NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Endangered Species and Energy Do Mix

December 3, 2002

At 113 miles, Padre Island National Seashore in Texas is the longest barrier island in the United States. It's a prime example of what the Bush Administration argues regarding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: that economic development -- including energy production --does not have to come at the expense of environmental quality.

When Congress created the Padre Island National Seashore in 1962 it specified that oil and gas drilling be allowed, ensuring that the park would not be "pristine." Since that time,

  • Offshore drilling has been allowed, and 60 gas wells have been developed, joined together by six gas and oil pipelines running beneath the island.
  • Under Texas law, the hardpacked beach is considered a public highway with ten of thousands of vehicles cruising it every year.
  • In addition, more than 800,000 tourists visit the Padre Island Seashore each year.

However, this development has not come at the expense of the environment. Indeed, it turns out that Padre Island is a good location to rescue a number of endangered species. For example,

  • The Brown Pelican and the Kemp's ridley sea turtle are two of the 11 endangered species and half-a-million hawks, falcons and other birds that make Padre Island home.
  • Visitors and energy company truck drivers assist park employees by spotting nesting Kemp ridley turtles -- finding in 2002 the park housed 23 Kemp's ridley nests, up from zero in the mid-1980s.

Despite the evidence that energy development and ecological improvement successfully co-exist on Padre Island, the Sierra Club is fighting a Park Service decision allow 18 additional gas wells within the park during the next 30 years -- arguing that it would threaten the continued existence of the Kemp's ridley turtle.

Source: Blaine Harden, "They Brake for Turtles in Padre Island Park," New York Times, December 1, 2002.  


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