The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized “critical habitat” protection today for three rare invertebrates in Comal and Hays counties, Texas. The designation protects 169 acres of habitat for the cave-dwelling animals, which include two beetles and a crustacean. The protected habitat includes subsurface areas that scientists have identified as critical to the animals’ survival.
“Protecting aquatic habitat for these tiny animals will help safeguard the special natural history of Texas for generations to come,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The animals — Comal Springs riffle beetles, Comal Springs dryopid beetles and Peck’s cave amphipods — were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1997, after which the Center and allies filed a series of lawsuits to gain protected habitat for the animals, including subsurface areas.
The habitat areas set aside for the animals overlap, consisting of 39 acres of surface habitat and 139 acres of subsurface habitat for the Comal Springs dryopid beetle; 38 surface acres and 138 subsurface acres for the Peck’s cave amphipod; and 54 acres of protected surface habitat for the Comal Springs riffle beetle.
All three of the freshwater invertebrates are found nowhere in the world except four Texas springs, where they are threatened by groundwater pumping from the Edwards Aquifer.
Groups that filed suit to gain habitat protection for the species were the Center for Biological Diversity, Citizen’s Alliance for Smart Expansion and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas.