HCA is a passionate community caring for the unique features, spring-fed streams, heritage ranch lands, spectacular beauty and culture of the Texas Hill Country for the benefit of future generations. Join us.



To bring together an ever-expanding alliance of groups throughout a multi-county region of Central Texas with the long-term objective of preserving open spaces, water supply, water quality and the unique character of the Texas Hill Country.


The Hill Country Alliance is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to raise public awareness and build community support around the need to preserve the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas Hill Country.


The First Meeting

We held our first meeting September 4, 2004. Texas Hill Country residents met to share ideas and learn from each other about development issues in their area. From that day, we decided to begin meeting monthly and to create a website. Through e-mail we drafted paper detailing our positions and began expanding our resources. We established three core goals: 1) To protect water quality and supply, 2) To preserve open space and 3) To promote responsible growth in the Hill Country.

Building Our Alliances

In the last quarter of 2004, we spent time getting to know organizations who shared our concerns about the effects of growth and development in the Hill Country. The following groups pledged support for our efforts: The Hamilton Pool Road Scenic Corridor Coalition, The Guardians of Lick Creek, Citizens in the Bee Creek Valley, Citizens for a Livable Bee Cave, Lakeway First, Save Barton Creek Association, Concerned Citizens of Spicewood, The Friendship Alliance, Citizens Assembly of Blanco County, La Tierra Property Owners Association, Public Citizen Texas Office, The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.


Establishing Our Organization

In 2005 we decided to form a non-profit corporation. We raised enough seed money to allow a contracted director to spend 6 months developing HCA into a well-organized, highly credible organization with a business plan and funding opportunities. HCA applied for and achieved its status as a 501c3, a non-profit organization recognized by the federal government, in December 2005.

Our Leadership

HCA’s first board of directors, led by Pam Reese as president, included: Rob Baxter, Don Bosse, Lee Carrell, Karen Ford, Pepper Morris, Nell Penridge, Damian Priour, Pat Sinnot and Ira Yates.

Encouraging Regional Planning

Participants in HCA became involved in many regional planning processes; The Regional Water Quality Plan, The Hamilton Pool Road Regional Plan, The Southwest Travis County Growth Dialog and the Lower Colorado River Authority NPS Stakeholders Group, Envision Central Texas and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). Through our alliance, they have been able to share ideas about the progress of regional planning in the Hill Country and help pave the way for future efforts.

Educating the Public

Through media attention, public speaking opportunities and community outreach, HCA began raising public awareness of the effects development has on the sensitive environment of the Texas Hill Country.

Our First Bond Initiative

In Travis County’s November 2005 bond election, HCA partnered with the Texas Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land and the Hill Country Conservancy to help the county pass an initiative that included more than $62 million for open space. An HCA Board Member served on the Travis County Bonds Citizens Advisory Committee. The bond package passed Nov. 8, 2005.

Building a New Database and Website

We created a database and integrated it with our website to help coordinate HCA efforts.

Providing Testimony

HCA has and will continue to regularly provide testimony at county commissioner’s courts, river authority board meetings, legislative hearings and any other opportunities to educate key decision makers about concerns in the Texas Hill Country.

Educational Events

Public Seminar – June 9, 2005 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center HCA hosted and co-sponsored seminars on transfer of development rights, responsible land use, open space bond elections and water quality rules, a key concept in the Regional Water Quality Plan. More than 100 individuals, including landowners, public officials, developers and others from the general public, attended our free June 9, 2005 program.

Participating in Advocacy

Throughout each legislative session we keep our members engaged and informed about bills that effect growth in the Texas Hill Country. During HCA’s first year attending the Texas Legislature, we provided testimony at several committee hearings and tuned in to ACT (the Alliance for Clean Texas, a coalition of grassroots lobbying groups). We also wrote a summary of legislation important to HCA and distributed it to our groups and individuals.

Promoting Conservation Development Standards

Promoting Conservation Development Standards HCA provided input for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center project; to produce a “primer” on conservation development in the Hill Country.


Our Leadership

Karen Ford served as president of HCA in 2006. Our other board members included: Lee Carrell, Colleen Gardner, Roy Mann, Pepper Morris, Nell Penridge, Damian Priour, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. We also created an Advisory Board in 2006, which included: Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Sky Lewey, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot and Raymond Slade. Creating our “Neighbor to Neighbor” publication as a collaborative project, HCA worked with a coalition of experts to produce an educational publication about the direct discharge permit application for Belterra in Hays County. We hand delivered the piece to the community and posted it on the HCA website for future reference.

Hosting Educational Events

In 2006 HCA hosted events on dark skies, groundwater districts, transportation plans and CAMPO. HCA also partnered with the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods to host a candidate debate for the Texas House District 47 seat.

Promoting the Travis County Greenprint

HCA participated as a stakeholder in the Trust for Public Land Greenprint for Travis County.

Collaborating for County Authority

HCA collaborated with county commissioners, landowners, The Texas Association of Counties, environmental groups and developers to collect information and write recommendations for increased county authority in the Hill Country. The resulting Issues and Actions Report on county tools to plan for growth was published online and distributed throughout the region.


HCA worked with EMG Marketing to develop a marketing package that includes a membership brochure, Web card and bumper sticker with the theme: Education-Conservation-Cooperation. A volunteer leader created a marketing plan to help articulate specific tasks to help HCA with our mission.

Creating an Economic Study

Through a partnership with the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, HCA began an economic study of the hill country region. The project moved forward, but not to the degree we had hoped.


Our Leadership

In 2007, Damian Priour served as president of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Roy Mann, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included; Bob Ayers, Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, David Langford, Sky Lewey, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Debra Trejo and Terry Tull.

Creating a Technical Advisory Committee

Raymond Slade recruited the “A-Team” of scientists and engineers in the Hill Country to offer advice and work with HCA on special projects.

Hosting Educational Events

HCA co-hosted a conservation development program in Hays County.

