Elon Musk’s SpaceX is Tearing Up a Texas Town’s Bird Community

Michael Gonzalez/Getty
Michael Gonzalez/Getty

It appears birds have entered the orbit of things Elon Musk couldn’t care less about, joining the likes of Twitter (RIP) and advertisers (“Go fuck yourself”).

A New York Times report on Sunday outlined how SpaceX’s operations in Boca Chica, Texas, have devastated the community’s bird migration habitat. Fires have broken out after rocket launches, and mud and trash have cut through and tarnished the area. It’s left bird nests destroyed, eggs missing, and federal officials angry.

Records observed by the Times showed that Musk and his SpaceX team took advantage of the federal bureaucracy to expand the company’s headquarters in Boca Chica, playing the purposes of various federal agencies against each other to limit oversight on some issues—like wildlife management—while advancing the interests of others, like aviation and space exploration.

“They kept saying, ‘No, we are not going to do that, we are not going to do that,’ and then they came back and said, ‘Yes, we are,’” Mark Spier, the then-top National Park Service official who oversaw the SpaceX expansion. “We were being misled.”

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The company had apparently promised to have a “small, eco-friendly footprint” in the community, vowing to protect the surrounding wildlife habitat. That promise was eventually broken, as Musk had always planned to use the surrounding federal and state lands surrounding the purchased land as landing areas for rocket debris, according to the Times.

Still, the Federal Aviation Administration defended Musk’s use of the land, arguing the ecological impact didn’t outweigh the benefits of commercial space exploration.

“Blowing debris into state parks or national land is not what we prescribed, but the bottom line is no one got hurt, no one got injured,” Kelvin B. Coleman, who oversees space launch licenses for the agency, told the Times. “We certainly don’t want people to feel like they’re bulldozed. But it’s a really important operation that SpaceX is conducting down there. It is really important to our civilian space program.”

Musk and Space X were recently sued by eight employees, alleging they had been dismissed after they wrote an open letter complaining that Musk’s behavior “in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment,” adding that Musk “runs his company in the dark ages—treating women as sexual objects to be evaluated on their bra size, bombarding the workplace with lewd sexual banter, and offering the reprise to those who challenge the ‘Animal House’ environment that if they don’t like it they can seek employment elsewhere.”

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