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.