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R.J. DeSilva
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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
October 28, 2009

State Aims to Create Environment Where Economic Development and Endangered Species Can Both Flourish

(AUSTIN) — A task force led by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has issued a set of recommendations to help preserve the habitat and increase the population of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, while accommodating a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision to shift more troops to San Antonio, increasing the need for training exercises at Camp Bullis. The BRAC plan will pump an estimated $3 billion per year into the local economy.

“Many tools are available to help the military provide alternative golden-cheeked warbler habitats near Camp Bullis to earn mitigation credits that allow land to be cleared within the installation itself,” Combs said. “We recommend using the most cost effective measures to support the military, protect an endangered species and safeguard the private property rights of landowners.”

The Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species recommends expanding outreach and education for landowners and conservation organizations about the need for additional golden-cheeked warbler habitats in the region.

The task force recommends further research on the golden-cheeked warbler’s migration and nesting patterns and the environmental features the bird requires, and then to identify suitable parcels of land to reserve and determine how willing landowners are to participate in various conservation options.

To obtain mitigation credits, the task force recommends a tiered approach that includes conservation easements, fee simple land purchases, a recovery credit system and leveraging land owned by local governments or the state. The final recommendation is to request federal, state and other funding to help cover the cost of alternative habitats.

Similar measures are used at Fort Hood, in Central Texas, which is also a favorite home of the golden-cheeked warbler.

The 81st Legislature created the Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species to help local and regional governments comply with federal endangered species regulations without sacrificing economic development. Senate Bill 2534 specifically required the task force to recommend solutions for Camp Bullis.

“The military is vital to the San Antonio economy,” said San Antonio Sen. Jeff Wentworth, author of SB 2534. “For the military to proceed with plans to expand training at Camp Bullis, we must act quickly and consider all available options to secure new nesting grounds for the golden-cheeked warbler. The task force recommendations offer guidance to accomplish our goal in a cost-effective manner.”

Next, the task force will look at pending endangered species issues statewide that could have an economic impact — from the prairie chicken to freshwater mussels — and submit a report to the Legislature by January 2011.

For more information, please visit www.txendangeredspecies.org.


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