Texas General Land Office sues again to lift golden-cheeked warbler habitat protections

the Texas General Land Office is once again suing the federal government to remove a central Texas songbird from the endangered species list.

the trial, filed Wednesday in federal district court in Waco, accuses the Biden administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the US Fish and Wildlife Service defy a court order to reconsider environmental protections for golden cheeked warbler.

The GLO says small migratory birds no longer warrant federal habitat protections that have restricted suburban development between Austin and San Antonio.

“By ignoring a court order, the Biden administration is knowingly attempting to circumvent state sovereignty and further threaten Texas’ management of our public lands,” Texas Lands Commissioner George P. Bush said. in a statement announcing the trial.

The GLO has teamed up with the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation in a lawsuit in 2017 to delist the warbler and free up hundreds of thousands of acres for development. The lawsuit argued that the warbler population was several times larger than when it was first listed as endangered in 1990.

In 2019, the federal judge hearing the case in Austin upheld the warbler’s protected status, but the 5th United States Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in 2020. The conservative US appeals court New Orleans ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to review its designation for the bird after concluding that federal officials had ignored several findings that indicated the recovery of the warbler population.

Last July, the agency again concluded that the warbler should remain on the endangered species list, saying its estimated population of around 27,000 individuals had declined by around 25% over the past three decades.

The most recent GLO lawsuit claims the Fish and Wildlife Service estimate used “the same incorrect standard” that was rejected by the Fifth Circuit in 2020.

“The Biden administration’s refusal to follow federal law to remove the warbler from the list has nothing to do with conservation. Current science proves the warbler has recovered,” Robert Henneke, general counsel and executive director of TPPF, said in a press release.

A Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Gregory M. Roy