On Wednesday, May 29th, Bat Conservation International (BCI) spoke before the San Antonio City Council and a packed City Hall against the proposed Crescent Hills development next to Bracken Cave Preserve.
They presented their 12-day old petition against the Crescent Hills development to the mayor and council at the meeting. With 13,000 signatures from more than 70 countries, their petition definitely made an impact. Letters from a number of academic Bracken partners were also submitted calling for the protection of Bracken Cave.
Representatives from Texas Parks, the San Antonio Zoo, the Army’s Camp Bullis, Audubon Texas, Sierra Club, Preserve Texas Heritage Association, the Heritage Group, and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center were among the 61 people that testified in support and about the importance of Bracken Cave. BCI’s closest partner in this effort, the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, did a wonderful job explaining the aquifer-recharge issues associated with the development. BCI’s team received the evening’s only standing ovation.
Bracken Cave, Texas
Bracken is home to the world’s largest population of bats. The nightly emergence of ten million Mexican free-tailed bats from Bracken Cave, 20 minutes north of San Antonio in central Texas, is one of the world’s great natural phenomena.
A San Antonio developer, Brad Galo of Galo Properties, has proposed a 1,500-acre, 3,800-home “Crescent Hills” subdivision to the immediate south of the reserve, in the twice daily flight path of these millions of bats. The development also lies within the sensitive Edwards Aquifer-recharge zone and puts at risk the many millions of public dollars that have been invested in protecting the area. Quarter-acre zoning is out of keeping with the large ranches that characterize the area and the interspersed, one- to three-acre lots which currently constitute “intensive” development. The Galo property, like the reserve and the nearby Nature Conservancy property, is also important nesting and foraging habitat for the federally endangered golden-cheeked warbler (the yellow circles on the map).
Texas law leaves little or no room for consideration of environmental issues. The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has granted Mr. Galo the water and sewer hookups he needs for 3,800 homes, but SAWS is not permitted to determine if adequate water supplies exist or to comment on the wisdom of putting nearly 4,000 homes in the middle of a protected recharge area.
Aside from the ecological issues, there is concern about putting 10,000 people next to millions of building-loving adult bats and millions more juvenile bats learning to fly that will be attracted to the insects gathering around the porch and street lights of these homes. “Should some poor child or parent come into contact with a sick bat or a pet that picked up a sick bat and contract rabies, it won’t matter that the bats have been there for 10,000 or more years. There will be a growing call for the city health department to deal with ‘this threat to public safety.’ This, in fact, is the greatest threat to Bracken’s bats,” says BCI.
How to help
As of this post, 227 signatures are needed for the “Save Bracken” petition to be completed.
Many of us do not live in this area, but we can help make the case that the Bracken and its bats are a global jewel that must be protected.
Sign the online petition.