The Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan
Clearing Restrictions in Place March 1st - August 31st
It’s nesting season for Travis County’s two endangered songbirds – the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo. Before you cut or clear trees or woody vegetation west of I-35, please check to see if restrictions apply. A permit is required to disturb or remove endangered species habitat any time of year, but even permit-holders cannot disturb the birds’ habitat between March 1 and August 31. For help determining whether you may have endangered species on your property, and to learn about mitigation options, visit our Development Guidance page.
The BCCP Celebrates 20 Years!
On May 6, more than 150 people came together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP). The BCCP was a landmark deal that has served as a model across the nation. It was created through a collaboration of policy-makers, developers, scientists, environmentalists, and other local stakeholders. After eight local species were listed as endangered, these local partners worked to find a way to allow development to continue while complying with federal law. The BCCP they created provides private property owners an easy, cost-effective way to mitigate for the removal of endangered species habitat while protecting the most ideal habitat within the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. For the past 20 years, the BCCP has kept Travis County moving and protected more than 30,000 acres of beautiful Balcones Canyonlands. Keep an eye out for events and opportunities to celebrate the BCCP throughout 2016.
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 allows 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”), calls for the creation of a preserve system to protect these eight endangered species as well as 27 other species believed to be at risk. For a full copy of the plan you may download it here: BCCP Habitat Conservation Plan and Permit (8 Mb PDF file).
The BCCP is a 30 year regional permit that allows for incidental take outside of proposed preserve lands, and provides mitigation for new public schools, roads and infrastructure projects of 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 the USFWS.
To minimize and mitigate the impacts of take, the Permit Holders agreed to:
- 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 throughout 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.
Status of BCP Land Acquisition: 30,428 acres of suitable endangered species habitat are 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 Travis Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy of Texas and private landowners, have assembled more than 31,780 acres of preserve lands in 2015, exceeding the minimum size of the BCP as 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.