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Ecosystem Services

Photographer: Marvin Gohlke A land steward is someone who manages his or her land to assure natural systems are maintained or enhanced for the future. The Texas Hill Country is full of proud landowners who – through land stewardship practices – create a region full of valuable natural assets and their associated ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are commonly defined as the benefits people obtain from functions of natural systems.

Clean air, clean water and healthy land all contribute to healthier human lifestyles and are necessary for life. These are all ecosystem services that are traditionally thought of as free benefits provided by the natural systems around us. Regional planning policies must consider placing real value on ecosystem services so that they are adequately protected. This can be done with policies that encourage and reward private landowners to stay on their land and take care of it in a manner that benefits society. The costs of replacing basic ecosystem services with engineered alternatives can be astronomical, so planning rather than reacting is essential for a sustainable region.

Ecosystem services can generally be separated into four categories: provisioning services (ie. food, air, water, energy, minerals); regulating services (ie. carbon storage, waste decomposition, water purification); supporting services (ie. nutrient recycling, seed dissemination); and cultural services (ie. outdoor recreation). In order to benefit from ecosystem services, the ecosystem itself must be maintained. This can be challenging in places where development, natural resource exploitation and other human activities drastically alter the landscape, uprooting native plants and wildlife, damaging water quality or polluting the air.

Measuring and quantifying the benefits of natural systems can be difficult, but when ecosystem services remain unrecognized or undervalued, their true worth is often not reflected in decision-making.


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Preserving Land Pays




Helpful Documents

Land & Water: A Quantitative Analysis of Land Conservation's Impact on Water in Colorado - From the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts
ESA Pamphlet - A short document from the Ecological Society of America briefly introducing the concept of ecosystem services.
Ecosystem Services – An essay from The Nature Conservancy and a professor at the University of Washington discussing valuation of ecosystem services.
Conservation Learning Exchange - An introduction to the concept of ecosystem services, including links to scientific assessment tools and program development resources.
Ecosystem Services: Benefits Supplied to Human Societies by Natural Ecosystems - A paper discussing types of ecosystem services.
Texas Landowner Perceptions Regarding Ecosystem Services – An academic paper analyzing a survey of landowners in the Western Edwards Aquifer area.
Private Lands, Public Benefits - A report on incentives for the stewardship of Texas agricultural lands from the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and the American Farmland Trust, which discusses the ecosystem services of agricultural land.
Ecosystem Services Guide - A guide for public and private decision makers produced by the World Resources Institute, which discusses risk assessment and policy development.

Helpful Links

Ecosystem Services- Learning to Leverage Natural Capital – Article by Frederick Steiner on the importance of ecosystem services in central Texas.
Characterization of the Central Texas Ecosystem - Information about the Hill Country ecosystem from the Forest Encyclopedia Network.
Ecosystem Valuation - An overview of the connection between economics and ecosystems.
EPA Ecosystem Services Research - The EPA’s program to develop research that will allow us to properly evaluate the benefits of ecosystems.
Forest Service - Information on ecosystem services from the U.S. Forest Service.
TEEB Home - Information on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a major international initiative designed to increase awareness of the significant value of biodiversity and ecosystem functions.
The Natural Value Initiative - An international partnership focusing on the private sector that works to educate companies in the food, beverage, energy and mining sectors about the importance of ecosystem services.
Conservation International Map - An interactive map with information on ecosystem evaluation projects across the globe.
PNAS Ecosystem Services Special Feature - A special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal featuring several articles about ecosystem services science and program development.
Texas A&M Forest Service An introduction into the sustainable management of Texas forests for renewable timber resources.
Ecosystem Marketplace - A website dedicated to making science, market, regulatory and finance information available for the promotion of ecosystem services marketplaces feasible.


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The Latest News

SAWS Board to Vote on Water Deal, UTSA Panel to Follow

The San Antonio Water System Board will vote Monday on a $3.40-billion landmark water deal that would pipe in 50,000 acre-feet of water to San Antonio annually as soon as 2019, enough to meet 20% of the growing city’s future water needs. Read more from the Rivard Report.

