Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Texas General Land Office in federal district court against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for continuing to disregard the private property rights of Texans. The Service is refusing to comply with a January 2020 order from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit requiring the agency to determine whether the Golden-Cheeked Warbler species may no longer require protection under the Endangered Species Act.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to comply with the Fifth Circuit’s order is inexplicable and is hands-down illegal,” said Ted Hadzi-Antich, a Senior Attorney with TPPF and lead counsel on the case. “The Service has to comply with the law just like the rest of us, and this lawsuit will show the Service that it cannot with impunity thumb its nose at federal court orders.”
Since 1990, the protected status of the Warbler has severely restricted the use of certain private property in Central Texas and blocked critical economic development for the region, even though studies show the Warbler has likely recovered.
In 2015, TPPF filed an administrative petition to remove the Warbler from the endangered species list, but the Service refused. After a five-year battle in the federal courts, the Fifth Circuit agreed with TPPF that the Service illegally refused to delist the Warbler and remanded the matter with specific instructions regarding the proper ways the Service should review the 2015 administrative petition. Disregarding the Fifth Circuit’s order, the Service again denied the petition using the same incorrect legal standard.
“It should bother every Texan when the federal government ignores court orders to indefensibly restrict property rights. Our original petition provides more than enough evidence to show the Warbler may not be endangered – which is all we need to demonstrate,” said Connor Mighell, attorney at TPPF. “But the Service has once again ignored the courts and applied an overly stringent standard to deny our petition. TPPF is proud to fight back to protect Texan rights against federal overreach.”
Watch the video “Property Rights and The Golden-Cheeked Warbler” featuring Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
The Service’s reluctance to delist the Warbler undermines the Texas General Land Office’s ability to use the land for productive purposes that would contribute to the Permanent School Fund under the Texas Constitution. The Federal Warbler regulations continue to decrease the value of assets managed by the Texas General Land Office for the benefit of Texas school children and veterans and their families.
“The Biden Administration’s refusal to follow federal law to delist the warbler has nothing to do with conservation. Current science proves the warbler has recovered,” said Robert Henneke, general counsel and executive director at TPPF. “The Service’s finding shows an utter disregard for the Texans who are just trying to live their lives and own property.”