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On June 5, 2017, The Texas General Land Office (TXGLO), represented by lawyers from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) regarding the status of the golden-cheeked warbler (Warbler) as an endangered species. The lawsuit states:

  • The Service has failed to designate critical habitat since the warbler’s listing more than 25 years ago,
  • The Service did not follow its own rules in the 90-Day Finding for the 2015 Petition to Delist, and
  • The Service has failed to look at the best scientific data available.

The lawsuit requests relief in the form of:

  1. The court declaring the final rule listing violated the Service’s nondiscretionary duty because they failed to designate critical habitat and that the final rule is unlawful,
  2. The court declaring the 90-Day Finding on the Petition to Delist violated the law by failing to consider the best scientific data available, and
  3. The Court declaring the final rule listing unlawful, and that the refusal to delist the warbler is unlawful because Defendants failed to comply with NEPA.

The TXGLO claims that the warbler’s listing significantly impacts the market value of certain TXGLO lands diminishing their ability to receive revenue from Texas public lands for the benefit of Texas schoolchildren.

 

2015 Petition to Delist

90-Day Finding

2017 Lawsuit

 

Posted by: In: Karst 02 Jun 2017 0 comments

In limestone terrains, karst is expressed by variably developed cavernous porosity and the manifestations of sinkholes, voids, and erratic surface drainage.  Karst landscapes are typical of the Edwards Limestone, occurring across a vast region of Central Texas, west of the Balcones Escarpment, and these processes are critical to understanding the Edwards aquifer within its various segments.  The features produced by karst processes (voids, holes, and solution layers) eventually provide conduits for surface water runoff and “point recharge” for the Edwards aquifer.

The identification and protection of these features in established recharge areas is critical to maintaining groundwater quality and species habitat.  The TCEQ, as well as local governing bodies, require protective strategies within these areas to maintain quantity and quality of recharge prior to, during, and upon completion of construction activities. More broadly, the understanding of karst environments is key, as karst landscape covers as much as 10% of the Earth’s surface, and supplies water to as much as a quarter of the world’s population (USGS). aci consulting works with private and public clients on a range of projects necessary for the protection of the karst environment around Central Texas, from TCEQ Geologic Assessments, Karst Surveys for Regional Habitat Conservation Plan Applications, City and Local Environmental Assessments, USFWS karst species cave maintenance and management, and the management of voids encountered during construction.

As illustrated below, caves (features with natural openings that are enterable by a human) and voids (spaces encountered during construction or other activities) form by the dissolution of limestone, and the re-precipitation of calcium carbonate.

The volume of void space is determined by the placement and movement through time of the water table, and interconnected caves or voids can allow for the transfer of air, water, and even species, like the various Central Texas salamander species, and the karst bugs that are unique to Williamson County. Additionally, the study of cave formations (stalactites and stalagmites) can help scientists determine how long ago caves formed, and what local and regional climate conditions were like (namely temperature and precipitation). In 2016, aci consulting worked to connect clients who had encountered voids on their projects with scientists from Dr. Jay Banner’s group at The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences and Environmental Science Institute. Dr. Banner’s students worked with aci consulting staff to extract stalagmite and stalactite samples (called speleothems more generally) from several voids north of Austin. Graduate students are currently working on dating these samples and utilizing them for paleoclimate studies. Additionally, some materials have been incorporated into an exhibit in the Jackson School of Geosciences building on UT’s campus. This exhibit will aid UT in spreading knowledge about the importance of karst environments to UT students, campus visitors, and K-12 participants in the Environmental Science Institute’s outreach programs.

References

UT Environmental Science Institute (ESI) “What is Karst”

US Geological Survey (USGS) “Karst Topography—Teacher’s Guide and Paper Model”

The Bone Cave harvestman, a blind, cave-dwelling spider found in Travis and Williamson Counties, Texas has been at the center of a heated debate since its listing in 1988.
On June 2, 2014, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) was petitioned to delist the species. An original 90-day finding was published on June 1, 2015 that the petition did not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action was warranted. On December 15, 2015, the petitioners challenged the decision in Federal District Court. Subsequent information was submitted in October 2016 by the petitioners and the petition was re-evaluated.
On May 4, 2017, the Service announced its second 90-day finding that the petition still does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the delisting may be warranted.
This decision ends the Service’s formal consideration of the petition, but the Service is currently conducting a five-year review of the Bone Cave harvestman as required by section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Endangered Species Act.
The Service is encouraging the public to submit any new information that becomes available concerning the status of, or threats to, the Bone Cave harvestman or its habitat for their consideration.
Posted by: In: City of Austin 18 Apr 2017 0 comments

The City of Austin has released its zoning comparison maps for the proposed update of the Land Development Code. The new map designates areas of neighborhoods for more walkability, increased public transit, and automobile-dependent areas.

