HOUSTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Whooping cranes are making a comeback along the Texas coast but the brackish marshes they need for food may be too salty this winter, environmentalists said,
The Aransas Project, an environmental coalition, claims state regulators aren’t allowing enough fresh water to flow into the marshes where the birds live, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday.
The group is asking a federal judge to order the state to develop a water use plan that leaves enough in the river basins to protect the cranes’ habitat. The case goes to trial Monday in Corpus Christi.
About 300 whooping cranes are expected to winter in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge,about 50 miles north of Corpus Christi.
The birds, protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, feed on blue crabs that live in the brackish marshes along the coast. The crabs, however, require some fresh water to live and drought conditions have made the the San Antonio Bay and estuary system too salty for them, the Aransas Project said.
State regulators say proving water for the birds could threaten the availability of water for existing users, the newspaper said.
“The future of the whooping crane hangs on the outcome of the trial,” Jim Blackburn, the Houston attorney for the Aransas Project, told the newspaper. “Federal intervention is the only chance for its long-term survival.”