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November 1, 1999 - TEXAS MISUSING WILDLIFE FUNDS

PARKS AND WILDLIFE AGENCY "SECRET" DOCUMENTS

Austin...The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has surrendered documents to an employee environmental group detailing the agency's illegal destruction of endangered migratory songbird habitat and misuse of wildlife funds rather than contest a lawsuit to force the release of agency files. According to the records, Texas is razing habitat through "secret wildlife management plans" with federal money earmarked for wildlife protection.

The suit was brought by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER) to expose improper bulldozing and channelization of a portion of Limpia Creek, a West Texas stream that is one of the nation's best-known nesting sites of the Common Black Hawk, a threatened species in Texas. As part of the settlement agreement, the State must also pay Texas PEER's attorney fees.

The disclosed documents reveal, among other things, that concerned TPWD employees at nearby Davis Mountains State Park unwittingly turned in their own agency when they reported the black hawk habitat destruction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Instead of being commended, the employees were punished for not being "team players."

Texas PEER also filed criminal complaints against Texas officials for environmental violations and misuse of federal wildlife funds. Among the internal documents Texas PEER is turning over to investigators are memos indicating that the responsible TPWD employee was aware of a Black Hawk nest, yet failed to postpone the project until after the nesting season.

The documents confirm that the Limpia bulldozing was to assist the landowner's "eco-tourism" business by building observation blinds near Black Hawk nests contrary to the biological advice that the endangered birds need both abundant aquatic vegetation and to remain undisturbed during the nesting season. Cattle grazing, an activity expressly prohibited by the project, has also taken place within the cleared area.


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