Protestors Vow to Stay in Caves
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Members of the environmental group Earth First 3/8 pledged Thursday to continue guarding three caves until federal officials declare five kinds of creatures inside them to be endangered species.
″We are determined to remain in the caves until we can get some legal protection for those cave invertebrates,″ said Barbara Dugleby, Earth First 3/8 coordinator.
The caves in northwestern Travis County and are home to a unique group of cave-adapted species, Ms. Dugleby said. Five of the species, including beetles and spiders, have been proposed as ″endangered″ by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The activists began occupying the caves Monday, charging that nearby development was threatening them and the creatures inside.
Fred Purcell, owner of the property, has denied the caves are threatened and said he is working with city officials and researchers to keep the caves intact.
University of Texas entomologist James Reddell this week said Purcell had been ″totally cooperative″ with researchers who have explored and studied the caves.
An Earth First 3/8 spokeswoman, Christi Stevens, said the organization wasn’t allowed to take part in a meeting with Fish and Wildlife officials Thursday. Ms. Dugleby said authorities are disucssing such things as the size of buffer zones and types of threats presented.
″What we’re requesting is that they list the species now - the information is there, the scientific documentation is there - and quibble later over how much buffer is needed.″
Earlier this week, entomologist Reddell said the activists could be harming the caves by their presence. Ms. Dugleby said the Earth First 3/8 members weren’t living in the caves around the clock and were being careful.
″We’re there, next to the caves, observing the activities going on around them. When someone or something approaches that may threaten them - giant metal beasts - then we occupy them,″ she said.
Sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday arrested a woman at one cave. They said she was released after being charged with trespassing.