The new zoning map has added categories to provide more specifically regulated areas such as:

  • T3, T4, and T5 Neighborhood – large lot widths with varied setback distances
  • T3, T4, and T5 Main Street – including retail, service, and residential uses in compact, walkable urban forms
  • T5 and T6 Urban – compact, high-density walkable urban environment that provides urban housing choices as well as a wide range of regional-center appropriate uses such as employment, retail, services, entertainment, civic, and public uses

It also renames/redefines some existing categories:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For further information, review the proposed Land Development Code text, and comment here: https://codenext.civicomment.org/

The comparison maps can be found here: http://codenext.engagingplans.org/codenext-comparison-map

Posted by: In: Amplify Austin 07 Mar 2017 0 comments

Amplify Austin donations raised more than $9.8 Million in 2017ACI Group, as a proud business fundraiser of Amplify Austin, joined other companies and individuals in generating more than $9.8 Million in donations for 674 non-profits. Our company gave over $500 total in employee donations and company matches combined to the following environmental, cultural, educational, and recreational organizations that we are pleased to assist:

  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • Austin Pets Alive!
  • Austin Siamese Rescue
  • Barton Springs Conservancy
  • Boys & Girls Club of the Austin Area
  • Family Eldercare
  • Keep Austin Beautiful
  • Little Helping Hands
  • Mobile Loaves & Fishes
  • The Trail Foundation
  • Tree Folks
  • Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has published a Federal Register notice of the availability of a revised policy and new rule for the Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA). The CCAA is a voluntary conservation program which provides incentives for non-Federal property owners to develop and implement conservation plans for unlisted species. The new rule adds a definition to the term “net conservation benefit” and eliminates references to “other necessary properties.” The revised policy and accompanying rule will go into effect on January 26, 2017.

 

Posted by: In: Uncategorized 19 Dec 2016 0 comments

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black_capped_vireo_male2The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has proposed to remove the black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) from the endangered species list. The Service listed the black-capped vireo as endangered in 1987, noting only 164 mating pairs. After decades of conservation efforts, experts now estimate a population of about 14,000.

 

Dr. Benjamin N. Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director said, “Today’s announcement illustrates exactly how the ESA (the Endangered Species Act) works to protect species on the brink of extinction and to successfully recover them.”

 

The Service will take public comment (here) until February 13, 2017 and is anticipated to make a final determination by December 2017. The bird remains protected under the Endangered Species Act; however, if the bird is delisted, the Service would continue to work with partners to monitor its status for a minimum of five years.

 

 

A Brief History:

12/30/1982 – Review of Vertebrate Wildlife for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species

12/12/1986 -Proposed Endangered Status for Black-capped Vireo to be Endangered

10/06/1987 -Determination of Black-capped vireo to be Endangered Species

04/25/2000 – Notice of Availability of an Environmental Assessment foe Receipt of a Safe Harbor Application to Enhance the Propogation and Survival of the Black-Capped Vireo and the Golden-Cheeked Warbler in the Hill Country of Texas

02/02/2005 -5-Year Review of Black-capped Vireo

09/09/2013 – 90-Day Finding on a Petition to Delist or Reclassify from Endangered to Threatened Five Southwest Species

Posted by: In: Conferences 24 Aug 2016 0 comments

OmniCome visit us at the TxDOT Environmental Conference from Tuesday, September 12th through Thursday, September 15th in Corpus Christi, TX.

The three-day conference will provide these educational opportunities:

  • Disruptive Technology
  • The Urban Mobility Scorecard
  • Agency Public Involvement Initiatives and Outcomes
  • Environmental Achievement Award Finalists
  • The Harbor Bridge Sustainability Program
  • Climate Issues
  • Air Quality Training for Roadways

The event includes a general session, break-out sessions and a third day devoted to training experiences.

This year’s event will be held at the Omni Corpus Christi, located at 900 North Shoreline Boulevard, Corpus Christi, TX 78401.

Source: (USFWS)U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Status for Texas Hornshell. Federal Register, vol. 81,p. 52796

Source: (USFWS)U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Status for Texas Hornshell. Federal Register, vol. 81,p. 52796

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday that it is proposing to list the Texas Hornshell as an Endangered Species. The public comment period will be open for 60 days.

The Texas Hornshell has been on and off the candidate species lists for more than 25 years, and in 2001 the Service entered into two settlement agreements regarding the species.

Efforts are being made in Texas and New Mexico to preserve the species. In New Mexico, the state is working with the Bureau of Land Management and industry along the Black River to develop a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances. In Texas, the Nature Conservancy and state wildlife regulators are managing their lands in the Devils River watershed to reduce sediment and contaminant runoff.

aci consulting performs surveys and relocation of the Texas Hornshell and other mussel species.

Read the Federal Register Announcement