Posted by: Kevin Hannes, Federal Coordinating Officer, Texas wildfires
Photo of the endangered Houston Toad. (Courtesy of the National Fish and Wildlife Service)
Sometimes large-scale events and unforeseen circumstances can slow down recovery efforts, and sometimes all it takes is something small – like a toad. In case you don’t regularly read the Austin American Statesman, you may have missed an interesting story that shows the complex nature of disaster recovery. Those involved with disaster recovery need to think about a wide variety of factors that come into play, including the cleanup efforts’ effects on animals.
To set the stage, a historic wildfire season hit Texas in 2011, and we continue to work in support of state and local officials in providing assistance to affected individuals and local governments. This assistance to local governments includes supporting removing debris in some of the damaged areas.
A small, rare object that could soon be spotted hopping nearby, however, has the potential to delay FEMA-funded recovery projects in certain areas. This object is the endangered Houston toad, which surfaces during mating season. Emergency managers have a responsibility to carry out our jobs in a manner that avoids or minimizes adverse impacts to the environment, especially potential impacts on endangered species.
Because of this, our recovery experts met recently with officials from the state and Bastrop County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, a local electric cooperative, and environmental experts to make sure recovery will not violate federal environmental policies and laws and will minimize adverse effects on the toads.
The meeting was productive in that the key stakeholders on this issue came to a consensus on how best to proceed. For now, debris removal is going strong as we increase our capability to monitor the toads. Meanwhile, we continue to work with stakeholders to proceed with recovery efforts while protecting the natural environment.
In the end, the Houston toad serves as a symbol that successful disaster recovery requires a team of individuals and organizations working together to solve problems both big and small -- sometimes as small as a toad.
Click here for more information on FEMA’s Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation Program.