Trust for Public Land Announces 520-acre Addition to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

The Trust for Public Land today announced that the 520-acre Peaceful Springs Preserve has been added to the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, permanently protecting public recreation and birding opportunities, supporting underground aquifer resources, and providing critical habitat for endangered species and other wildlife.

The acquisition of this historic and beautiful property ensures that it will be permanently protected and never subject to development. As nearby Austin continues to grow, the protection of Peaceful Springs Preserve guarantees the area’s population will have nearby opportunities for recreation and reflection.

Peaceful Springs Preserve features steep limestone canyons, springs and streams that attract migrating birds in the Spring, and plant life that supports the global monarch butterfly migrations in Autumn and Spring. Having been a private wildlife preserve, the property includes an open-air pavilion and lake to serve as a base for wildlife observers and other visitors.

“From the beginning, this acquisition has been about much more than purchasing land. We are protecting the Edwards Aquifer, habitat for threatened and endangered species, and the iconic landscape of the Texas Hill Country. Peaceful Springs is as delicate as a Monarch butterfly and as rugged as an ancient oak; and while much of the surrounding natural landscape is being converted into residential developments, the Peaceful Springs Preserve will be permanently protected for future generations. The community threw their heart and soul behind this project, and I am very proud of the outcome.” said Scott Parker, Texas State Director for The Trust for Public Land.

The Trust for Public Land bought the land for $3,000,000 from a private land owner and is selling it to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for $1,320,000, paid by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (the LWCF).The LWCF is funded by a small fraction of revenues generated by offshore oil and gas royalty payments; it is not supported with general taxpayer dollars. LWCF funding for Peaceful Springs Preserve did not become available until this year. Additional funding for this project came from private donations.

“Peaceful Springs Preserve is a significant addition to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge,” asserted Dr. Benjamin N. Tuggle, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region. “The acquisition will protect one of the four major bird migration routes in North America, as well as secure habitats and migration corridors for suites of species that include the monarch butterfly and two federally listed native songbirds—the Goldencheeked warbler and the Black-capped vireo. We are grateful for the innovation and passion of many partners including The Trust for Public Land and the Friends of Balcones Canyonlands Refuge.”

In addition to economic development and habitat protection, acquisition of Peaceful Springs Preserve will also protect local water quality and quantity. The property sits above the Edwards Aquifer, an underground river that provides drinking water for San Antonio and Austin Texas residents. Any development over the aquifer risks damaging and polluting this important water source.

Deemed one of the most important parcels of land for protection in the Refuge, the Peaceful Springs Preserve was carefully managed for several decades by a private landowner. In late 2014, the landowner and The Trust for Public Land entered into negotiations for the acquisition of the Preserve, structuring an agreement that would protect the property for generations to come in accord with the landowner’s wishes.

While awaiting federal appropriation from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, The Trust for Public Land launched an unprecedented fundraising campaign in partnership with many organizations. The Friends of Balcones blazed the trail, with leadership from Dub Lyon, raising more than $150,000 in private donations, plus a significant gift from board member Joan Mukherjee. In addition, the Damuth Foundation, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, along with other corporate and major funders, contributed to the project to raise a total of $1.6 million in 3 months. The Land and Water Conservation Fund subsequently provided enough funding to close the acquisition and transfer the deed from The Trust for Public Land to the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.