Questions answered by SAWS Monday night

Monday’s vote by SAWS is step one, San Antonio City Council will ultimately consider and vote on the Vista Ridge Pipeline Project. Who is this water for? Where will it ultimately go? Who will ultimately pay and what are the long-term financial implications? Show up at UTSA Monday night for a balanced panel discussion. Get educated and get involved. Event details

Community groups question the rush to approve SAWS Vista Ridge Pipeline

“The 522 page draft contract for this $3.4 billion deal was posted on-line on September 23rd, giving the SAWS Board and the public less than a week to review a deal that will have far reaching implications for our community, including an estimated 16% rate hike for SAWS customers.” Read more from GEAA. As Margaret Day of the Alamo Sierra Club points out “to be sustainable, aquifer drawdown should be no greater than recharge.” Read this opinion piece from the Alamo Sierran Word.

The time is now to speak up in Travis County

Travis County is seeking public comments by Wednesday, Oct 1st on their Land, Water and Transportation plan. Read the plan, take the survey and/or send your comments via email. Meanwhile, CAMPO is taking comments until Oct 6th on a variety of projects including a study to construct a major tollway across sensitive preserve lands. “Traffic solution costly, harmful to environment” Read “City to oppose proposed tollroad” in the Austin American Statesmen.

Public Forum on Trinity Aquifer, Oct. 7

The League of Women Voters of Comal Area invites the public to attend “The Trinity Aquifer: A Shared Resource/ A Shared Responsibility,” to be held October 7 in Canyon Lake. “If you drink water in Comal County, you are likely to be drinking Trinity water, or you soon will be. It is up to all of us to learn more about this resource, no matter where in Comal County we live.” Learn more

Evaporation – a loss for humans and wildlife in Texas

It's no secret that drought has been a major factor in the declining water levels of our lakes and reservoirs here in Texas. But there is another factor that has has received very little attention - evaporation. Read more from Texas Living Waters.

New streetlights to make for darker skies

The stars may seem a little brighter over Kerrville next year. The Kerrville Public Utility Board last week set aside about $734,000 to upgrade 2,000 city street lights to “full cut-off,” high-efficiency LED lamps that won’t shine light upward. Read More from the Kerrville Daily Times.

Water Crisis: Time to Get Serious!

Last week’s “Water Crisis” event hosted by The Hays County Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) drew a huge crowd and continues to create a lot of meaningful conversations about how rural lands west of I-35 will be developed. Learn more

Big changes for the Cibolo Nature Center (and FARM!)

Even as Cibolo Nature Center staffers celebrate a major milestone with the completed restoration of the historic Herff farmhouse, they're setting ambitious new goals. Read more from SA Express-News.

It Will Take an Insane Amount of Rain Before the Highland Lakes Recover

Central Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. We’re sitting just below normal. But these big rain events all have something in common: They really haven’t fallen where we need them most. “The watershed that helps our water supplies isn’t here in Austin; it’s way up into the counties to the north of us." Read more from State Impact.

Trend Of Land Fragmentation, Rural Loss Continues In Texas

Land fragmentation has been a growing problem for Texas, and by all appearances it isn’t going to slow any time soon. The state’s population continues to grow rapidly, and those residents have an insatiable appetite for land. Read more from Livestock Weekly.

No Land. No Water.

As the current drought reminds us, water continues to impact the sustainability and growth of Texas' economy. Unfortunately, land is disappearing faster than in any other state, threatening the water resources on which our economy depends. Land conservation is a cost-effective water resource protection strategy. Join TALT October 1st in Austin.

Fall Camping Workshops Announced for Outdoor Families

With cool weather around the corner, the Texas Outdoor Family program has scheduled outdoor recreational workshops statewide though the beginning of December. The workshops offer a low-cost weekend trip where families can un-plug, reconnect with nature, and learn the basics of camping. Read more from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Aquifer is No Quick Fix for Central Texas Thirst

Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. What’s the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Read this excellent article by Neena Satija, Texas Tribune.

Where is the Hill Country?

