Large construction projects ranging from highways to solar farms and everything in between often have a significant impact on the environment around them – including the animals that make their homes in these areas. Let’s be real, humans love developing any and every bit of open land they see.
Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has requirements that limit the amount of damage that can be done to endangered or threatened species habitats, these restrictions are not always observed. When restrictions are ignored it can end with the extinction of a species. While some may consider large condo complexes and office buildings as being more “important” then native wildlife, every single animal plays a crucial role in balancing their ecosystem. Sadly, this is overlooked when pitted against large profits, but sometimes, animals do end up the victors in these struggles. In fact, it is often the smallest animals that can make a big impact on these multi-million dollar projects.
Some have even stopped the projects entirely while others made a sizable impact on their construction. These examples just go to show that no matter how small the creature, the role that they play in the greater ecosystem deserves to be respected and conserved.
1. Tiny Spider Stops Huge Highway
The Braken Bat Cave Meshweaver spider stopped a $15 million dollar highway construction project in northwestern San Antonio in 2012. The spider which is listed as an endangered species had not been seen for three decades and was thought to be extinct. Luckily, this little spider showed up just in time to save the day!
A consultant discovered a six-foot-deep spider hole following a rain storm and halted the progress of the project.
Jean Krejca, a biologist and President of Zara Environmental who was consulting on the project compared the discovery of this particular spider to, “stumbling on a new Galapagos Island in terms of the biological significance of the region.”
The spider, which is eyeless, was important enough for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Federal Highway Administration to halt the project to avoid damaging or disturbing the spider’s habitat.
2. Bats Halt Industrial Wind Farm
A federal court halted the construction of a wind farm and limited the operation of nearly completed turbines in Greenbrier, West Virginia, because the project posed a threat to the endangered Indiana Bat.
The project included 122 wind turbines that would create 186 megawatts of electricity.
While green energy is great, it’s less impressive if it hurts animals.
In this case, not only were the bats flying into the turbines, but the noise was also causing damage to the bats lungs and eardrums, known as “barotrauma.” The West Virginia courts ruled that the wind company didn’t do enough to ensure the bat’s protection. Ultimately, the decision was made to stop construction and to only operate the 40 nearly complete turbines in the winter while the bats hibernate.
3. Mussels Show Their Power in Michigan
A massive project to remove the 157 year old Lyons Dam in Ionia County, Michigan was delayed due to the discovery of the protected Snuffbox Mussel. These small freshwater mussels were listed as endangered in 2012 after their population numbers dropped by 62 percent due to habitat loss, pollution and, ironically, dam construction. Lyons Dam had created the perfect environment for the Snuffbox and as a strong bioindicator, their presence illustrates the health of the marine environment.
A bit of a compromise was made in this case as scientists were able to find a suitable area to relocate the mussel population, a mile down the river. While the dam project would have to be delayed an additional year and would cost far more than anticipated, the Snuffbox population was made a priority and ultimately remained unharmed!
4. The Delta Smelt Halts Water Diversion
The Delta Smelt is a fish that is no bigger than your pinky finger, but it has found itself at the center of a major controversy in California. The endangered Delta Smelt resides in the Sacremento-San Joaquin delta, a major freshwater store. This particular delta was the center of a project in 2014 that aimed to increase the amount of water pumped from northern California to the south in order to meet agricultural demands. If this project were put in place, it would greatly limit the amount of water available for the smelt, threatening its survival.
Although choosing not to pump additional water sources to the parched agricultural regions of the south was met with contempt by politicians and farmers alike, the endangered status of this little fish prevailed. Given the major issues surrounding water availability in California, this decision is quite impressive.
Lead image source: Imgkid