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SpaceX launch expected to further damage bird habitat

Wilson’s Plover with debris from SpaceX operations in Boca Chica, Texas. Image credit: Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP)

On Thursday, April 20, the tallest and most powerful rocket ever built is scheduled 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 through each spring and fall.

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

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) continues to be deeply concerned about the facility’s impacts on wildlife habitat and the species that rely 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 habitats at Boca Chica in south Texas,” said Mike Parr, ABC president. “We believe that 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 a different FAA ruling about Boca Chica, EJ Williams, ABC’s vice president for the Southeast Region, said: “SpaceX has shown a blatant disregard for Boca Chica’s natural habitats. The area here is not just empty space for fuselage debris and waste.”

Since 2014, rocket debris, fires, and construction activities have damaged federal and state public lands surrounding the Boca Chica site. Increased traffic on State Highway 4 has led to mortality of wildlife, with carcasses of Snowy Plover, Common Nighthawk, Harris’s Hawk, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Eastern Meadowlark found over the past two years. All these species are designated as Birds of Conservation Concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Thanks to American Bird Conservancy for providing this news.


Read past stories on concerns about SpaceX and wildlife

FAA gives go-ahead to wildlife-harming SpaceX facility

SpaceX destroys endangered species habitat, defies federal approval process

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