Judge rejects state's request to add evidence to whooper trial

By by Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Dec. 10, 2012 at 6:10 a.m.
Updated Dec. 11, 2012 at 6:11 a.m.

A ruling could come soon on the whooping crane lawsuit after a judge rejected a motion to reopen the case.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack rejected the state's motion to include a report from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Jim Blackburn, the Houston-based environmental lawyer representing the Aransas Project, said Monday.

The report found fault in the way whooping cranes were being counted by the federal agency and in the assumption that birds missing from their territories had died, calling into question the methods of Tom Stehn, the longtime whooping crane coordinator for Aransas National Wildlife Refuge who retired last year, Blackburn said.

The Aransas Project, an environmental coalition, contends that the state took too much water from the Guadalupe River during the 2009 drought, causing the death of 23 of the endangered birds from the last-known naturally migrating flock of whooping cranes in the world.

Jack heard the case in January but has yet to issue a ruling.

The Aransas Project wants the state to put a water plan in place that will protect the habitat of the cranes.

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, at the head of the lawsuit for the state, contends that a water plan will take away water from other users.

The two parties had been in settlement negotiations, but negotiations ended, and the state moved for the judge to reopen the case after the study was released in October.

On Wednesday, Jack rejected the request to include the report in evidence and canceled the hearing slated for Jan. 14. Jack stated in a teleconference she will have a ruling soon, Blackburn said.



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