The Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP)

About the BCCP

On May 2, 1996, Travis County and the City of Austin were jointly issued a regional permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allowed incidental “take” of eight locally occurring federally-listed endangered species under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act. “Take” is the removal of occupied endangered species habitat or species displacement due to development of habitat areas. This community-based solution, referred to as the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP), called for the creation of a preserve system to protect these eight endangered species as well as 27 other species believed to be at risk. Download a full copy of the plan here: BCCP Habitat Conservation Plan and Permit.

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The BCCP is a 30 year regional permit that allows for incidental take outside of proposed preserve lands, and provides mitigation for the construction of new roads and infrastructure projects by the participating agencies (Travis County, the City of Austin, and the Lower Colorado River Authority). Landowners and developers may elect to participate in the BCCP to mitigate for development of endangered species habitat rather than mitigating directly through USFWS. In 2018, one of the eight endangered species, the black-capped vireo, was removed from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Its habitat will continue to be protected on the preserve, but landowners no longer need to mitigate for removal of black-capped vireo habitat on their properties. The other seven species are still considered to be endangered.

To minimize and mitigate the impacts of take, the Permit Holders agreed to:

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  • assemble a minimum of 30,428 acres of endangered species habitat in western Travis County known as the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP), and secure protection for a series of karst (cave) features and rare plants in Travis County;
  • provide for ongoing maintenance, patrolling, and biological management of the preserved habitat; and
  • conduct biological monitoring and research activities supporting the BCCP permit terms and conditions.
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Status of BCP land acquisition: 30,428 acres of suitable endangered species habitat were required to be assembled and managed within twenty years of issuance of the permit (i.e. by 2016). The BCCP Managing Partners (Travis County, the City of Austin, and the Lower Colorado River Authority), in cooperation with non-profit conservation organizations including Travis Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy of Texas and private landowners, have assembled more than 31,800 acres of preserve lands, exceeding the minimum size required by the permit. While this large and once very daunting goal has been met, the BCCP partners still have some work before them. This includes strategic acquisitions to address the minimum acreage requirements for each of seven individual macrosites, the acquisition of key tracts to provide a preserve configuration essential to species recovery, and the protection of 62 named caves.

For more information about the BCCP, please contact Travis County Staff.

Future of the BCCP

What happens when the permit for the BCCP expires?

Travis County and the City of Austin worked with ICF, a consulting firm with expertise in habitat conservation planning, to identify the options available to the permit holders. The 30-year permit for the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP) expires May 2, 2026. The permit holders have a number of options available to them:

  • Extend the permit’s expiration date;
  • Make administrative changes through the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service to update the BCCP;
  • Request a major amendment to the plan to add covered species or change take coverage;
  • Develop a new habitat conservation plan to replace the BCCP;
  • Allow the permit to expire.

The BCCP Permit Options Report includes a complete description and analysis of these options. Dr. David Zippin, from ICF, presented an overview of these options to the BCCP Coordinating Committee at its quarterly meeting on December 7, 2018. View the video of his presentation; click Agenda Item #5. There was additional discussion of the report at the June 14, 2019 meeting. View the video of this additional discussion; click Agenda Item #3.

The BCCP Coordinating Committee will consider permit options at its next meeting, September 13, 2019. Public review and comment on the report is welcomed. To have written comments considered for the September meeting, please submit them to BCCP Secretary Kimberlee Harvey at Kimberlee.Harvey@austintexas.gov by August 15, 2019.

What happens to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve if the BCCP Permit is allowed to expire?

Lands dedicated to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) were set aside as mitigation for development in Austin and Travis County. Under the terms of the BCCP Permit, BCP lands are protected in perpetuity, so they will remain protected whether or not the BCCP permit is renewed or extended.

Black-capped Vireo Delisted

In May 2018, the black-capped vireo was removed from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Its continued survival in Travis County has been made possible in large part by the conservation and active management of its habitat on lands like the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP).

The vireo is one of the eight endangered species that the 31,849-acre BCP was created to protect in 1996. The delisting of the vireo will not affect the BCP – it will continue providing habitat for this rare bird, as well as the seven still-endangered species and 27 species of concern found on the preserve. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to delist the vireo was made with the assumption that protected habitat would remain intact and continue to be managed for the species.

Landowners who wish to remove black-capped vireo habitat from their properties are no longer required to mitigate for that removal. Before beginning a construction or clearing project, however, please check the habitat map to see if there may be endangered golden-cheeked warbler or karst invertebrate habitat on your property.

To learn more, visit our Development Guidance page.

Read the joint Travis County/City of Austin statement on the black-capped vireo delisting.

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Contact Us

PO Box 1748
700 Lavaca street, Suite 540
Austin, Texas 78767
Phone: (512) 854-9437

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New Endangered and Threatened Species

On Aug, 20, 2013 US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Austin Blind Salamander as endangered and Jollyville Plateau Salamander as threatened species.If you think your project may be affected, please contact US Fish and Wildlife Service at (512) 490-0057 in Austin. The BCCP does not provide a permitting option for those species.