The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to protect six species of aquatic invertebrates native to West Texas as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Such an ESA listing could have implications for the West Texas oil patch, analysts warned.
FWS said it is also identifying certain areas that it will analyze for potential designation as critical habitat for these species in portions of Reeves, Jeff Davis and Pecos counties.
The six aquatic invertebrates, the Phantom Cave snail, Phantom springsnail, diminutive amphipod, Diamond Y Spring snail, Gonzales springsnail and Pecos amphipod are in danger of extinction due to the loss and degradation of the natural springs that support them, FWS said. All six invertebrate species are entirely aquatic and occur in spring habitats dependent upon surface flows from groundwater sources for their survival, growth and reproduction.
The majority of lands surrounding the springs included in this proposal are currently managed by The Nature Conservancy, the Bureau of Reclamation or the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Other species that are listed under the ESA occur in these same springs, and the Service does not anticipate additional restrictions on land use if the six aquatic invertebrates were to be listed.
However, Wells Fargo Securities analysts David Tameron and Gordon Douthat said in a note Friday that energy interests should be concerned. “The West Texas critters may be called ‘diminutive’ and ‘phantom,’ but their impact on E&Ps could be outsized.
“All of the species are native to West Texas, an area that is also home to 20% of daily domestic oil production. The proposal reminds us that FWS recently justified its decision against listing the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard by pointing to the success of the Texas Conservation Plan’s voluntary conservation agreements [see Shale Daily, June 18]. We again hope for a cooperative resolution, but we also recognize that industry comments help to sway the decisions in [Washington] DC.”
The Phantom Cave snail, Phantom springsnail, and diminutive amphipod occur in four springs of the San Solomon Spring system, near Balmorhea, Texas. The Diamond Y Spring snail, Gonzales springsnail, and Pecos amphipod occur in the springs and seeps associated with Diamond Y Spring, north of Fort Stockton, Texas.
FWS is requesting public comment by Oct. 15.
The Service is proposing to designate a total of 450.6 acres as critical habitat in five units. Four units totaling 9.2 acres are proposed to be designated for the San Solomon Spring species in Reeves and Jeff Davis counties, TX. The Service is proposing to designate one unit of 441.4 acres for the Diamond Y Spring species in Pecos County, TX. This unit is wholly owned by The Nature Conservancy.
“These species are in trouble because the natural spring systems that support them are declining, in both quantity and quality. The degradation and loss of these natural springs may also affect the communities that depend on these aquifers for water supplies,” said Adam Zerrenner, FWS Austin field office supervisor. “We will continue to work cooperatively with local agencies and landowners, as we have for a number of years, to address threats to the springs and these unique species.”
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