The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the Bone Cave harvestman, a small arachnid found in Central Texas, should remain on the endangered species list despite the push to remove it.
A conservative think tank called The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) was pushing to have the arthropod removed from the list.
“For many years now, there’s been solid evidence that the Bone Cave harvestman is not actually endangered. It was listed back in the 1980s. … Then they knew of only five harvestman caves. Now they know of over 120, and there’s a permanent preserve that was created by Williamson County,” said Chance Weldon, a Senior Attorney for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, as reported by KXAN News.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation joined a 2015 lawsuit that would have the arachnid removed from the endangered species list. The case involved John Yearwood; a rancher based in Central Texas. Yearwood had found a harvestman on his property and was concerned that he would be charged with a federal crime if he were to kill it.
The case, which centered on whether the federal government can enforce regulations on a species that does not travel between states, eventually wound up in the Supreme Court. In 2021, the court ruled against the side of TPPF.
“It is a significant burden on private property owners anytime that you have an endangered species found on your property,” Weldon said.
“[The federal government] doesn’t pay property owners to keep species on their property. Instead, what they basically say, if you eventually accidentally squash one of these critters, you’re talking about significant federal felony penalties. And as a result, people just can’t use their property,” he continued.
Although the TPPF focused on the harvestman in this case, the decision was important since roughly 70 percent of animals on the endangered species list reside in only one state.
Despite the efforts from the TPPF, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined earlier this month that the arachnid should remain on the list due to the impact of humans.
“The primary stressor and reason for past loss (of the Bone Cave harvestman), human development, is continuing currently and will continue into the future,” the organization said in its report, per KXAN News. “We find that the Bone Cave harvestman should remain listed as an endangered species under the Act, and the petitioned action is not warranted at this time.”
While the Supreme Court may have made a ruling, Weldon believes that the constitutional question posed by the lawsuit has not been answered, and the discussion is not yet finished.
“It’s not really a question of whether or not these species are worth protecting. I think it’s a question of who decides and the method that they’ve chosen to protect them.”