On April 1, 2022, Leander ISD filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas as part of its ongoing pursuit to place a second access road to Vandegrift High School and Four Points Middle School, addressing a safety concern for more than 4,000 students, teachers and staff at the campuses in case of an emergency.
While the land surrounding the two schools is designated preserve, the district has sought permission to build the second road on an existing infrastructure corridor that contains several utility lines for the city of Austin and the Lower Colorado River Authority creating a necessary access point, particularly for emergency vehicles. Currently, the schools can only be accessed from RR 2222 off McNeil Drive.
Since 2016, LISD and its environmental attorneys have engaged with USFWS and the Department of the Interior. In 2019, USFWS informed Leander ISD it was refusing to process the district’s application for an Endangered Species Act (ESA) permit unless the district obtains ownership or control over the proposed right-of-way, a portion which is owned by Travis County, which opposed the project. Subsequently, LISD has utilized USFWS’s formal permit appeals process in an effort to move toward a resolution.
By requiring Leander ISD to first obtain ownership or control over the right-of-way, USFWS would force Leander ISD to make a costly and unlawful commitment of resources prior to the completion of the federal environmental review process.
LISD has previously agreed not to use the permit unless and until it subsequently obtains requisite ownership or control of the needed right-of-way.