Authors: J. E. Groce, K. N. Smith, N. R. Wilkins, D. W. Wolfe

Wildlife biologists are undoubtedly familiar with the decades-long debate over the Endangered Species Act and the conflicts that often arise among people of differing interests when a species is listed as federally threatened or endangered. One example that made local and national headlines in the 1990s was the golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia), which breeds exclusively in central Texas, USA, and primarily on private lands. The inclusion of the warbler on the federal endangered species list in 1990 prompted conflict between land developers, environmentalists, ranchers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Miscommunication and mistrust among the groups resulted in purposeful destruction of habitat and delayed or lost opportunities for species’ conservation and scientific research. Now, 20 years later, we have taken the opportunity to review some of the events and conflicts surrounding the listing of the warbler such that a new generation of researchers and biologists can understand the progress made and identify where additional work may be needed. The significance of threatened and endangered species conservation varies among people and places; thus, there will be a continual need for agencies and biologists to develop relationships with local communities formed around understanding the values and motivations of all stakeholders, in an effort to limit conflict and create an atmosphere that promotes cooperative approaches to research on, and recovery of, at-risk species.

Suggested Citation

Groce, J. E., K. N. Smith, N. R. Wilkins, D. W. Wolfe. 2012. The golden-cheeked warbler: history of a conflict.  Wildlife Society Bulletin 36: 401–407.