preserve by heather valey
Preserve photo by Heather Valey

Travis County’s Natural Resources Program is part of the Transportation and Natural Resources Department (TNR). Together with the Environmental Quality Program, it makes up the Natural Resources and Environmental Quality division. The Natural Resources Program is headquartered at 700 Lavaca Street in downtown Austin and has a field office on the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Visit the contact page to get in touch.

Mission

Natural Resources Program staff work to preserve and manage Travis County’s diverse and unique native ecosystems and wildlife. To achieve this mission, they implement key conservation programs and provide assistance to other County departments on natural resource topics.

What We Do

The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) is a system of preserves in western Travis County that comprises more than 32,000 acres. It was created as part of the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan to mitigate the development of endangered species habitat in Travis County. The BCP was created to protect eight endangered species and is one of the largest urban preserves in the country. One of the eight species, the black-capped vireo, was removed from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in May 2018. The delisting did not affect the BCP, which continues to provide habitat for this rare bird, as well as the seven still-endangered species and the 27 species of concern the preserve was created to protect.

Diverse partners manage the BCP; the two largest are the City of Austin and Travis County. The County’s Natural Resources Program manages more than 12,300 acres of the BCP. More than 3,500 acres of the preserve are regularly open to the public, and other areas can be accessed through volunteering, guided hikes, and other educational programs.

The Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP) provides a streamlined way for western Travis County to continue to develop while complying with the Endangered Species Act. The BCCP comprises a permit and Habitat Conservation Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1996. The permit was issued jointly to Travis County and the City of Austin, and allows for the removal of endangered species habitat in exchange for the creation of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP), which will be protected in perpetuity. Private landowners who want to develop in endangered species habitat may be eligible to participate in the permit, paying a one-time mitigation fee that helps fund the BCP.

The Conservation Easement Program was approved by Travis County voters in 2012 to preserve natural areas and agricultural lands. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and an easement holder that restricts certain uses of the property in order to protect its natural resources. Travis County purchases easements using voter-approved bond funds, and also accepts donated easements, which may provide estate or income tax benefits to the landowner.

Management

Jon White, Natural Resources & Environmental Quality Division Director
Melinda Mallia, Natural Resources Program Manager

Visit the contact page for additional staff.

 

bluebonnets on the preserve by heather valeyBluebonnets on the preserve, photographed by Heather Valey