Almost 17 years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Travis County in Texas, the city of Austin, numerous conservation partners, private landowners and developers worked together in the spirit of shared sacrifice to reach a compromise that protects endangered species and balances development in one of the fastest–growing areas of the United States.

The result was the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP), among the first regional multi–species federally protected habitat conservation plans we ever issued.

The BCCP allows development, even when that development results in incidental “take” of an endangered species. In return, the developers agreed to set aside 30,428 acres of endangered species habitat in western Travis County, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

It has not been easy or simple—few things worth doing are.

The result is a preserve for the conservation of eight endangered species, including the black–capped vireo and golden–cheeked warbler, as well as 27 other species believed to be at risk.

The black–capped vireo and golden–cheeked warbler certainly benefit from the preserve the BCCP established. Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1992 to protect nesting habitat of the warbler and vireo, also benefits.

The land managers of the preserve and the refuge meet regularly to discuss how to best manage for these species. They also discuss such common management concerns as invasive species, over–abundant deer populations, public use and wildfires. And they work together on research projects to better understand the birds.

Photo of a warbler
The endangered golden–cheeked warbler is one of several species to benefit from the multi–partner Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan, which includes the refuge of the same name in central Texas. (Greg Lasley)

By working together the refuge and preserve accomplish much more than either could alone. Throughout the nation, we are working with local partners to share information and learning, and achieve more for conservation than any one group could achieve on its own.

We are committed to helping local stakeholders conserve the nature of America. The best wildlife conservation often grows from the ground up, nurtured by people who have worked the landscape and conserved it for future generations—people who see tangible benefits from the natural world every day, including jobs, food, clean water, clean air, building materials, storm protection and recreation.

The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, for instance, sits atop and helps protect a series of aquifers, including the Edwards Aquifer that is the primary drinking water source for more than 1.5 million central Texas residents.

The wildlife of Travis County, including the golden–cheeked warbler and the black–capped vireo, have a protected area to call home; development in the area continues; the people of Travis County have a beautiful and lasting connection to nature; and the conservation world has working partners in the developers and landowners in Travis. What could be better?