wetlands in Cypress Towne Lakes Area

Wetlands Once Covered Area Where 138 Nesting Birds Were Slaughtered, Maimed

Last weekend, a contractor killed or maimed 138 nesting egrets and herons in the Cypress Towne Lake Area while clearing land. Little surprise the birds were nesting there. That area was once pockmarked with wetlands that are rapidly being developed.

Wetlands provide free stormwater retention. They also provide valuable habitat that supports a remarkable level of biodiversity. In terms of the number and variety of species supported, wetlands rival rainforests and coral reefs. Trouble is, they also provide cheap land for developers. That brings people into direct conflict with wildlife.

Great Egret preening on nest while waiting for eggs to hatch. File photo not taken in Cypress. Copyright © Bob Rehak 2022.

Nesting waterfowl make a pretty good biologic indicator of wetlands.

Property Rights vs. Right to Life and Right to Information

By law, it’s illegal to disturb migratory birds such as herons and egrets while they are nesting. But the contractors in question did not respect that law even though they could have waited a month or two.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for property rights. And I support responsible development. But that means finding balance. Balance sustains life. It also provides beauty that supports property values. Would you rather raise your kids in biological barrens? Or in close to nature in a place teeming with life?

Finally I believe in the right to information that helps people make informed decisions and markets self-regulate. For instance, if people fully knew the flood risk on a piece of property before buying it, that knowledge could reduce demand, perhaps moderate prices, and discourage future development of wetlands.

But sadly, flood potential is often the last thing buyers look at. At closing, they’re probably provided with a survey that shows they’re above the base-flood elevation (aka the 100-year or 1%-annual-chance floodplain). Then it’s “Where do I sign?” And, “When can I move in?”

That the home might have been built on wetlands is the farthest thing from their minds…until the foundation settles, the walls crack, and doors and windows start to stick.

Where to Learn about Property Built on Wetlands

But a little investigation with free apps or on public websites, might help buyers drive harder bargains that would pay for the foundation leveling they will probably need eventually.

From U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Mapper. This shows the wetlands that used to exist in the area where the birds were killed and maimed.
1944 Aerial Photo of same area from Google Earth Pro. Cherrywood Bend Drive is where contractors were clearing land when they encountered the nesting egrets and herons.

Cypress Towne Lakes is a miracle of engineering that created livable space out of areas that once were wetlands. But the developer’s website shows only impressive homes and amenities, including a chain of lakes. It mentions none of the area’s natural history.

“You Can’t Outsmart Nature”

A wise banker once told me, “You can’t outsmart nature. Nature always wins. We need to give Mother Nature her room.” Perhaps that’s why his bank has almost a billion dollars in assets.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/19/22

1724 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.