Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan

yellow butterfly by jim and lynne weber
Photo by Jim and Lynne Weber

The Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP) provides a streamlined way for landowners to comply with the Endangered Species Act, while protecting high-quality habitat in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP). Developing endangered species habitat is illegal without a permit. The process to apply for a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) can be lengthy, but landowners in much of western Travis County can obtain permits from Travis County to mitigate for the removal of habitat in a few weeks for a one-time fee. This fee goes towards buying and managing land in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

The BCCP comprises a 10(a)(1)(b) permit issued jointly to Travis County and the City of Austin (also known as "incidental take permit") and a Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement  approved by USFWS in 1996. Links to these and other foundational BCCP documents can be found below. The permit was issued jointly to Travis County and the City of Austin. More information on Habitat Conservation Plans 10(a)(1)(b) permits, and how they relate to the Endangered Species Act can be found on the USFWS website.

Travis County issues development permits (also known as BCCP permits) for landowners who choose to mitigate through the BCCP rather than directly with USFWS. The City of Austin administers the infrastructure permitting process for the BCCP. Mitigation through the BCCP provides regulatory certainty to individual landowners, developers, and infrastructure providers.

In the 20+ years since the BCCP was created, more than 950 private landowners and developers have applied for BCCP permits, resulting in the development of over 14,400 acres and the authorization of more than 300 public infrastructure projects.

BCCP Documents

U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion for the Issuance of a Section 10(a)(1)(B) Permit for the BCCP

BCCP 10(a)(1)(B) Permit (amended 2013)

BCCP Habitat Conservation Plan & Environmental Impact Statement (HCP-EIS)

HCP-EIS (body of document)

HCP-EIS Appendix A: Interlocal Agreement

HCP-EIS Appendix B: Infrastructure Planning

HCP-EIS Appendix C: Comments on Draft HCP/EIS


Landowners can mitigate for the removal of habitat for these seven endangered species through the BCCP:

  • Golden-cheeked warbler
  • Bee Creek Cave harvestman
  • Bone Cave harvestman
  • Kretschmarr Cave mold beetle
  • Tooth Cave ground beetle
  • Tooth Cave harvestman
  • Tooth Cave pseudoscorpion
  • Tooth Cave spider

The black-capped vireo was one of the eight endangered species that the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan and Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) were created to protect. In May 2018, the vireo was removed from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The delisting does not affect the preserve - the land will continue to be preserved in perpetuity. However, landowners who wish to remove black-capped vireo habitat from their properties are no longer required to mitigate for the removal of that habitat. 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.

Mitigation for other endangered species not covered under the BCCP, such as the Barton Springs salamander, must be done through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).


baker sanctuary
Baker Sanctuary, part of the BCP, is owned by Travis Audubon Society and Travis County holds a conservation easement on the property. Photo by Christopher Murray, Travis Audubon Society.

About 80 percent of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve is managed by Travis County and the City of Austin. The other 20% of the 32,000+ acre preserve is managed by public and private partners, sometimes in conjunction with the City or County including:

Check out the interactive BCP Public Access Map to see which preserve tracts have public access and which entity manages each tract.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

To supplement the habitat in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, which currently protects 27,000 acres northwest of the BCP. Approximately 1,000 acres of the refuge are open to the public.