ACC Professor Don Jonsson takes an interesting look at various degrees of consensus about what geography is included in the “Hill Country.” His data shows Luckenbach as generally the mean center of the region and the Pedernales River Basin 100% Texas Hill Country. View his project findings, map and summary. HCA has a plethora of helpful Hill Country map resources available online and as well as an interactive map viewer.

Wild Pigs!

Landowner groups and Wildlife Coops – Here’s something worth passing along to your member lists. Wild Pigs are an issue throughout the Hill Country region. Here’s an opportunity to learn from the comfort of your own ranch/home computer. Dial in September 18th to from noon to 1:00. Find out how to access this webinar made possible by the Texas Wildlife Association.

"I’m a NIMBY and proud"

“The effects of population growth on traffic are easy to understand. More people equal more cars on the road. More cars on the road equal more congestion. Duh! The real culprit is the rate at which new people are moving here.” Read one bold Austinite's views (who happens to also be a Real Estate Developer) about the real issue facing Austin (and the Hill Country) population. Ed Wendler, Special to the Austin American Statesman.

CARD Hosts a Community Water Meeting September 11

to host a free community meeting this Thursday to discuss why water is an increasingly critical issue, and how we can all be part of improving the outlook. Speakers include Andy Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Steve Clouse, Chief Operating Officer of San Antonio Water Systems, Ray Whisenant, Hays County Commissioner, Peter Newell, Water Resources Engineer at HDR Engineering, and Bech Bruun of the TWDB. Details

What’s all this fuss about a Parkway through Oak Hill?

The Fix 290 Coalition, a group of over 40 organizations and businesses and 2,800 petition signers, have been advocating for a “parkway" concept to move traffic through Oak Hill and protect the original character and unique natural environment of the area for more than a decade. The City of Austin is now asking for a study of this community driven “parkway” alternative to TxDot’s traditional elevated/frontage road model. Read more from Fix290.

HCA Transmission Line Workshop Generates Crowd

On Saturday, September 6th the Hill Country Alliance hosted a landowner workshop for those landowners potentially impacted by the LCRA's proposed Blumenthal substation and transmission line project. The workshop featured an update from the LCRA on the status of their application to the Public Utility Commission, and a panel discussion of landowner rights during the transmission line routing and construction process. To read a more detailed summary of the event and access speaker presentations, click here.

A Tale of 2 Water Districts: 1 Aquifer, 2 Strategies

A decade ago, prospective water marketers easily secured the rights to pump more than 20 billion gallons of water annually from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Central Texas’ Burleson County. The company now holding those rights, BlueWater, is negotiating a $3 billion deal to send much of that water to San Antonio. Read more from The Texas Tribune.

More news

Upcoming Events

October

October 1 in Austin - No Land, No Water: Tools & Strategies for Conserving Land to Protect Water Resources - Presented by Texas Agricultural Land Trust - Details

October 7 in Canyon Lake - Public Forum on Trinity Aquifer, presented by The League of Women Voters Comal Area - Details

October 8 in San Antonio - Water Forum V: A regional forum on our future - Details

October 15 in Junction - SLWA Guadalupe Bass Workshop - Details

October 16 in San Antonio - Teaming with Wildlife: The State of Nature in Texas, presented by Compassionate San Antonio - Details

October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Agri-land workshop - Details

October 17-19 in Alpine - Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Conference: Ecological Restoration in the Southwest - Details

October 24 in Utopia - Stars over Utopia - Learn how to protect our night skies and do some stargazing - Details

October 25 in Dripping Springs - HCA's 5th Annual Rainwater Revival! - Details

See more upcoming events


2015 Calendar

One sale now!- Purchase Online

Check out the top photos from our 2014 HCA Photo Contest


Imagine a place where vibrant communities draw strength from their natural assets to sustain their quality of life. A place where citizens care about protecting the special qualities of a region – their region. A place where people and partners band together to envision a better economic future, tackle shared challenges and care for the natural, scenic, and recreational resources that define the place they call home.
~This is a Conservation Landscape



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Maps

Helpful Mapping Resources - Beautiful and informative maps of the region to print and share.

HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool

 
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