Valarie Bristol [00:00:00] I was asked by some people from Travis Audubon if I would join their board of directors, and well, I was delighted with the idea and I said, "Of course, I'd be glad to."
Valarie Bristol [00:00:13] And then they discovered I wasn't a member of Travis Audubon. I was only a member of National Audubon. So I had to quickly join Travis Audubon.
Valarie Bristol [00:00:23] But at any rate, I was asked to do it and got on that board with the intent, in the minds of the ones who asked me, to really help Travis Audubon look at its land conservation, and what it already had and what it was doing.
Valarie Bristol [00:00:41] At that time, they had just added a place called Chaetura Canyon, which is out in western Travis County, a beautiful little canyon. So they had three preserves - Blair Woods in East Austin, ten acres, the eight-acre Chaetura Canyon, and they had Baker, which was 720 acres.
Valarie Bristol [00:01:07] So Baker Sanctuary, which was there for golden-cheek warbler, and was the first golden-cheeked warbler preserve ever. It was bought early on - a small piece about 90 acres had been bought by Travis Audubon, way back earlier, before the bird was listed. They already began to see that the habitat was really getting hammered by development. So they went out and bought this small piece, struggled so hard to raise the money, and got it done.
Valarie Bristol [00:01:39] And then as they got to know their neighbor there, Mr. Baker, they made good friends with him and helped him on some projects on his large piece of property. And he had no heirs. And so, through another miracle, Baker Sanctuary is named for Mr. Baker, who gave the large portion of it to Travis Audubon when he died.
Valarie Bristol [00:02:07] Then another 50 acres was given by a developer. And so that made the big 720-acre preserve, which was of course, dedicated to golden-cheeked warbler habitat.
Valarie Bristol [00:02:22] The County came and wanted a commitment from Travis Audubon, a permanent, a permanent commitment, that we would always keep the Baker in the Balcones.
Valarie Bristol [00:02:35] It had been pledged to the Balcones. It had managed along with the Balcones. Everybody had counted it as part of the Balcones. But we had never made that permanent commitment.
Valarie Bristol [00:02:49] And having just spent all those years with land trusts, I realized that, to make a permanent commitment, you better have a permanent source of money to assure that commitment. They wanted that permanent commitment.
Valarie Bristol [00:03:06] And I said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's talk about this."
Valarie Bristol [00:03:11] So I told the board that we needed to consider how we could make that commitment. And I proposed that we approach the County for them to purchase an easement.
Valarie Bristol [00:03:25] And several people went, "Oh, no, they're never going to do that. You know, blah, blah, blah."
Valarie Bristol [00:03:31] But we did approach the County, Clif Ladd and I did. And they thought that was a really good idea. So, and told us, "Well, yeah, I think we can do that."
Valarie Bristol [00:03:45] Because by now the dollars were rolling in. Remember back when we didn't have any money? Well, now those development fees were rolling in. The County gets two and three million dollars a year from that tax increment.
Valarie Bristol [00:04:00] So, they were willing to consider purchasing an easement.
Valarie Bristol [00:04:06] So we went through this long negotiation process. We finally agreed on three and a half million dollars, of which we pledged two million to endow Baker Sanctuary, permanently, to be managed under the guidance of the Balcones Canyonlands Plan.
Valarie Bristol [00:04:25] And we also took a million of that to do all the things on Baker Sanctuary that would make it be permanently useful - bathrooms, a sewer system, a rain catchment system. We built a house for the manager. It was a super eco house, with rain catchment system for water, solar panels for electricity. It's an amazing demonstration of what you can do. So that happened.
Valarie Bristol [00:05:00] And then the rest of the money, about a half a million dollars, was placed in the endowment for Travis Audubon itself, so it could continue to be a good organization.
Valarie Bristol [00:05:12] Meanwhile, I guess I should explain the reason why the permanence was important. Fish and Wildlife had told the County they would not count anything in their total land for the final approval unless it was permanently committed. So that's why they were coming to us and asking.
Valarie Bristol [00:05:33] And it mattered. They needed that permanent commitment so they wouldn't have to go buy another 720 acres.
Valarie Bristol [00:05:41] So we happily made that agreement. It took, as I said, a long time. But we finally got it worked out.
Valarie Bristol [00:05:47] And now we know a Baker is, which has a lot of golden-cheeked warblers, is forever endowed to be managed for golden-cheeked warbler habitat, and Travis Audubon has a nice, solid base to continue its work.