Mapping the Hill Country

HCA partnered with Texas State University to create interactive digital maps of the 17-county hill country region.

Legal Research

HCA partnered with citizen groups along the Colorado River corridor to conduct research on LCRA’s jurisdiction.


The HCA database of groups and individuals who support HCA grew from 400 to more than 1300 and communications reached more than 7,000 Hill Country residents.

Web site

We further enhanced our Web site in 2007. A proposal for a re-design is in the works to be considered for the 2008 budget, and timely Neighbor to Neighbor news and alerts on local and regional issues and events went out as needed.

More Collaborating for County Authority

HCA informed groups in the Hill Country region about HB 3447, a bill authored by Representative Patrick Rose to give counties in the Hill Country Priority Groundwater Management Area the authority to limit density, set guidelines to deal with incompatible land use and collect development impact fees to help counties pay for the services needed to keep up with growth.

Starting Our Photo Contest

HCA conducted our first Hill Country Photo Contest. We received more than 200 photos, and plan on continuing the contest annually.

Hill Country Calendar

HCA created, produced and sold an educational calendar using winning photo’s from the photo contest.

Hiring on a New Staff Member

We hired Pepper Morris to work on administrative duties, outreach, database maintenance and fundraising.


Our Leadership

Nell Penridge served as President of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, David Baker, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Sky Lewey, Damian Priour, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayers, Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Julie Koppenheffer, Jaynellen Ladd, David Langford, Michael Looney, Roy Mann, Milan Michalec, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Debra Trejo, Terry Tull.

Research and Support for County Authority

HCA has provided research and support for the Hill Country County Coalition, a group of Hill Country elected officials who are working together to define specific tools that are necessary to help counties keep up with and plan for the pace of growth we are experiencing in the region.

Our Partnership with UT

We have partnered with the UT Law School Environmental Clinic to provide legal research for the Hill Country Coalition. An extensive analysis was developed illustrating how Texas compares to other states regarding various county authority and planning issues.

Mapping the Hill Country

We completed an interactive GIS based website containing over 70 layers of GIS data for the 17 county region. This tool is offered free of charge to organizations throughout the region, county governments, landowners and the general public. HCA developed mapping capabilities to create custom maps illustrating watersheds, groundwater districts, development plats, springs, etc. A plethora of data is available.

Educational Events

We hosted and co-hosted numerous educational events including the Texas Water Issues Symposia Series put on by a partnership of Schreiner University, Texas Tech University, Texas Public Radio, and the Hill Country Alliance.

20 Year Scenario Presentation

We created the 20 Year Scenario Presentation; a look at what this region will likely become if trends continue in the same path, which will soon be accompanied by a State of the Hill Country report to be released the first quarter of 2009.

Hill Country Calendar

We conducted our 2nd annual Hill Country Photo Contest and published the 2009 Calendar which has quickly become a popular resource on Hill Country issues as well as a beautiful calendar to share.

New staff member

Shannon Chambers joined the HCA staff in November bringing new energy and her own passion for the Hill Country region.


Our Leadership

Ira Yates served as President of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, David Baker, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Sky Lewey, Damian Priour, Pam Reese, Nell Penridge, Milan Michalec, and Chris Hale. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayers, Bill Barker, Don Bosse, Dave Collins, Julie Dill, Bebe Fenstermaker, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Susan Hughes, Julie Koppenheffer, David Langford, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Debra Trejo, and Terry Tull.

Mapping the Hill Country

We launched our online mapping tool which brings HCA’s valuable data sets and GIS capabilities to the public. The Technical Advisory Committee completed groundwater and surface water vulnerability maps of the region, creating an extremely valuable tool for planners, developers and landowners to see what areas are more fragile than others and why.

2050 Vision Tools

HCA created alternative future maps of the 17 county Hill Country Alliance area contrasting the affects of status quo development as compared to quality growth development principles that incorporate water quality protection to the year 2050. The project was developed using readily available datasets that are standard across the study area to give an overview of two scenarios of how future development might occur within the study area.

Hill Country View

72 ninety second radio briefs titled “Hill Country View” were written and produced. Texas Public Radio out of Kerrville regularly aired these programs during the morning and evening commute.

Educational Programs and Partnerships

HCA continued the Texas Water Issues Symposium partnership with Texas Tech University, Schreiner University and Texas Public Radio. The series brings water resource issues to the people with expert panelists. We average 120 live attendees in addition to the wide radio audience and viewers of the website. HCA co-hosted a conservation development symposium at the Wildflower Center in the spring of 2009 with the Congress of New Urbanism.

Regional Outreach

HCA presented to numerous groups throughout the region including Chambers of Commerce, master naturalists, neighborhood activists, groundwater districts, UT LAMP, Lyons Clubs etc. We also exhibited at many events such as the Lavender Fest in Blanco, Roundup in Fredericksburg, Earth Day at Aquarina in San Marcos, and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Celebration in Wimberley.

New Website, More effective Newsletters

A new design was created in early 2009. The site has grown rich with content organized by issue. The Neighbor to Neighbor News expanded with an average of 3 newsletters a month. These succinct timely email newsletters highlight current news and events related to the HCA mission. The database of subscribers grew from 1732 in the end of 2008 to 2464.

Calendar/Photo Contest

The photo contest was expanded with over 400 entries. The third annual Calendar was redesigned and we printed a second series of Hill Country postcards, at no cost, to use for marketing and gifts.

County Authority research support and advocacy

HCA continued to assist the Hill Country County Coalition, a work group of county commissioners and judges as they convene meetings and build consensus about legislation to improve county planning tools in the Hill Country. We created resources to educate elected officials and citizens about HB 3265 to enhance county authority and delivered the “State of the Hill Country” resource packet to Hill Country legislators which included maps, the 2030 report, Regional Water Quality Protection Plan summary and Cost of Community Services studies.

Issue Development

As timely issues surface, HCA staff works with volunteers, advisors and the TAC to unite stakeholders for sustainable solutions to difficult issues such as transmission lines through scenic lands, direct discharge permits in fragile streams, the desired future conditions process mandated by the legislature, transportation planning.


