AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an abacus brief to protect private property rights Dec. 13 in relation to the legal protection for an arachnid.
On June 1, 2015, a case was opened in an attempt to delist a Texas cave-dwelling arachnid, sometimes known as a spider or daddy longlegs. First discovered in Bone Cave in Williamson County then later in Travis County, the arachnid only went three years before being being added to the Endangered Species List. Paxton's brief, in addition to the first motion, supplies multiple reasons why the arachnid needs to be removed from the list.
The court found the "dispute centers on whether the Constitution affords the defendants [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services] the authority to
regulate a species that is found only in Texas. Plainly, it does not."
The Bone Cave harvestman arachnid, or daddy longlegs, dwells in two Texas counties. In Williamson County a landowner of 35 acres, John Yearwood, is challenging the arachnid being on the endangered list in the suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Yearwood argues the arachnid fails to have a connection to the Interstate Commerce Clause, which regulates commercial interactions between the public and arachnid.
Paxton noted, "Under the Constitution, the federal government can only act when there is a direct logical connection between the subject being regulated and interstate commerce. A [daddy longlegs] that only exists underground in two Texas counties and is neither a bought nor sold commodity fails that test by definition. For such localized species, it is the state and county, not the federal government, that can best address conservation.”
The blind and pale arachnid has been on the federal Endangered Species List since September 1988 and lives in dark caves and sinkholes. The arachnid was added to the list by the Obama administration, Paxton said.
“The Obama administration is abusing its power under the Endangered Species Act by unlawfully listing a species on the endangered list that only lives in the state of Texas and has no impact on interstate commerce whatsoever," Paxton said.
As noted by the federal register, the Bone Cave harvester previously was classified as the Texella redelli. It has since been classified as its own species. However, after making that change, a motion to delist the arachnid was filed in March 1994.
Yearwood's family ranch that has been running for more than 140 years and often allows "community organizations and church groups to use it at no charge for camping and other recreational purposes. But because the Bone Cave harvestman was found on a portion of his property, Yearwood could be prosecuted by the federal government if the arachnid is disturbed," the brief alleges.
If the arachnid is disturbed by any commercial interaction, landowners in Williamson County face fines up to $50,000 and the possibility of prison time.
For landowners wanting to develop a structure by the arachnid, they must be 35 feet away and have mitigation permits to proceed with construction.