Rancher’s land held hostage by rare insect


A Texas rancher is in a war with the courts over a rare spider that is preventing him from using his own land.

John Yearwood has never seen the Texella reyesi, a spider more commonly called the Bone Cave Harvestman, although it was found on a portion of his 865-acre parcel of land in Williamson County near Austin, Texas, almost a decade ago.

“We call it Heartbreak Acres,” Yearwood said of the area where environmental impact workers discovered the officially endangered spiders in three limestone crevices. The discovery was made prior to a road-widening project that was later relocated a distance from the spiders’ habitat.

Yearwood used to invite scouts to camp on the property, and the fire department to conduct training, but he is no longer able to do so since activities that might disturb the spider could cost him fines and potential jail time. The Texas rancher has been left to wonder what he can do with the land, considering that the Endangered Species Act does not specify his rights.

“When you get such a vague and amorphous law,” said Yearwood’s attorney, Robert Henneke of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, “then you put all the power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats who decide for themselves what they want to punish and what they don’t.”

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Henneke has joined Yearwood in a fight in federal court to remove the Bone Cave Harvestman from the Endangered Species list.

“What the government is basically doing is making the Yearwood family, at their own expense, have a federal wildlife preserve,” Yearwood said.

Bone Cave Harvestman

Henneke argued the federal government has engaged in overreach since Washington can regulate “interstate commerce” but the spider is not a commercially viable species and cannot be found anywhere else but in Texas.

Environmentalists oppose Henneke’s arguments, citing that most endangered species reside in a few states and on private land. “The Bone Cave Harvestman is not a very appealing creature,” admitted Joan Marshall with the Travis Audubon Society.

She asserted that leaving the Bone Cave Harvestman’s fate to private landowners or individual states is not a solution because the spider’s existence could be vital to people well beyond its boundaries.

“The real importance of the Bone Cave Harvestman is that it’s an indicator species,” Marshall said. “It signifies the health and well-being of the environment it occupies.”

Marshall agreed that the ESA has not been perfect, but claimed that it has fulfilled its purpose. “The Endangered Species Act is to protect species,” she said. “It’s done an amazing job … we have saved 99 percent of the species,” such as bald eagles, grizzly bears, and whooping cranes.

Yearwood has not been convinced by contrary arguments. He remains skeptical that the Texella reyesi is truly endangered, pointing out that the spider has been discovered in other areas.

Yearwood’s case remains in the court system.  Below is  a news report on the incident that came out over a year ago… and yet his fight for his land goes on.

H/T: Fox News

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