Our Leadership

Carolyn Chipman-Evans serves as President of HCA. Other board members include: David Baker, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Sky Lewey, Milan Michalec, Bill Neiman, Nell Penridge, Dr. Leo Tynan, and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members include: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Dave Collins, Brian Davis, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Colleen Gardner, Susan Hughes, James Kimmel, David Langford, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Mike Mecke, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, Bob Petersen, Damian Priour, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Deborah Trejo, and Terry Tull.

Strategic Plan

Carolyn Chipman Evans and Advisory Board member Mike Morton lead HCA through a process that resulted in a concise, thoughtful, achievable strategic plan.

Hill Country County Coalition and the County Authority Issue

Four County to County sessions were held in 2010 resulting in more coordination between Hill Country county elected officials. In addition, representatives from HCCC travelled to Austin to give testimony before the House Interim Committee on County Affairs. HCA supplied resource materials and prepared written testimony for Chairman Coleman, which is evident in the Interim Report recommendations for expanded County tools including infrastructure fees and incompatible land-use buffers. After the November election, HCA visited newly elected officials to encourage participation.

County Focus Groups completed

HCA was successful conducting focus groups in 10 rural Hill Country counties. Each one was unique and gave us new insight about specific needs in different parts of the Hill Country region. The focus groups provided not only valuable feedback about issues and programs, but also introduced us to new leaders and created relationships with opinion leaders. More focus groups are being scheduled for 2011.

Hill Country View Radio Show

Twenty-six new shows were produced bring our total to 98 segments of the Hill Country View, a 90 second radio feature packed with information about caring for the natural resources and cultural heritage of the Hill Country. We expanded air time to include 3 radio stations. All of the segments are now accessible on the HCA website in the resource section as well as broken out by issue and posted on related issue pages. We also developed a marketing one-sheet for promoting the Hill Country View to new stations.


The website has again been re-designed and all of the content has been refreshed and updated. Issues have been re-organized. All new mapping resources have been added. We continue to receive praise that this is a comprehensive and always current valuable regional tool.

Texas Water Symposium

HCA served as the lead organization along with partners; Schreiner University, Texas Tech University and Texas Public Radio to host 4 educational programs about water resources in the Hill Country that were taped and aired on TPR. Topics included legislative action, energy/water nexus, river clean-up programs, conservation and planning. Each program is archived and available for listening.

Farm and Range Forum

HCA partnered with Texas Wildlife, AgriLife, Green Spaces Alliances and others to bring back the forum. This event was held in Fredericksburg. The focus of the forum is to bring together rural landowners with the urban conservationist, explore ways to keep rural landowners on the land and enlighten urban dwellers of the value of rural land stewards.

Rainwater Revival

HCA partnered with Hays County and served as the lead NGO to organize this first annual one day festival/educational event all about rainwater harvesting.

Conservation Development Symposium

HCA was invited as a new partner with APA and the City of San Antonio to co-host a Randall Arendt event at Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. The event drew about 150 participants representing public and private stakeholders to come together to learn about conservation development design.

National Conservation Initiative

We network with national leaders in large landscape conservation planning and mega-region infrastructure planning and were invited to participate in a national practitioner’s network of leaders in regional conservation, as the only representative from Texas.

Neighbor to Neighbor Newsletter

Newsletters are distributed 3- 4 times a month featuring the latest news, events and resources on all things related to growth, development, water, conservation and other issues in the Texas Hill Country.

Photo Contest and Calendar

Over 550 photographs were entered in the 4th annual photo contest. Another spectacular HCA Calendar was produced and delivered to leaders, elected officials and decision makers throughout the region.

HCA Endowment Created

An endowment fund was established at the Austin Community Foundation with an initial $45,000 investment.

Issue Outreach

HCA was a leader in the dissemination of information and a united voice for critical regional issues including; the construction of transmission lines to bring wind energy through the Hill Country (CREZ), the desired future conditions process for regional groundwater conservation districts (GMA 9 – DFC), Tri-County Groundwater Conservation District proposal by the TCEQ, multiple habitat conservation planning programs (HCP’s), Sunset Review of TCEQ and conservation initiatives.


Our Leadership

Sky Lewey served as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Milan Michalec, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Jim Dahlglish, Brian Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Mike Mecke, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Paul Sumrall, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, and Ken Whalen.

The HCA Network

The HCA network grew significantly in 2011 both in numbers and in diversity. HCA leadership has grown to include rural ranchers, the former President of The Wildlife Association, two County Elected officials, 3 mayor/former mayors from Hill Country towns, economic development professionals, landowners, rural Agri-life experts. The HCA database grew to more than 4,000 subscribers.


The HCA website received re-design making it more streamlined and aesthetically pleasing. We continue to receive praise that this is a comprehensive and always current valuable regional tool.

GIS Mapping Tool

HCA completed a complete reconstruction of our GIS interactive mapping tool. The new format is user friendly for the general public and valuable to the water resource planning expert. Illustrations include hydrology, watersheds and topography in an interactive format. Vulnerability layers have been added to demonstrate areas where groundwater is more susceptible to degradation.

Development of Hill Country Groundwater Websites

Google Hill Country Groundwater and you will find one or several HCA pages. We have become the "go to" resource for groundwater news, data, maps and experts. HCA’s newsletters go out three to four times a month driving traffic to additional resources from HCA and also our many partnering organizations. In addition, HCA has developed extensive web resources for water conservation, rainwater harvesting, the drought, water quality, groundwater planning and watershed protection.

Hill Country Groundwater Primer

HCA created and distributed more than 28,000 Hill Country Groundwater four page color primer. This publication was distributed during spring 2011 GCD elections to educate voters. We also provided this resource to all Hill Country legislators and it was displayed in many of their Capitol offices. 23,000 pieces distributed as newspaper inserts in Hays, Kendall and Bandera Counties.

