Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Balcones Canyonlands Preserve Adds Important Habitat
Southwest Region, January 27, 2009
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Travis County, Texas Commissioner's Court accepted the deed to an 827-acre parcel that provides habitat for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler on January 27, 2009.  The property, located in the northwest part of the county near the Town of Volente had been set aside as on-site mitigation for a proposed single-family housing development, and will now be managed by the County as part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

Since October of last year, Travis County's Natural Resources and Environmental Quality program has secured over 1,100 acres for the Preserve.  The County has been able acquire these properties by stretching locally generated funds with Federal grant dollars, by preserving lands through negotiated conservation easements, and most recently by accepting lands conveyed in full fee through simple transfer of deed at no cost to County taxpayers.

The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve was created to comply with the terms and conditions of a habitat conservation plan (HCP) and Federal incidental take permit issued jointly to the City of Austin and Travis County in 1996. The HCP and permit, known as the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan, created a regional approach to the conservation of multiple federally-listed species while providing a streamlined pathway allowing landowners to develop their land in full compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve was established to offset the impacts to protected species resulting from development throughout the rest of the County. In Travis County, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve set a goal of protecting no less than 30,428 acres of habitat for two endangered songbirds and 62 caves that harbor unique rare fauna, an almost unheard of task in a rapidly urbanizing community at the time the project was proposed in the mid-1990's.

Today, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve has protected 28,369 acres, or 93% of the habitat originally proposed for protection, and 45 of the caves have received some level of protection, and is one of the nation's largest urban preserve systems.  

The preserve is a locally based cooperative effort managed by the City of Austin and Travis County in cooperation with the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Travis Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy of Texas, the Committee for Wild Basin Wilderness and numerous other private and corporate partners.

Contact Info: Bill Seawell, 512 490-0057, bill_seawell@fws.gov
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