Residents in far north Bexar County fighting to protect endangered bird

Golden-cheeked warbler is native to Central Texas

SAN ANTONIO – A tiny bird is at the center of a growing battle over land development in far north Bexar County.

Cibolo Canyons is home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, a bird native to Central Texas.

A proposed land swap in is raising questions for neighbors.

“When they built and developed Cibolo Canyons, they came up with an agreement to create a conservation easement to protect 700-plus, maybe 747 acres behind the development in perpetuity,” said Doris Brown, a resident.

Brown along with other residents are fighting to protect the bird’s habitat. A new development is potentially threatening the preserve.

“They want to whittle away at the original agreement and switch it for 144 acres on the other side,” Brown said.

The agreement Brown said was first awarded to an investment corporation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in pursuance of the Endangered Species Act. Now, they say the new landowners are applying to end the accord that would result in a land swap.

“So, on the face of it, it looks great. We’re going to just take this little bitty 63 acres and we’re going to give you guys 144 that we were going to develop. It sounds great,” Brown said.

Roughly 66 acres of land is prime real estate for the warbler. Bird experts say the bird requires a minimum of 60 acres of contiguous land for it to breed, forage and essentially thrive.

Every golden-cheeked Warbler that’s ever been born was born right here in the state of Texas, in the central Texas area,” said Bexar Audubon Society President Britt Coleman.

Residents say if the land swap is successful, the warbler will loses its home. Coleman said the warbler requires at least 70% canopy coverage. The 144-acres being offered in exchange for the conservation easement doesn’t offer that coverage.

“The problem with habitat destruction is compounded by the problem with habitat fragmentation, meaning that we are taking this habitat and we’re carving it up into smaller and smaller and smaller units,” Coleman said.

KSAT contacted Starwood Land Advisers LLC. The developer said in a statement, in part, that they “believe our plan… is in the best interest of the long-term viability and sustainability of the habitat conservation plan for Cibolo canyons and the golden-cheeked warbler.”

Neighbors like Brown disagree and they have until Thursday to share concerns with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

If you are interested in helping Cibolo Canyons residents’ efforts of preserving the conservation easement you can submit comments to comments are due by Thursday.

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About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.