Photo Contest and Calendar

Over 400 photographs were entered in the 5th annual HCA Photo Contest. Another spectacular HCA Calendar was produced and delivered to leaders, elected officials and decision makers throughout the region.

Development of “I’m for the Hill Country” campaign

HCA has created a new campaign strategy coined “I’m for the Hill Country” to gain broader acceptance for the message of conservative groundwater planning, water conservation, public engagement in groundwater planning, and in general HCA positions relating to better planning for land use and water resource protection. The new “I’m for the Hill Country” logo has been placed on decals, the HCA website, HCA’s social media outlets and on all HCA outreach communications.

Hill Country County Coalition and the County Authority issue

Two more County to County sessions were held to convene County Judges and Commissioners. In addition, the initiation of the Hill Country County Caucus with Representative Jason Isaac resulted in the first ever legislative cause of all House and Senate members representing our 17 county region. The most recent session, of the coalition attracted 33 county elected officials representing 11 counties as well as Representative Isaac, Representative Miller, Senator Wentworth and staff from Hilderbran and Fraser’s offices.

County Focus Groups

HCA continued to conduct focus groups with the help of Peggy Sechrist who was hired as part-time outreach contractor. Peggy hosted focus in Gillespie, Kerr, Medina and Kendall counties. Each one was unique and gave us new insight about specific needs in different parts of the Hill Country region. We learned that our mission for educational outreach is considered to be most valuable and that rural landowners want HCA to strive to incentivize education and advocate for conservation practices. Scenic beauty, water policy, heritage ranch land protection, property taxes and development pressure continue to be most frequent issues raised. These focus groups also help HCA identify opinion leaders in the community and build trusting relationships.

Education and Collaboration during Groundwater Rights Legislation Debate

HCA was successful getting guest commentaries published in the Austin American Statesman and also the San Antonio Express News to urge caution with SB 332, what was known during the session as the “vested rights bill”. Our SB 332 resource page is very thorough and used frequently by the media and public. Though difficult to measure, we believe we had a strong impact on what resulted in a compromise.

Coordinating Regional Support for the Hays County DFC Protest

HCA brought David Baker of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association together with David Langford, former TWA CEO, rural landowner and Milan Michalec, local GCD director together to help provide understanding of why the DFC process needs further clarification and modification. A 30-ft drawdown will not sustain water supplies for future generations. This technical issue can be best summed up by saying we are currently pumping more than is being recharged. In addition, HCA created an informative resource page on this issue and a guest commentary was published in the Austin American Statesman in November of 2011.

Regional Water Catchment Watershed) Planning Assessment Project

Understanding that water planning must begin to follow natural watershed boundaries rather than political lines, HCA began building new resources and tools to help generate more collaboration between watershed planning projects and also to move these programs from reactive to proactive efforts. Currently most of these watershed programs are done as a result of a threatened or impaired water system. The Pedernales watershed was identified as a focus area collaboration.

Creation of the short film, "I'm for the Hill Country"

HCA created an 8 minute mini-documentary to build awareness about the major regional issues; water resource protection, land stewardship and conservation. This film has received high praise and is currently being requested by many entities for viewing.

Rainwater Harvesting Outreach

HCA hosted the second annual Rainwater Revival event in Dripping Springs. A new tour of homes was added giving participants a close-up look at rainwater harvesting in action. Plans are already underway to bring the event to Boerne on October 27th 2012.

PEC Night Skies Policy

Because of HCA’s influence, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative adopted the following policy in August 2011:

  1. Area Lighting in the Texas Hill Country
  2. WHEREAS, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (“the Cooperative”) recognizes the Texas Hill Country for its diverse ecosystems, ethics for land stewardship, rich cultural heritage, and breathtaking scenic beauty; and
  3. WHEREAS, the influx of people into the region over the years and accompanying light trespass from area lighting fixtures has been steadily on the rise, and these factors have impacted the natural environment and the quality of life of the people of this region; and
  4. WHEREAS, the Cooperative is committed to protecting the beauty of the night skies
  6. COOPERATIVE, that the Cooperative shall promote outdoor lighting fixtures and practices that follow up-to-date guidelines for efficient, non-intrusive lighting and work with its partners to educate and encourage landowners, businesses, residential communities, and public entities to join in this commitment; and
  7. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Chief Executive Officer or his designee is authorized to take such actions as needed to implement this resolution


Our Leadership

Sky Lewey served her second term as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Milan J. Michalec, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates.

Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Debbie Brient, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Cristi Clement, Bryan Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Liz Stool Friedman, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Commissioner Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Tom Mason, Stan Meador, Mike Mecke, Judge Garry Merritt, Myfe Moore, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Jill Nokes, Jake Patoski, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Michele Thompson, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, Bob Webster and Ken Whalen.

The HCA Network

Our database grew to 5300 supporters, friends and subscribers and increased and 490 Facebook and Twitter followers.

The significant amount of interest in participation on HCA issue based projects lead to the creation of Issue Teams. About one hundred volunteer leaders found their place on one or more of several teams including Water Policy, Night Sky, Land Conservation, Rainwater Harvesting, Land Stewardship, County Authority, Young Leaders (Team Future), Pedernales and Low Impact Development. These teams tackle timely issues; create educational events and resources; and provide comments on local, regional and state policy decisions.

Website and Newsletter

The HCA website continues to evolve, Google “Hill Country Groundwater” you will likely find one or several HCA pages. We have become the “go to” resource for groundwater news, data, maps and experts. HCA’s newsletters go out three to four times a month driving traffic to additional resources from HCA and also our many partnering organizations. In addition, HCA has developed extensive web resources for night sky protection, land conservation, rainwater harvesting, the drought, water quality, groundwater planning and watershed protection and low impact development strategies.


