SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — A rocket launching test site operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX is endangering wildlife, including snowy plovers and green sea turtles, in its quest to explore outer space, environmentalists say.
“While SpaceX is focusing on exploring distant planets, the company’s operations are taking a toll on planet Earth, specifically in Boca Chica, Texas,” the American Bird Conservancy wrote.
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SpaceX operates rocket launching and testing sites in California, Florida, and Texas. Its Boca Chica location on the Gulf Coast, named “Starbase,” is in the midst of building the world’s first commercial launch site designed for orbital missions.
Musk is the CEO and founder of SpaceX.
“I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars,” Musk wrote.
Environmentalists said they are more concerned with protecting Earth. Starbase sits in a national wildlife refuge.
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“Like most people, I’m a fan of space exploration,” the conservancy’s vice president, EJ Williams, said. “The issue is the destruction of sensitive and unique habitats that birds depend on for survival.”
The SpaceX Starship Super Heavy Project and launch site are being expanded, yet some of the rocking launching tower infrastructure has yet to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA has warned SpaceX that it is building “at its own risk.”
Rocket debris, fires, and construction damaged federal and state public lands surrounding the Boca Chica site, according to the ABC.
Other species that live in habitats neighboring Starbase include: ocelots (also known as “little leopards), leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles, common nighthawks, aplomado falcons, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and piping plovers.
Some of the species are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
According to an analysis by Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, the piping plover population in the Boca Chica region has decreased by 54 percent over the past three years since SpaceX set up operations.
“Boca Chica is incredibly important to birds. The SpaceX facility in Boca Chica is surrounded by federal and state public lands. It’s an especially vital place for migratory birds that pass through here each spring and fall to rest and refuel so they can successfully continue and complete their migratory journeys,” Williams said.
“It is critical that the FAA conduct a full-scale environmental impact study that presents multiple alternatives,” Williams said.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to KRON4’s request for comment.
Musk has been a vocal critic of government regulations and bureaucracy restricting technology companies, especially in California. Last year he personally moved from California to Texas, quipping that the government should “just get out of the way” of innovators.
Musk, who is also CEO of Telsa, recently announced he is relocating his electric car company’s headquarters from Palo Alto, Calif., to Austin, Texas. He warned the City of Austin against being a “San Francisco copycat.”