One Small Bird Faces Off With the Lone Star State to Keep Its Protection

The Endangered Species Act is all that stands between the Golden-cheeked Warbler and extinction.

In the four decades since the Endangered Species Act (ESA) became law, it hasn't just protected the hundreds of species that have found themselves on the Endangered Species List; it has also inspired proactive collaboration to protect species before a listing becomes necessary. Last year, when the Greater Sage-Grouse was able to remain off the list thanks to a groundbreaking joint effort by different interest groups to develop a plan to protect its habitat, it was a major victory for birds, landowners, and conservationists alike.

But the Greater Sage-Grouse success doesn't mean the ESA is obsolete—not by a long shot. The protections of the ESA are crucial to the survival of species like the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler, a small pin-striped bird that breeds and rears its young exclusively in Texas, which has found itself at the center of a delisting effort by groups that have an interest in developing its habitat.

In an article for The Huffington Post, Audubon CEO David Yarnold outlines the challenges facing the Golden-cheeked Warbler:

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the warbler on the endangered species list in 1990 because its habitat in Hill Country was being sliced up and sold off to developers at such an alarming rate.

Even with the protection of the act, an estimated 1.5 million acres (nearly a third of the Golden-cheeked Warbler’s home range) disappeared between 1999 and 2011.

And now a coalition of groups and individuals would like to strip the warbler of its safety net altogether so developers have an easier time paving over more Hill Country habitat. 


The little songbird is up against some Goliaths that include former Texas Comptroller, Susan Combs and current Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush—grandson of former President George H. W. Bush—along with a foundation supported by billionaire David Koch."

Yarnold also explains why the plight of the Golden-cheeked Warbler exemplifies the need for a strong Endandered Species Act:

"We support property rights. And we know that a growing Texas needs new housing and flourishing businesses. We prefer to protect birds through win-win solutions rather than mandates, as in the case of the sage-grouse.

But when those efforts don’t work, the Endangered Species Act becomes some species’ best—and sometimes last—chance for survival.

That’s where the Golden-cheeked Warbler is today."

Read the full The Huffington Post article here.