Our Rainwater Team hosted the 3th Annual “Rainwater Revival. In 2012 we moved to Boerne where we experienced a terrific turnout estimated at 900 attendees. The program was well received and enjoyed wonderful media coverage. Attendees were treated to educational sessions and exhibits all designed to make rainwater harvesting a more widely used water strategy in this region. We also raised funds to award another round of grants to area schools for rainwater harvesting and native landscaping projects. Four grants of $900 each were given to: Bandera High School, Dripping Springs Middle School, Hill Country Montessori and Utopia ISD.

Night Skies

Our Night Sky Team created an entire menu of programs aimed at reducing light pollution. We hosted a series of “Better Lights for Starry Nights” workshops, with participation by the McDonald Observatory, Texas Parks and Wildlife and local partners. The “Night Sky Coop” was launched, where landowners take a voluntary pledge to end light trespass from their land and a new chamber of commerce recognition program was created where businesses are acknowledged for being night sky friendly. We coordinated and funded the retrofitting of lights in the City of Junction, Kimble County, Texas Tech in Junction and the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with support from The Coypu Foundation.

Water Planning

Our Water Team grew to include more regional experts. They are coordinating involvement in all regional water planning processes including Groundwater Management Areas 7, 9 and 10, Regional Water Planning Groups J, K and L as well as the Environment Flows, Bay Basin planning groups. The team hired a part-time coordinator, Charlie Flatten, a graduate student at Texas State University

Pedernales Team

We created a team which includes representatives from TPWD, LCRA, all land trusts working along the river, Bamberger Ranch, Westcave, Travis County and others. The purpose is to share information and collaborate more effectively on many projects such as landowner workshops, mapping and watershed planning.

Issue Papers

We published a new series of Issue papers branded “I’m for the Hill Country.” The issue paper library was built to include: Hill Country Groundwater, Healthy Riparian Lands, Groundwater/Surface Water connection, working with Land Trusts and Conservation Easements, Native Landscaping, Lighting for Night Skies, Myths and Truths of Groundwater Conservation Districts, Population Growth and Rural County Land Development. These papers are designed to provide general information to the public and elected decision makers.

Conservation Finance Feasibility Study

We partnered with the Trust for Public Land and the Texas Land Trust council to create a Conservation Finance Feasibility Study for our fastest growing counties. This report inspires public funding initiatives to conserve more land. The report reveals that minimal public investments can yield significant funding for conservation easements (local purchase of development rights programs).

Photo Contest and Calendar

We continued our tradition of hosting a Hill Country photo contest and publishing our beautiful Hill Country Calendar.

“Hill Country View”

We built our radio program to now include over 150 “Hill Country View” segments which air on Texas Public Radio. And, we produced two movie shorts to compliment the Hill Country View.

Hill Country Summit

We gathered over 70 diverse regional thinkers and leaders to strategize about water policy, land conservation, watershed initiatives, night skies, county authority and figuring out new ways to involve our next generation. It was amazing to experience TPWD, Texas Wildlife Association, land trusts, landowners, scientists, elected officials, historians, activists working together to help HCA plan for the Hill Country’s future.

Development Plan

We completed a financial development plan in 2012 which includes strategies to strengthen the long term financial health of HCA and we accomplished the first strategy in that plan, to add a new development director. HCA welcomes Amanda Longtain to our team.

Preserved-Land Inventory

We began work on a unique preserved-land inventory metric in order to facilitate goal setting and measuring conservation results region-wide.


Our Leadership

Milan J. Michalec took the helm as served as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Sky Lewey, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates. We also added four new board members: Kimberley Cardenas, Karen Huber, Sharlene Leurig and Garry Merritt.

Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Debbie Brient, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Cristi Clement, Bryan Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Liz Stool Friedman, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Commissioner Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Tom Mason, Stan Meador, Mike Mecke, Judge Garry Merritt, Myfe Moore, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Jill Nokes, Jake Patoski, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Michele Thompson, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, Bob Webster and Ken Whalen.

Water Supply:

The Water Team, led by Milan J. Michalec of the Cow Creek GCD, grew to include 27 water experts this year, and contracted with a dedicated water team coordinator. This team stays actively engaged in all water planning processes and current issues, with the coordinator attending and reporting on many of the key water planning meetings affecting the Hill Country region. The team submitted numerous position papers and comments regarding the State Water Plan, groundwater management, river basins and infrastructure decisions. A core goal of this team is to advocate for the long-term health of Hill Country springs through proper groundwater management. HCA collaborated with partner organizations, such as the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, to propose a regional Groundwater Conservation District concept to the TCEQ The proposed GCD would cross county lines and provide much-needed groundwater management in Western Travis, Northern Hays and Western Comal Counties. The team actively supported Bat Conservation International to prevent the development of sensitive lands near Bracken Cave. They also worked closely with the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District to promote conservative and holistic groundwater management of the Hill Country Trinity Aquifer. The Water Team co-produced two Texas Water Symposium programs—one focused on healthy springs and one examined the fine line between protecting private property rights and effectively protecting our shared water supply. Members of the Regional Water Quality Protection Planning Group were re-convened with facilitation and support from HCA for the “Next Wave” to give involved jurisdictions the opportunity to share successes and challenges since the program was completed in 2005. The Team collaborated with and supported the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District in the publication of Water: Yours, Mine and Ours, a public resource about Hill Country hydrology, stewardship and conservation. Water Team members also contributed to the writing of issue papers and web content for wide distribution on key issues, including: Groundwater/Surface Water Integration, Hill Country Groundwater Supply, GCD Myths and Truths, Healthy Riparian Areas, Population Growth, Native Landscaping, The Day Case–what it does and doesn’t do, and County Tools for Reasonable Development Rules.

The Pedernales and Healthy Water Catchment Areas:

HCA convened our “Pedernales Team” to allow partners such as land trusts, landowners, LCRA, TPWD, and others a chance to compare notes and collaborate on projects throughout the basin. Through a partnership with TPWD, a new staff position was created and Katherine Romans, HCA Project Manager, was hired in October. Katherine isexpanding HCA’s landowner outreach and healthy watershed program. A review and assessment of all conservation plans, maps and programs on the Pedernales basin has been assembled to help identify the most needed tools to advance conservation practices. So far, HCA has partnered in four land stewardship educational events in the basin. Through illustrations, such as maps and educational materials, HCA is delivering the message that where once we saw “watersheds” we now can see “water catchments;” natural boundaries to capture, cleanse and store our water supply. These are more logical boundaries for managing water resources than the political jurisdictional boundaries we use today such as county lines.

