AUSTIN, Texas — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has just released a short video detailing a project in Bastrop County to monitor for the endangered Houston toad while pushing forward with survivor recovery from the Labor Day 2011 wildfires.
The 5 1/2-minute video, “Monitoring for the Endangered Houston Toad in Texas,” features scenes of hazardous tree cutting and debris removal operations that are under way as part of Bastrop County’s recovery. Also included is footage of a female juvenile Houston toad that was removed from a debris pile and safely relocated outside of the severe burn zone.
The video, posted on FEMA’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf2ikf65vyU), presents commentary from Bastrop County and FEMA officials, and from several professional biologists who are serving as Houston toad monitors, including Dr. Mike Forstner, a Texas State University biology professor who has spent more than a decade and a half studying and developing management protocols for the Houston toad.
“The citizens of Bastrop County pride themselves on a rural lifestyle with rural values,” Forstner says in the video. “The reason they moved to Bastrop County is because it looks a certain way. Maintaining that look maintains the habitat for the Houston Toad. And if we are able to do those two things, toads and people will continue to recover in the county.”
Kevin Hannes, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer for the wildfire recovery mission, explains that FEMA is obligated under the federal Endangered Species Act to ensure federally funded recovery projects do not jeopardize an endangered species or its habitat. The challenge was to keep survivor recovery moving forward and yet meet that obligation.
“We only had two options,” says Hannes. “One was to stop work completely during the chorusing season, while the toad was active. That was not a viable option. Or we could agree to find a way to protect the toad while we continued the work.”
The answer, reached through a collaborative effort among the state, federal and local stakeholders, was to bring in highly qualified biologists to monitor for the toad. The successful result is that each day brings progress toward survivor and Bastrop County recovery.
“We are working together really in the spirit of cooperation between all the agencies. And it’s great team work,” Ronnie Moore, Bastrop County director of planning and project management, says in the video.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
The mission of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas Department of Public Safety, is to support the citizens of Texas and local jurisdictions as they plan for, respond to, recover from and mitigate the impacts of all hazards, emergencies and disasters. For more information, see: www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and...