TX Endangered Bird Haven Protected

AUSTIN, Texas, 7/17/2003 -The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today it has preserved 361 acres of Hill Country terrain, located about 30 miles northwest of Austin, for inclusion in the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.

TPL will transfer the property from the McKeever family to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for permanent protection and management.

The latest tract is a top FWS priority because the land provides ideal habitat for two federally protected songbirds-the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo. The primary purpose of the refuge is to conserve the nesting habitat for these endangered songbirds and other bird species which visit the area during the annual migration from breeding grounds in the United States and Canada to wintering grounds in Mexico, Central and South America.

The property was purchased by FWS with $1.5 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which was secured by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

“Texas is a beautiful state because of places like Balcones,” said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. “People travel from all over to visit this part of our state and we should do all we can to preserve it.”

“Protecting such a unique place so close to Austin, with this partnership, has been very special,” said Jenny Parks, TPL project manager. “We deeply appreciate the leadership shown by Senator Hutchison, which has helped protect this special place. It is wonderful that Texans now have another place where they can experience the fascinating wildlife in this region.”

The Balcones NWR was established by the FWS in 1992. Currently, only 19,000 acres of the 46,000 acres needed to complete the Refuge have been preserved.

“We’re thrilled to have added this ideal songbird habitat to the Balcones Canyonlands Refuge, rather than lose it to development,” said Deborah Holle, refuge manager. “We value our partnership with the Trust for Public Land, and are hopeful that this relationship will continue to produce significant conservation achievements for Balcones, and allow us to provide more recreational opportunities for generations to come.”

The McKeever property-owned jointly by three brothers: Grant, Clark, and John, has been owned by the McKeever family for more than 50 years and has been used for ranching and family recreation. In 2002, after meeting with officials from the FWS, TPL crafted a deal with the brothers to convey shares of their property to the Balcones Refuge for permanent protection.

“This has always been a special place for our family, and we’re very happy that we can now share it with others,” said John McKeever, part-owner of the property. “There’s so much to explore out here and no other place quite like it in the state.”

Additional funds are being sought this year from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase the remaining 96.7 acres from the McKeever family, which will complete the protection of this critical property.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres of land in 45 states. In Texas, TPL has protected more than 22,000 acres for communities, including areas in and around Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.