Land Conservation:

One way all of the Hill Country Land Trusts collaborate is through the HCA Land Conservation Team, chaired by Carolyn Chipman Evans of the Cibolo Conservancy and Carolyn Vogel of Conservation Connection. They have assembled data to create an “All Conserved Lands” inventory including public lands, parks, and easements. Only 3.6 percent of our 17 county/11 million acre region is currently held in permanent conservation. The inventory map they created will provide a way to measure success as the conservation movement grows in the Hill Country. We finalized a Conservation Finance Feasibility Study with the Trust for Public Land and the Texas Land Trust Council. The study area includes our seven highest growth counties and demonstrates how public referendums can help fund land conservation. We regularly distribute our issue paper “Working with Land Trusts” to educate the public about easements and what land trusts do. A new version of the paper is now being vetted to better illustrate exactly where each land trust works and highlighting their unique area of conservation interest.We worked particularly closely with the Hill Country Land Trust on outreach events such as the Round-up and Green Energy Fair, Lavender Fest, various landownergatherings, and numerous Night Sky events.

Protecting the Night Sky:

Our Night Sky Team, led by Bill Neiman of Native American Seed, is the largest issue team, with 31 regional leaders engaged in regular communication about reducing light pollution in the Hill Country. The Team hosted 13 Night Sky educational programs throughout our 17 counties, and with substantial media attention, the attendance reached more than 100 citizens at some of the events. Around two thousand copies of the second edition Night Sky issue paper have been distributed.In Junction, HCA support resulted in more than 101 city lights being retrofitted to more night-sky-friendly fixtures. The result is clearly visible as one drives through the town at night.Our Night Sky Co-op, a volunteer pledge to eliminate sky glow from businesses, ranches and homes, sits at 150 members, and growing.

Rainwater Harvest:

The fourth annual Rainwater Revival was a huge success in Boerne with 550 attendees, ten educational seminars, and about fifty exhibits. This signature event is designed to encourage rainwater harvesting as viable water supply solution for the Texas Hill Country and is led by HCA board member Karen Ford. With funds from the 2012 art barrel auction, HCA provided $1,000 grants to three Hill Country schools for rainwater and rain garden projects. The Rainwater Team consists of 17 experts and advocates who are active in legislative and rule-making processes to make rainwater harvesting more accessible and feasible for homeowners and developers.

Outreach and Education:

HCA hosted two “Interpretive Guide” training classes, graduating 24 students with newly honed skills of speaking from the heart, dynamic storytelling, and ways to more effectively connect with audiences about the importance of protecting Hill Country resources.Four new video products were developed that feature land stewardship for water, working with groundwater conservation districts, rainwater harvesting, and the why and how of native plant landscapes. All are available on the HCA YouTube channel, with more than 3,000 views so far. Additional maps have been added to our resource library and are available for sharing. Throughout the year HCA distributed 19 press releases to our list of Hill Country media partners promoting timely issues and events. We met our electronic media goals to expand our database to 6,000 supporters and friends and 1,000 individuals in our social media network. Our popular, annual photo contest produced another spectacular HCA Calendar for 2014, which our board members and staff hand-deliver to all Texas legislators and Hill Country county officials during an HCA day at the Capitol in December. The robust HCA website consistently provides current news and information about regional issues and events and serves as a resource library for all to share. Our Neighbor to Neighbor newsletter is distributed to our 6,000-strong friends list about three times a month in an email format that is visually pleasing and easy to read.

The HCA Leadership Summit:

More than 100 HCA leaders gathered north of Fredericksburg at our second annual Summit to learn and share ideas about the work we do at HCA. This year’s featured keynote speaker was Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. Other speakers included TWA President Greg Simons; new HCA board members Garry Merritt and Sharlene Leurig; writer/historian Scott Zesch; and a preview of the filmed water story of the San Marcos River, Yakona.This Summit has turned out to be one of HCA’s most successful and gratifying collaborative events where our leaders can find inspiration in the works and passions of other like-minded Hill Country citizens.HCA made great strides in carrying out our mission in2013.

The Latest News

Imagine the Future of the Hill Country

What is your vision of the Hill Country that future generations will inherit? The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) asks this question as it calls for photographs for its 2016 calendar. The annual HCA photo contest opens on March 1 and runs through May 31. Winners receive cash prizes and their photos will appear in the popular HCA calendar and in the organization’s various educational products. Entering the contest is easy through the HCA website. Learn more

Springs: The Canary in a Coal Mine for Groundwater

"Over the past 15 years, I have studied more than 1,000 springs, closely examining the relationship between springs and the health of the aquifer. I have discovered that springs are of inestimable value to plants and wildlife in landscapes where they occur and have also learned that springs continue to be as important to populations today as they were thousands of years ago. We have also found that in many ways, springs are the canary in the coal mine for groundwater sources." Read more from the National Geographic.

Group Formed to Protect Trinity, Edwards Aquifers and Springs

The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) today announced its formation as a Texas non-­‐profit corporation created to protect these aquifers and their associated springs. In the process, TESPA seeks to bring clarity to the groundwater property rights associated with owning land over the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers and associated springs. Learn more

Bennett Trust Land Stewardship Conference, April 23 in Kerrville

The second Bennett Trust educational program will take place April 23-24, 2015 at the Inn of the Hills Resort and Conference Center, Kerrville. This first-of-its-kind conference, “Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau,” will bring the best and wisest, accomplished stewards, visionaries, and legacy-leavers together as educators. Details

The Changing Science of Brush Control for Water Yield

While it was once widely assumed that heavy brush like cedar was keeping rainwater from recharging our streams and groundwater systems, science seems to indicate that it's not quite that simple. When done with care and an eye toward restoration, brush control can be beneficial to ecosystem health. Just be realistic about the likelihood that it will fill your stream or stock pond. Read more from Texas Wildlife Magazine.

