With conservation missions aligned, the Austin Ecological Services Field Office and Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center and Preserve (Westcave) are working together to ensure that open spaces are available now and into the future for both critters and people. Founded in 1976, Westcave, a 75-acre preserve located 30 minutes from downtown Austin, Texas, provides a local hands-on outdoor learning experience for people of all ages. It features a 40-foot waterfall and plunge pool that flows into the scenic Perdernales River. Westcave is also home to the golden-cheeked warbler, a federally endangered songbird, and its grasslands boast habitat for the iconic monarch butterfly along with other native pollinators.
In an effort to enhance and protect the native grasslands and forested habitat at Westcave, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program biologists at the Austin Ecological Services Field Office recently entered into a conservation agreement with Westcave. The agreement seeks to provide a direct benefit to multiple wildlife species, migratory birds, and native pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, on upland habitat within the Preserve.
In early 2016, our Texas Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program worked with an interagency team of wildland firefighters (Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Travis Fire Rescue, and Austin Fire Department) to conduct aon 35 acres of Westcave near the “Uplands Trail.” The prescribed burn successfully removed woody vegetation invading the savanna grassland and open woodland habitats, stimulating plant production and diversity. It also helped to prepare the area for additional planting of native grasses and forbs to benefit the monarch butterfly and other native pollinators.
Another aligned mission of our Austin Ecological Services Field Office and Westcave is to inspire youth in nature and foster that inspiration for generations to come. This can be seen in the recent implementation of an outdoor classroom demonstration site at Westcave. Working collaboratively with the Native Plant Society of Texas, our Texas Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program recently established this outdoor hands-on classroom to include interpretive signs about the unique ecosystem, wildlife and habitat at Westcave, along with a monarch waystation (habitat that provides all of the resources necessary for all of the monarch life stages).
"Partnering in conservation with Westcave demonstrates the importance of working together with our local Austin community, and unifies our conservation missions to promote a healthy environment for species and people," says Adam Zerrenner, Supervisor, Austin Ecological Services Field Office.
Westcave serves as an excellent example of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s commitment to working with others in our community to conserve species while providing people of all ages the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while learning more about are species and their habitats. When you are in the Austin area, please stop by and visit Westcave and take the opportunity to spot a warbler or learn about monarch butterflies, or other native pollinators while enjoying this beautiful preserve.