The Hays County Commissioners Court unanimously voted Tuesday to move forward with the purchase of a 1,000-acre tract of the Nicholson Ranch to be used for habitat conservation, county officials announced this week.
The property, located in Precincts 3 and 4 in western Hays County, is appraised at $5.5 million but will be sold to the county for $5 million, with the funds coming from voter-approved 2007 park bonds, officials say.
Commissioners have been working to acquire its first U.S. Fish and Wildlife approved habitat conservation property for more than two years, and could close on the land as early as next week, officials say. The purchase is expected to bring some 800 acres of endangered golden-cheeked warbler habitat into the county’s Regional Habitat Conservation Plan.
The RHCP was developed to help protect endangered-species habitat and position Hays County to support responsible growth and development. Under the RHCP, the county can help streamline public projects and private development in areas where the federal Endangered Species Act applies by providing “credits” that offset “takings” of those sensitive lands. Through its RHCP, the county hopes to ultimately acquire between 10,000 and 15,000 acres of protected land, officials say.
The Nicholson Ranch tract was one of 15 properties submitted under the county’s call for properties issued in October 2009. The ranch contains the headwaters of Onion Creek and is considered to be a high-value habitat. It has been the Nicholson Family Ranch since 1950.
The county had requested that properties submitted have at least 250 acres of endangered-species habitat that would address the goals of the RHCP. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the county would receive at least 800 environmental credits for the acreage if it is managed for the protection of habitat.
The county will work with The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to determine the level of public access to the new property, which could vary depending on the time of year and the nesting season of the golden-cheeked warbler.Email | Print