Trial Lawyer and Arsanas Project Save the Whooping Crane

Chris Placitella chats with Jeff Mundy, a mass tort lawyer representing environmental groups advocating for the livelihood of the whooping crane.  He recently won a case on behalf of The Arsanas Project (TAP), in which the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) violated the Endangered Species Act, causing mortality of the whooping crane during the winter of 2008-2009.

Once a predominant bird in the United States, the whooping crane had just 15 members left in its species by the 1940’s and was listed as endangered in 1970.  The current whooping crane population reaches around 500, and the only remaining non-captive whooping crane community of approximately 300 birds makes the Arsanas National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Texas its winter home.

This case in question arose due to a severe draught in the winter of 2008-2009 affecting the Guadalupe Estuary, located in the land encompassing the whooping crane’s habitat.  TCEQ regulates the amount of freshwater distributed along the river system, and could have helped prevent further danger to the whooping crane.  Texan environmentalists belonging to TAP were concerned with the crane’s high mortality rate that winter, and filed a petition with the TCEQ, asking that a certain amount of water remain in the estuary to protect the whooping crane.  When their petition was denied, the group filed a lawsuit contending TCEQ violated the Endangered Species Act by preventing water flow to the whooping crane’s natural habitat.


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