What is the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan?

The Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan, or “BCCP” consists of a permit issued to Travis County and the City of Austin on May 2, 1996 by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The BCCP was among the first regional multi-species Habitat Conservation Plan Incidental Take permits ever issued by the USFWS, and has served as a model for locally-based habitat protection programs that successfully balance economic and quality of life concerns with species protection for communities across the country.

sinkhole fernsThe BCCP provides landowners with an alternative process to consultation with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for construction or development in areas with habitat for endangered species. An application may be submitted by landowners that wish to initiate the mitigation process. Submission of an application does not obligate participation in the plan, and landowners always have the option to undergo consultation with the USFWS.

For additional questions about the BCCP or the mitigation process, please see Participating in the BCCP, or contact us.

What is the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve?

Grassland SavanaThe Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, or “BCP”, is a system of habitat preserves established under the terms and conditions of the BCCP permit by Travis County and the City of Austin in cooperation with other Agencies and Partners. In order to minimize and mitigate the impacts of endangered species “take” and habitat loss, the Permit Holders agreed to assemble a minimum of 30,428 acres of endangered species habitat in western Travis County. These lands make up the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. In addition, the BCCP Permit holders agreed to provide for ongoing maintenance, patrolling, and biological management of the preserved habitat, and to conduct biological monitoring and research activities supporting the BCCP permit terms and conditions.

Sixteen years after the permit was issued, the BCP exceeded the minimum goal of 30,428 acres of endangered bird habitat. As of June 2016, approximately 31,785 acres of endangered species habitat has been incorporated in the BCP for protection and management. Although the minimum goal for endangered bird habitat has been met, additional preserve acquisition is required to meet configuration goals and cave protection. These requirements will be addressed over the remaining 10 years of the permit.

Who are the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan Partners?

HP big overviewIn addition to Travis County and the City of Austin, a number of other Agencies, entities and private landowners are cooperating to achieve the goals established in the BCCP. Among these BCCP Partners are the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Travis Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy of Texas. Each of these entities as well as a number of private individuals own and manage lands providing habitat for one or more of the eight endangered or twenty seven other species covered by the BCCP. This cooperative venture successfully merges the differing strengths and varied viewpoints represented by the cross section of Central Texas participants in the plan.

What is the Endangered Species Act, and what does it have to do with me?

The Endangered Species Act, or ESA, is legislation passed into law by the United States Congress in 1973. By enacting this legislation, Congress recognized and set out to halt the loss of plants and animals that make up a vital part of our nation’s rich natural heritage. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the federal agency charged with administering and enforcing the terms of the ESA. Click here for more information about the Endangered Species Act, and how the ESA applies to landowners.

GCWA pinetree 2Through amendments to the Endangered Species Act enacted by Congress in 1982 Habitat Conservation Plans were created as a means to protect unique species while allowing development on non-federal lands to comply with the ESA. These amendments provided landowners with the legal tools needed to allow development or use of land that supports unique wildlife or its habitat in exchange for ensuring that suitable conservation measures be enacted for any loss incurred.

The BCCP consists of a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued permit based on a Habitat Conservation Plan which allows “take” of eight endangered species, as well as twenty six other species that may be in danger. "Take" is defined in the Endangered Species Act as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect any threatened or endangered species. Harm may include significant habitat modification where it actually kills or injures a listed species through impairment of essential behavior (e.g., nesting or reproduction).

Travis County and the City of Austin believe that voluntarily agreeing to set aside, protect and manage habitat for wildlife protects our quality of life while balancing the economic needs of one of the nation’s most vibrant and energetic communities. The BCCP provides private landowners with endangered species concerns a mitigation pathway that has proven efficient and less costly than consultation through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while also maintaining local control.

What is a Habitat Conservation Plan?

Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act provides the means for federal agencies to authorize, fund or carry out development projects while insuring that such projects would not jeopardize the continued existence of threatened or endangered species. Private developers had no similar process and faced an irresolvable situation if their project would result in the killing, harming or harassment (known in legal terms as "taking") of threatened or endangered species.

Congress addressed this issue in 1982 with an amendment to Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) were established as a means to protect unique species while allowing development. An HCP allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to permit "taking" of endangered or threatened species incidental to otherwise lawful activities, when the taking is mitigated by conservation measures. Congress intended that this process be used to reduce conflicts between listed species and private development and to provide a framework that would encourage "creative partnerships" between the private sector and local, state and federal agencies in the interest of endangered and threatened species and habitat conservation.

Incidental take permits (sometimes referred to as “10(a) permits”) are required when non-Federal activities will result in "take" of threatened or endangered species. A habitat conservation plan or "HCP" must accompany an application for an incidental take permit. The purpose of the habitat conservation planning process, and subsequent issuance of an incidental take permit, is to authorize the incidental take of a listed species, not to authorize the activities that result in take. This process ensures adequate minimizing and mitigating of the effects of the authorized incidental take to the maximum extent practicable (from USFWS HCP page).

Landowners wishing to review HCP or Incidental Take Permits may contact the Austin Regional Field Office of the USFWS at 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas 78758, or call (512) 490-0057.

How do I know if there are Endangered Species on my land?

A good place to start is on our Endangered Species page or email the Travis County Natural Resources staff, who are available to answer your questions and to help determine if there may be endangered species concerns on your land.

BCVI SandeeNatural Resources staff works closely with local landowners, developers, real estate associations, and scientific communities to inform, evaluate, and problem-solve issues related to the endangered species native to Travis County. For additional questions about the BCCP or the mitigation process, please see Participating in the BCCP, or contact us.

What is the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge? Is this the same as the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve?

The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, or BCNWR, is a federal program of the U. S. Department of the Interior and a component of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The BCNWR currently comprises approximately 20,000 acres spread across three Counties approximately 45 minutes northwest of Austin, and north of the community of Lago Vista. For more information about the BCNWR, contact the Refuge Headquarters at (512) 339-9432.

Though the two preserve systems are similarly named, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve is a locally operated and managed cooperative program of Travis County and the City of Austin with the BCP Partners, while the BCNWR is a federal program of lands owned and operated by the Department of the Interior.

What is the BCCP Coordinating Committee?

yellow flower clearingThe Coordinating Committee is the governing body that directs the implementation and administration of the USFWS regional 10(a)1(b) permit known as the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP). The Coordinating Committee is composed of one representative from each of the Permit holding entities, a representative of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a Secretary appointed by the voting Committee Members.

What is the Citizens Advisory Committee?

The BCCP Citizens Advisory Committee, or CAC, serves the BCCP Coordinating Committee by providing review and oversight of implementation of the permit terms and conditions, by studying and making recommendations on issues of special concern to the Committee, and by providing a forum for public input.

What is the Scientific Advisory Committee?

The BCCP Scientific Advisory Committee, or SAC, also serves the BCCP Coordinating Committee by providing review and oversight of implementation of the permit terms and conditions. The SAC studies and makes recommendations on issues of special concern to the Committee, especially with regard to the study and management of the species and habitats protected in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

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

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