The Nature Conservancy’s Barton Creek Habitat Preserve Bolstered by City of Austin Conservation Easement
AUSTIN, TX – Using funds from the successful 2018 Open Space bond, the City of Austin has closed on a conservation easement on The Nature Conservancy’s 4,000+ acre Barton Creek Habitat Preserve, adding enduring protection to the forested hills seen from Southwest Parkway and Highway 71. Natural or undeveloped areas produce clean, high-quality water for recharge to the Edwards Aquifer and for baseflow in area creeks. This permanent conservation easement safeguards a significant portion of the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer contributing zone as well as habitat for endangered Golden-cheeked Warblers.
The conservation easement was achieved through a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Austin Water, the City’s Office of Real Estate Services, Law Department, and Watershed Protection Department.
“This easement was purchased with bond funds that were overwhelmingly approved by more than 80% of Austin voters,” said Scott Hiers, a Watershed Protection Manager in the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department, which manages the Bond program. “This important addition to Austin’s preserved green spaces demonstrates our commitment to meeting the community’s expectations for this bond program.”
Austin Water is responsible for assuring that the conservation easement conditions are met through its Water Quality Protection Lands program. The Water Quality Protection Lands now include more than 34,000 acres that benefit water, wildlife, and people in Central Texas, making it one of the largest land conservation programs in Central Texas. Some of these lands are owned outright by the City of Austin, where staff coordinate ecological restoration projects, host guided hikes and volunteer workdays, and bear the cost of active land management. Other tracts, like this one, are conservation easements, where the landowner bears the cost of maintenance and the public benefits from ecosystem services like clean groundwater, dark skies, and preserved bird and pollinator habitat.
The Barton Creek Habitat Preserve also contains Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat and has long been part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve system. “This is a huge win for water quality in Barton Creek, as well as for protection of important endangered species,” said Sherri Kuhl, Environmental Resource Officer for Austin Water. “Conservation easements created in partnership with willing landowners like The Nature Conservancy have been a key tactic toward maintaining our environmental stewardship.”
A portion of the 2018 Open Space funds remain available, and the City is actively seeking participants to partner with to protect more natural lands.
“The City of Austin and The Nature Conservancy have worked together for decades to preserve thousands of acres in and around the City for water quality and wildlife habitat protection. With this conservation easement at the Barton Creek Preserve, the City and the Conservancy have once again committed to ensuring that this significant property remains a benefit for present and future generations,” said Jeff Francell with The Nature Conservancy.
To see maps and stories of conservation lands managed by Austin Water, visit www.austintexas.gov/wildlands