AUSTIN, Texas -- Ensuring the protection of the endangered Houston toad while maintaining the brisk pace of Bastrop County’s recovery from the Labor Day 2011 wildfires was the subject of a meeting attended by local, state and federal representatives in Austin on Tuesday.
Hosted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the meeting also included representatives from Bastrop County, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, Texas State University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“Our goal was to bring together the right people to talk about the issues regarding the Houston toad and to ensure we have clear communications on how to proceed with the recovery while being mindful of any impact on the species,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin Hannes of FEMA.
It is FEMA’s duty under the federal Endangered Species Act to avoid rebuilding and other recovery projects that might jeopardize the existence of endangered or threatened species, or that might destroy or harm critical habitats. Bastrop County is one of the Houston toad’s very few remaining habitats.
The meeting focused on the need to protect the health and safety of Bastrop County residents by proceeding with debris removal operations, but also to avoid jeopardizing the Houston toad as it enters its active season after months of dormancy. Also discussed was the impact on the toad of ongoing clearing of trees for utility repairs and maintenance, and the placement of temporary housing units for wildfire survivors.
“The meeting was extremely productive in that the key stakeholders on this issue came to a consensus on how best to proceed,” said Hannes.
In the short term, he said, debris removal will continue and eligible survivors will continue to be placed in temporary housing units without delay. Meanwhile, FEMA agreed to bring in a professional biologist to help monitor the Houston toad and provide guidance down the line. The agency also will work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife on best management practices for when the toad becomes active.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.