SpaceX launch expected to further damage bird habitat


On Thursday, April 20, the tallest and most powerful rocket ever built is set to launch from SpaceX facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, an area surrounded by federal and state public lands. Hundreds of thousands of individual birds of many different species use the area throughout the year. Reddish egret and Wilson’s plover breed nearby, and yellow-billed cuckoos, golden-winged warblers and other species migrate each spring and fall.

Last Friday, April 14, the Federal Aviation Administration took the final step necessary to allow SpaceX to launch its Starship Super Heavy rocket, announcing in its written reassessment that “the decision to issue a vehicle operator license for Starship/ Super Heavy at the Boca Chica launch site does not require the preparation of a new or additional EA or EIS [Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement].”

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) continues to be deeply concerned about the impacts of the facility on wildlife habitat and the species that depend on it, including species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) such as the federally threatened Piping Plover and Red Knot and the endangered Northern Aplomado Falcon.

“Space X operations continue to damage important coastal bird habitat in Boca Chica, South Texas,” said Mike Parr, president of ABC. “We believe Cape Canaveral offers a much lower environmental impact option and is underutilized with less than one launch per month currently despite having six active launch pads and more pads that could be made available.”

In June 2022, after another FAA decision regarding Boca Chica, EJ Williams, ABC’s Vice President for Southeast Region, said, “SpaceX has shown a flagrant disregard for the natural habitats of Boca Chica. The area here is not just empty space for fuselage debris and junk.

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Since 2014, rocket debris, fires, and construction activity have damaged federal and state public lands surrounding the Boca Chica site. Increased traffic on State Highway 4 has resulted in wildlife mortality, with carcasses of snowy plover, common nighthawk, Harris’s hawk, rose-breasted cardinal and eastern meadowlark found at the over the past two years. All of these species are designated as birds of conservation concern by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Thanks to American Bird Conservancy for providing this news.

Read past stories about SpaceX and wildlife concerns

FAA greenlights SpaceX facility that harms wildlife

SpaceX destroys endangered species habitat and challenges federal approval process