Latin: Pelecanus occidentalis
Brown Pelican Photo: Joseph Tenne / Audubon Photography Awards
The Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 2239 regarding local governments ability to limit the removal of Ashe juniper trees. These native Texas trees are the sole nesting habitat to the native Texas with an amendment narrowing the scope to only residential land owners. Audubon Texas and its chapters and partners still have many concerns of the unknown and potentially far-reaching implications this “reduced” area could have on the habitat for the Golden-cheeked Warbler. We have conferred with many House and Senate offices on this matter, and several affected members share in the concerns.
On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, the Texas Senate Local Government Committee is holding a hearing to consider the House bill.
Audubon Texas and its partners are encouraging Texans to call members of the Senate Local Government Committee today and urge them against the passing of this bill. View the formal coalition letter.
Key talking points to assist you on our outreach:
As a supporter of the Golden-cheeked Warbler, a bird species native to Texas, I respectfully encourage you to vote against HB 2239/SB 1426, a bill designed to remove local protections surrounding the Ashe Juniper tree.
Eliminating the ability for local governments to protect against cutting Ashe Juniper would devastate our Hill Country and habitat for this endangered species.
The removal of Ashe Juniper trees is not only determinantal to the Golden-cheeked warbler population, but also the state economy. Texas is considered the richest birding state in the Nation. A 2021 estimated found that 2.2 million bird watchers generate around $1.8 billion in economic impact annually.
To protect our birds, ourselves, and our economy, we must protect the Ashe Juniper Tree and the habitat it provides. Because where birds thrive, people prosper.
Paul Bettencourt – Chair - (512) 463-0107
Drew Springer - Vice Chair - (512) 463-0130
Sarah Eckhardt – Member - (512) 463-0114
Roland Gutierrez – Member - (512) 463-0119
Bob Hall – Member - (512) 463-0102
Robert Nichols - Member - (512) 463-0103
Tan Parker – Member - (512) 463-0112
Angela Paxton - Member - (512) 463-0108
Royce West – Member - (512) 463-0123
Audubon Texas’s legislative priorities are focused on three primary areas: habitat preservation for an endangered species, the creation of a historic state land and water conservation fund, and the future of the Texas energy grid. There is one thread that connects the policy work of Audubon Texas this Spring—more than 1,000 people are estimated to be moving to Texas every day. The Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute estimates that 240,000 acres of working lands are lost to development every year. With more people moving to Texas (and who can blame them, it’s a great place to live!) and more land needed to accommodate our growing population, we are seeing historic changes in land use. That means greater potential for degradation and fragmentation of the remaining natural habitats on which birds rely. It also means that we have an opportunity to create significant benefits for birds.
Audubon Texas is working with the Texas Land Trust Council and more than 50 of the state’s leading land and water conservation, agricultural, wildlife, and sportsmen’s organizations in support of HB3165, SB2485 and HJR138. This legislation would create a $2 billion Texas Land and Water Conservation Fund in perpetuity through the use of Texas Rainy Day funds. The interest from the account would fund grants that support, enhance, and protect state and local parks and recreation areas, working agricultural lands and water resources, wildlife habitat areas, and more. Recent polling shows that 83% of Texans support the dedication of state revenue to establish a state conservation fund. If successful, the fund could also leverage and increase the amount of federal dollars coming to Texas and could benefit habitat conservation efforts in Texas for many decades to come – just when we need it most.
Audubon Texas is also working with partners from the Hill Country to North Texas, including Travis Audubon Society, Bexar Audubon Society, and the City of Cedar Hill to stop a set of bills (HB2239 and SB1426) that would eliminate the ability of local governments to regulate the removal of Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei) trees. Ashe junipers are required for the nesting success of the federally endangered Golden-checked Warbler. The bills capitalize on myths and outdated misconceptions that brand the Ashe juniper, also known as Mountain cedar, as a nuisance tree. Beyond providing the only nesting habitat for the Golden-cheeked Warbler, Ashe junipers play a vital role in our Texas ecological systems.
Additional drivers of Audubon Texas’s policy work include the stressors climate change has placed upon our natural ecosystems and our communities. It informs our work on renewable energy and related power grid resiliency legislation in the wake of the 2021 winter storm Uri. Texas, Louisiana, and Florida continue to lead the nation in billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. The goal of Audubon Texas in this work—which will extend well beyond this legislative session—is fourfold. We seek to protect birds and the places they live by supporting the energy transition and decarbonizing the grid in our efforts to slow and stop the effects of climate change, ensuring that the expansion of clean and renewable energy in Texas doesn’t come at the expense of native grasslands and other important bird habitats, maintaining and restoring natural habitats as nature-based infrastructure and natural climate solutions, and ensuring that the values and needs of diverse communities are equitably included as Texas builds a future, climate-resilient economy.
Nationally, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (S.1149) has been reintroduced in the Senate, and active bipartisan cosponsor outreach is underway. Stay tuned for how you can take action with the Texas delegation on this collaborative, bi-partisan effort!
Opposed to HB2239, 88th Texas Legislature
The 2023 Texas legislature has convened, and a question nags: are birds political animals? Texas’s birds will be relying on Audubon Texas and our partners to represent them.
Mitchell Lake Audubon Center Improvements. A joint project between Audubon and San Antonio Water System, these improvements will enable Mitchell Lake to be a FREE visitor experience, accessible to all.
Boca Chica: SpaceX continues its extraordinary march toward Mars. Deep in South Texas only a few miles from the Texas-Mexico border, in some of the state’s most pristine shorebird habitat, SpaceX has grand plans for its Starship/Superheavy program, which may one day take people to Mars. Audubon Texas is monitoring the project, focusing on ways to inform the conversation by focusing on evidenced-based conservation, community science, and community engagement.
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