Pioneers Youth Leadership Students Receive $24,000 in Scholarships and Cash Awards

Ten high school students in Pioneers Youth Leadership were awarded $24,000 in scholarships and cash awards last week at the Capital Farm Credit Rural Youth Entrepreneurship Competition at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. “Participating in this competition has given me confidence that I can successfully start and run a business in my hometown,” said Steeley Smith. “I was able to learn so much about the positive impacts of rainwater collection through my research,” said Jessica Dong of Knippa. Learn more

TPWD profiles state's least wanted water-hungry invasive species

A recent article in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine profiles some of the biggest problem species invading Texas lakes and waterways, and finds that the damage they are inflicting could cost Texans billions of dollars - and millions of gallons of water - each year. "It's a war, and you are involved." Read more from TPW Magazine.

Get Your Birding On

Learn the basics of birding at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. “Birding is good for you physically, mentally and spiritually. You get outside, you use your brain, and it’s about something bigger than you,” says Patsy Inglet of San Antonio. The veteran birder and certified Master Naturalist teaches Introduction to Birding workshops with her birdster husband Tom Inglet. Their next class at the center is 9 a.m. to noon March 28. Learn more

Environment Texas looks at the best and worst project in the State Water Plan

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center has launched a new website - www.OurTexasWater.org highlighting some of the best and worst projects in the State Water Plan. The website features an interactive map where Texans can find projects in their communities that get either a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down for their impact to our rivers, aquifers and natural resources. The website currently gives a thumbs down to the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in northeast Texas, pumping of the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer in Bastrop County and a Val Verde County water project which could threaten the Devils River.

Provide Water Supply Tools to Counties

“With supplies depleted by drought, the population growing daily and few large water projects in our immediate future, new development must minimize their water demands to protect the lakes, aquifers, and rivers. The counties surrounding the rapidly growing major cities will play a huge role in how we wisely use or diminish our water supplies and in the end determine the State’s economic attractiveness to the nation.” Read more from Tom Hegemier, chair of the Central Texas Land Water Sustainability Forum.

PEC Board votes in support of groundwater legislation

“Well drillers are locating these gaps in water district jurisdictions and exploiting them for pure profit,” said PEC District 6 Director Larry Landaker, who sponsored the resolution. “What is happening in Hays County through the misuse of the rule of capture is tantamount to the theft of water by one community to serve another. … That volume of water could … create a serious economic impact to the Hill Country communities we serve. Economic impact to the Hill Country is economic impact to PEC.” Read more from PEC.

Stay informed about EP Wells in the Hill Country Trinity Aquifer

As the story of unregulated groundwater in Hays County unfolds, there are two websites worth paying attention to for current information about citizen involvement. Citizen’s Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) and Save Our Wells.

A Tribute to what has been lost to the Pilot Truck Stop in Junction

Many hill country people have been following the Flying J story in Junction; a poster child for ongoing threats to Hill Country rivers due to a lack of rules and oversight. View this video, read final testimony to the City of Junction here.

Friends of Enchanted Rock to host star festival this Saturday, Feb 21

Come on out to Enchanted Rock this weekend to celebrate the stars! The first Enchanted Rock Star Festival will be February 21 at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg. According to Melissa Mial, event spokesperson, the purpose of the inaugural event is to celebrate Enchanted Rock’s designation as an International Dark Sky Park and Wildlife’s Dark Sky Initiative and increase awareness of the benefits of dark sky friendly lighting. Learn more

We need smart growth

Op-ed by Ron Walton: “I am not against growth but know the importance of being able to provide the infrastructure to support it. Unfortunately, I see a growing tendency however for growth in the area at all cost which, especially in the Hill Country (my specialty as a Hydro-geologist with background in water wells, septics, and geomorphology) I think does a disservice to all current residents like myself who came here recently.” Read more

Drought conditions worsen along Highland Lakes

Preliminary 2014 data shows the drought gripping the Highland Lakes is now the most severe drought the region has experienced since construction of the lakes began in the 1930s. As a direct result of the prolonged record-dry conditions and record-low inflows from the streams and tributaries feeding the Highland Lakes, the “firm yield,” or inventory of water LCRA can provide reliably every year, has been decreased by about 100,000 acre-feet, to 500,000 acre-feet per year. (An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.) Further reductions in firm yield are possible as the drought continues. Read more

Book explores Central Texas County Courthouses

“As built artifacts, the county courthouses of central Texas tell a compelling story of a particular part of the country over a specific period of time. But more than a mere index of a building type, this project seeks to describe how county courthouses and the squares in which they sit relate to the larger communities that surround them.” Read more from TPR. HCA likes to imagine Hill Country courthouses with native landscaping and rainwater harvesting.

Net Blue Initiative Will Help Communities Pursue Water-Neutral Growth

“Communities need to reevaluate traditional planning approaches if they are to support increasing population and economic expansion in the coming years – particularly in areas with high growth and stressed water supplies,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Read more from the Alliance for Water Efficiency report, "Water Demand Offset Programs Offer a Path to Sustainable Community Development" here.

New Commitment to Bring Back the Monarch

This week the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced what many have noticed for the past 20 years- monarch butterfly numbers are on a precipitous decline. Over the past 25 years an estimated 970 million monarchs have disappeared, largely due to loss of habitat. The Texas Hill Country is an important part of the monarch migration route, and USFWS has prioritized the entire I-35 corridor for reestablishing butterfly habitat. That means planting native milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants. Read more about the efforts to bring monarchs back from the Washington Post

Dripping Springs residents strategize how to stop proposed concrete plant

A plan to build a concrete batch plant northwest of Dripping Springs has created an uproar among some residents. The plant, which would be operated as Dripping Wet Concrete, has received a preliminary approval for an air quality standard permit, according to documents provided on the TCEQ website. The plant will release a variety of air contaminants, including aggregate, cement and road dust, the document indicates. Read more from Austin Business Journal. Read more about the lack of county oversight of these issues here.

