Two plants are causing quite a controversy across seven East Texas counties after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated more than 1,500 acres a critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
So the counties affected (Sabine, San Augustine, Cherokee, Trinity, Houston, Harrison & Nacogdoches) partnered with Houston County Electric Cooperative, hired an independent consultant called “Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability” and did a scientific study of their own.
“Their findings found that in fact the flora is thriving, it’s not endangered which is what the fish and wildlife service indicated,” said Houston County Judge, Erin Ford.
The critical habitat designation means the land where the plants grow is now under federal management and is no longer accessible by the public.
“We don’t want that in our counties and we want to try and convince the fish and wildlife service to rescind their notice,” said Ford. “Any lands that are excluded from the public’s ability to access, I’m concerned about.”
And according to Ford it could impact their economy.
“Well it’s part of our timber-based economy,” said Ford. “It impacts our ability to use those areas for any future timber harvesting that might be available and also could impact oil and gas production.”
But it’s not really the amount of land that causing the controversy. Rather, it’s the location.