What Must Be Done?
Balcones Canyonlands primary mission is saving the endangered golden cheeked warbler. To save the warbler the scientific studies show a total of 46,000 acres of habitat are needed. At present, the Refuge has 19,000 acres of habitat, just over a third of the amount needed. Much of this is not contiguous. And, the acreage needed is ever changing as developments enter and destroy or impair habitat. To stabilize and sustain the endangered warbler, Balcones Canyonlands must secure additional habitat and must do so now.
What Is The Hurry?
The window of opportunity is closing. The Austin metropolitan area is expanding rapidly and driving up real estate prices. Three developments have already been started within the boundaries where habitat acquisition is proposed. As recently reported by a national public interest group, Balcones Canyonlands . . . "is absolutely critical to the survival of the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler - this bird breeds only in central Texas. Land within the refuge already has been fragmented and is in danger of even more fragmentation if funds are not available to continue acquisitions of refuge lands." It is not too late to get habitat acquisition back on track and make Balcones Canyonlands Refuge viable, but we must act now.
How Is Habitat Acquired?
The land within the area approved for habitat acquisition is all private land. To add to the Refuge the USFWS must purchase lands from private interests. Purchases are only made from willing sellers and at fair market value after a rigorous appraisal process. Willing sellers are available, but funds are not.
Funds for the Refuge are appropriated by Congress from the Land and Water Conservation Trust, which in turn is funded by fees from offshore oil and gas leasing. Amounts earmarked for Balcones Canyonlands Refuge have been diminishing in recent years. When combined with the impact of increasing property prices, these reductions have resulted in a rapid decline in the pace of habitat acquisition needed to complete the Refuge. At the present rate of funding it is not clear when, if ever, Balcones Canyonlands will achieve its intended purpose.
How Can We Increase Funding?
Friends is endeavoring to educate the public to the need and importance of completing Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Doing so is a very big job and Friends needs your help to do so. It is our firm belief that no one can more effectively persuade decision makers to fund Balcones Canyonlands than concerned citizens, such as you, who are willing to take their time to convey their views to their elected representatives and others in a position to help provide the necessary funds.
What Is Friends’ Message?
The Refuge is environmentally important to the stabilization and recovery of the endangered golden cheeked warbler, black capped vireo and other species. The Refuge provides a variety of recreational opportunities compatible with wildlife protection. Foremost of these is birding. Additionally, the Refuge includes three hiking trails which facilitate photography, wildlife observation, and pursuit of nature studies. The Refuge also offers seasonal opportunities for deer and dove hunting.
From an economic standpoint the Refuge is expected to provide a major ecotourism boost and to become a major draw for birders interested in viewing the endangered warbler and vireo, for which this area provides unique habitat. The Refuge has been described as one of the Last Great Places by the Nature Conservancy and as an "Important Bird Area" by two national conservation groups based on its "global importance" to the endangered warbler and vireo.