Most people have been watching how Elon Musk will treat the bird app, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is watching how the billionaire is treating real-life birds. And the agency is frankly not impressed, telling SpaceX to take steps to monitor its impact on the environment if it wants to move forward with its Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.
The documents — obtained by CNBC through a Freedom of Information Act request — confirm concerns that SpaceX's expansion plans in Texas will negatively impact the surrounding ecosystems and wildlife that call them home. Last month, the Army Corps of Engineers stopped its review of SpaceX's Starbase plans because the company never provided documentation on how its growth could impact the local ecology. Its planned expansion can't be approved without those forms.
Documents from the FWS show the piping plover population has declined as a result of SpaceX's activity. The bird is one of a number of endangered species that call the Texas shoreline home. SpaceX is also cutting down on the amount of energy it plans to generate at the site using a methane gas power plant.
In addition to SpaceX's impact on the piping plover, FWS found that SpaceX's expansion could endanger species like the red knot, jaguarundi and ocelot populations. Vehicle traffic, noise, heat, rocket testing and other activity could impact their habitats, but it wouldn't completely erase those species from the landscape. FWS is asking SpaceX to track these animal populations and limit its construction and launch activity to certain times of the day.
Local residents of Cameron County, Texas, have decidedly mixed feelings about SpaceX's growth. While the influx of cash is a boon to the local economy, the company's rocket launches and booster tests are clearly having a negative impact on the surrounding environment.
The Federal Aviation Administration ultimately has the final say in SpaceX's Starbase plans. It's preparing a final environmental impact report, which will dictate whether or not the company needs to take further steps to curb its impact on the environment. That release date has been pushed back several times, and it's now slated to publish on May 31.
SpaceX did not immediately return a request for comment.