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Endangered status of Texas’ golden-cheeked warbler in question amid decade-long legal battle

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Is it time to remove the Texas Hill Country’s golden-cheeked warbler from the endangered species list?

That question is the subject of an ongoing legal fight in Texas that pits the federal government against the state government and development against conservation.

The answer is yes, according to a conservative think tank and GOP state leader who petitioned the federal government to remove the bright-colored songbird from the endangered species list in 2015.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service disagreed, saying the purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.

In 2019, a federal judge ruled that the Golden-cheeked warbler should stay listed due to the continued loss of its habitat in the Texas Hill Country by way of new subdivisions, businesses, roads, reservoirs, and other human activity.

In 2020, a judge from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Fish & Wildlife Service to reconsider. The federal agency rejected the petition again in July that same year.

In early Jan. 2022, the fight was revived when another lawsuit was filed to delist the bird as an endangered species.

What is the standard for an animal to be considered an endangered species? How is that determination made and who is tasked with making it?

What is the rationale on both sides for delisting the warbler or keeping it classified as an endangered species?

Is there evidence that threats to the bird’s existence have been reduced? What do we know about its population?

What all is at stake in Texas’ fight over the golden-cheeked warbler? What happens next in the legal battle?


"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, February 1.

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