Elon Musk’s SpaceX site poses risk to wildlife say environmentalists

Campaigners call for federal agencies to act following explosions and increasing activity at the site in southern Texas

Gino Spocchia
Monday 06 September 2021 20:31
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<p>The SpaceX launch site at Boca Chica, Texas</p>

The SpaceX launch site at Boca Chica, Texas

Environmental campaigners have issued several warnings about the SpaceX launch site in south Texas, which reportedly threatens the surrounding landscape and wildlife.

The refuge surrounding the SpaceX site consists of tidal flats, beaches, grasslands and coastal dunes – as well as rocket debris and water runoff from rocket launches, according to campaigners.

Several explosions and false starts for founder Elon Musk, who created SpaceX in 2002, have seen debris thrown into the land around the site, as well as traffic.

In interviews with The Guardian at the weekend, environmental campaigners said that “one of the most unique places on Earth” was being disturbed by Mr Musk’s space project, with visible consequences for wildlife. Rocket debris can be seen laying in the area.

Bryan Bird, of the national environmental nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, described the location as “environmentally diverse” and “inappropriate” because of it’s protected environmental status.

“It’s really been shocking to witness the way the federal government has allowed this to happen,” said Mr Bird of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) leasing of the land for SpaceX. “Elon Musk is building a space complex in one of the most environmentally diverse, and inappropriate, places in the world”.

The wider Boca Chica state park, a 1,000-acre (404 hectare) site belonging to the state and managed by the FWS, is a natural habitat for a number of rare animal species, but areas of it have been leased out over several decades, including to SpaceX.

Federal agencies did not initially find any risks associated with the launch site for wildlife or aviation, according to the report, although a new request from SpaceX to enlarge the Boca Chica location by 17 acres was allegedly described as “unacceptable” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The protected refuge includes endangered wild cats, or ocelots, that once roamed across the south-west, as well as 200 species of bird that feed on the Boca Chica shore. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles also lay eggs on beaches that SpaceX has been criticised for closing off.

“I never thought there would be no impact whatsoever to SpaceX being here, but I did think government agencies would do more to ensure that things like this wouldn’t happen,” said David Newstead, director of the nonprofit Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries.

“I’m afraid of what we’ll find when we go out looking for their nests next spring.”

The FSW and SpaceX have bee approached for comment by The Independent.

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