ESA dispute avoided, thanks in part to Army's purchase of mitigation credits


The San Antonio Express-News summarizes a land deal that will allow military training exercises at Camp Bullis in Texas to go forward:

An intricate land deal has been completed that will protect the military missions of Camp Bullis as well as habitat of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler north of San Antonio, officials said Wednesday.

Three years in the making, the pact involves the Army, Bexar County and the Nature Conservancy, which now is the owner and permanent guardian of 1,244 undeveloped acres about 10 miles east of Camp Bullis.

Creation of the Cibolo Bluffs Preserve eases pressure on Camp Bullis to retain warbler habitat areas that are needed for combat and medical training, military officials said.

Bexar County gave $5 million and the Army contributed $2 million to purchase the tract from Forestar Group Inc., and for its future management by the conservancy.

The land in Comal County near Cibolo Creek was acquired for $6.3 million — about $1.5 million less than appraised value, officials said.

At least $500,000 was earmarked for perpetual maintenance of the preserve, although the nonprofit has to raise more funds to fulfill its conservation role.

The deal has the blessing of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees warbler habitats.

On the one hand, it’s nice to see different parties reach this agreement and avoid contentious litigation.

But on the other hand, what does it say about the state of the law when Army officials have to demonstrate that they obtained “enough endangered species mitigation credits” before going developing military land for combat and medical training purposes?:

Col. John Lamoureux, commander of the 502nd Mission Support Group at Fort Sam Houston, assured officials that the county’s investment was worthwhile.

The Dierks land acquisition “and several other transactions we are working on will generate enough endangered species mitigation credits to resolve our short-and medium-term management of the golden-cheeked warbler habitat,” Lamoureux said. Credits earned across the area have enabled the Army to clear about 1,500 other acres, he said.