Land and Water Stewardship

LAND AND WATER STEWARDSHIP:           HILL COUNTRY LANDSCAPES INITIATIVE


The most effective way to protect the water and wildlife of the Edwards Aquifer – and protect their scenic Hill Country watersheds – is by expanding preserves, parks, and conservation ranches into a landscape-scale network of permanently protected lands.

 

The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance’s (GEAA) consensus Edwards Aquifer Protection Plan calls for the creation of a national park-scale network of watershed preserves, parks, and private conservation ranches strategically located across the Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones. Initial building blocks for such a preserve system are already in place as a result of major Edwards Aquifer conservation land bond packages approved by voters in San Antonio and Austin and land conservation efforts by the Edwards Aquifer Authority, Hays and Kendall counties, private “conservation ranchers,” and others.

 

However, these initial efforts need to be expanded rapidly by an order of magnitude before the Aquifer and Hill Country are paved, piped, and polluted. At present there are growing signs of a downturn in the housing and development markets; if there is a substantial retreat in the Hill Country development market, there will again be opportunities for purchasing significant conservation lands near urbanizing areas. There is also potential for major private funding to accomplish land and water stewardship goals set forth above.

 

What is needed now is funding for the Hill Country Landscape Initiative, modeled on the Packard Foundation’s successful Conserving California Landscape Initiative. This initiative helped secure around 400,000 acres in five years. The GEAA Protection Plan calls for protection of 250,000 acres of threatened Hill Country watershed land. To accomplish this, we must start an ambitious campaign to win support from landowners, voters, elected officials, and private individuals and foundations with large financial resources.