A developer has cut the amount of undeveloped north Bexar County land it is eyeing for a land swap proposal that could affect an endangered bird’s habitat.

The background

Florida-based Starwood Land Residential Development Co. on Jan. 16 proposed amending its Incidental Take Permit request with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding unoccupied land near the north side Cibolo Canyons neighborhood.

According to the federal agency, Starwood Land—developer of Cibolo Canyons—has proposed adding 144 acres of land identified for potential development to an area preserved to accommodate habitat for the golden-cheeked warbler, an endangered species.

The proposed amended permit request states that, in exchange for the 144 acres, Starwood Land would want to receive an unoccupied 30-acre tract from the same preserved area.

The move, if approved by FWS, would reduce the potential development area from 846 acres to 732 acres and increase the preserve area from 768 acres to 882 acres.

The proposed amended permit request states that adding 144 acres for preservation will provide an adequate amount of habitat for the golden-cheeked warbler. The developer’s representatives also stated the 30-acre parcel that Starwood Land is swapping out of their original permit request does not contain warbler habitat.

“The proposed swap will result in less edge-to-area ratio in the preserve area, a reduction in the amount of habitat loss and take of the warbler due to the implementation of the [Habitat Conservation Plan] and will provide contiguity between two occupied portions of the preserve,” the existing permit request states.

Digging deeper

Officials with Starwood Land have not provided further comments or details for any potential future development next to Cibolo Canyons.

But some neighborhood residents and local environmentalists have previously expressed concern that changes around the golden-cheeked warbler habitat in north Bexar County could adversely impact the endangered bird.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, golden-cheeked warblers nest in Ashe juniper and oak woodlands located across Central Texas.

FWS officials said they will continue to receive public comments on the permit request through Feb. 16.

Doris Brown, a former Cibolo Canyons resident who remains in communication with past neighbors, posted a statement urging FWS to deny the amended permit, saying the acreage that Starwood Land wants to receive remains critical to the golden-cheeked warbler and is a sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge area.

Brown also said the federal government approved a conservation easement with Starwood Land to protect the undeveloped land next to Cibolo Canyons and the TPC San Antonio golf course.

“This is a valuable tool that is used to save land for the future. [Permit approval] would set precedent and jeopardize the entire program,” Brown stated.

The public comment period is part of the federal agency’s process to determine whether the developer’s request meets criteria laid out in various environmental regulations. FWS has not issued a deadline for rendering a decision on the permit.