for the winter, where a substantial part of their diet is blue crabs. Although the cranes can handle varying water salinity, the blue crabs need some fresh water to survive. The judge in the case ruled that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was not taking proper measures to ensure adequate fresh water to the marshes for crane survival. The organization was ordered to draw up new water plans that supply enough fresh water to the bay.
I think cases like this are important because what happens downstream shouldn’t get overlooked. I’m sure it’s difficult for states that deal with drought to factor in if there is enough water at the end of the river for animals, but it is vital for the coastal ecosystem. I don’t enjoy hearing about the negative impact one seemingly small change can make. However, I do think it is fascinating to see how well adapted and intertwined wildlife ecosystems are. I’m sure not having blue crabs in the bay areas affected more than just the cranes. The organization that filed the lawsuit, The Aransas Project, stressed how inadequate water to the bay negatively impacts the fishing and tourism industries along the coast. WHOOP! It’s the weekend!