Austin selected for 2015 Designing Cities conference

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) – considered one of the country’s most innovative transportation organizations – has selected Austin as the site of its 2015 Designing Cities Conference. Read more from Statesman.com.

Brush Control- the Right Project for You?

A lot has been said about brush control recently, from those who tout it as a way to generate new water supplies to those who argue that it may cause more harm than good. When thinking about brush control on your property, there are some important things to consider. As Steve Nelle describes in this helpful article published in TWA's Texas Wildlife Magazine, the first thing a landowner needs to know is WHY they are undertaking brush control. That will inform the location, intensity and methods of treatment.

Stormwaters Brewing on the Llano River

“I am a rural Texan family farmer. I am a downstream stakeholder/landowner. I have surface water rights that run with my land. These rights and this river I guard intensely, for they are integral to my livelihood and my children’s future. As some say, they are “golden.” "...The system is broken when we cannot protect our most basic elemental resource – clean water." Read Bill Neiman's story as published in TWA's Texas Wildlife Magazine.

Hays County Passes Water Resolution

On February 3 Hays County Commissioners’ Court took an important first step, in order to, start the process for legislation to address un-regulated commercial pumping of our groundwater resources. Commissioner Conley is encouraging all jurisdictions in Hays County and surrounding areas to pass similar resolutions. “It’s important our state officials hear from our entire community” stated Commissioner Conley. Read the Resolution. Learn about upcoming public meetings and the latest details on this issue at www.saveourwells.com.

NASA Satellite Will Improve Drought Forcasting With a Little Help From Texas

A satellite launched by NASA over the weekend could help people around the world tackle the challenges of drought. Researchers at the University of Texas will play a part in that mission that could also help forecast flooding and allow officials to better manage reservoir water supplies. Read more from State Impact.

Two upcoming night sky events

There are two events this February where you can learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing with friends and family. Join HCA for "Better Lights for Starry Nights" at the Johnson City Library Feb 17 and Enchanted Rock Star Festival Feb 21. Learn more about protecting night skies here.

Are we losing the Hill Country’s “Sense of Place”?

Take time to watch and consider “Where Am I? The Power of Uniqueness” A TED talk by Ed McMahon, former Scenic America President. Watch now

Tax proceeds for fixing up Texas state parks are being diverted

Two decades ago, the Legislature dedicated a portion of sporting goods sales-tax proceeds - levied on everything from kayaks to pingpong balls - to state parks. Instead of using these funds as advertised, typically, the bulk of the proceeds are diverted into the general revenue fund to pay for schools, prisons and roads. Read more from the Houston Chronicle.

Statewide leaders release recommendations to confront water sustainability in Texas

A diverse group of water and energy experts, known as the Texas Roundtable on Water, will release a thorough set of recommendations at a Legislative Briefing on February 16, 2015 at the State Capitol in the Auditorium Room E1.004. The recommendations are designed to ensure the security and sustainability of water resources for the long term economic and social viability of Texas. Read more

Aquifer Protection and Trail Expansion Headed for May 9 Ballot

With the San Antonio City Council’s Governance Committee’s unanimous approval, renewal for sales tax funding of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (EAPP) and Howard Peak Greenway Trails System is expected to go to the voters on the May 9 ballot. Read more from the Rivard Report.

Pioneers Youth Leadership students attend State Forum

High school students from Hill Country area schools in Pioneers Youth Leadership attended the Pioneers State Leadership Forum in Austin last week. Over two days, the students worked with state agencies and elected officials to address the challenges faced by rural Texas communities regarding water conservation, youth leadership education, and economic development. Learn more

Rule of Capture Undermines Groundwater Regulation in Texas

In mid-western Hays County, a groundwater war is escalating. A private water supplier, with goals to pipe and sell close to 6,000 acre feet of water per year has strategically located a well field in an area of the Hill Country where the Trinity Aquifer is unregulated. Read more from the January 26 blog post by Vanessa Puig-Williams. Also read "Groundwater Wars Brewing in Austin’s Suburbs” published in the Texas Tribune.

Check Out Texas (and all U.S.) cities in 2030

Want to see what San Antonio will look like in 2020 and 2030? An interactive tool developed by the Urban Institute lets you look at the future size of U.S. cities and their demographics, and even alter assumptions for birth, death and immigration rates to see how low, average or high metrics will affect long-term growth and population makeup. Read more from the Rivard Report.

Council Set to Place Aquifer, Trailways on the Ballot

Nearly three months after approving the $3.4 billion Vista Ridge water purchase and pipeline deal, City Council now appears poised to authorize renewal of two landmark propositions that have funded protection of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and development of the Howard Peak Greenway Trails System for the last 15 years. Learn more from the Rivard Report.

The Value of a Healthy Hill Country

In a recent piece in the Upper Llano River Watershed Protection Plan Newsletter, Dr. Tom Arsuffi explores the value of a healthy, functioning Hill Country ecosystem. In a Texas that is increasingly urbanizing, how do we ensure that our urban centers properly value responsible land management that produces the clean water, resilient wildlife habitat, fresh air and healthy food resources we all need? A related article from High Country News explores the nuances of ecosystem services. It's not as simple as putting a price tag on nature.

New agriculture commissioner calls water top issue

Recently elected Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said Wednesday that he plans for the agency to play a more active role as it relates to water. “We’re going to have a water department, and we’re going to be very involved,” Miller said at a luncheon during a Lower Colorado River Authority Planning and Public Policy Committee meeting. “And we’re going to be involved in policy.” Read more from the Austin Monitor.

Groundwater Wars Brewing in Austin's Suburbs

In a classic example of the gaps in Texas' patchwork approach to regulating groundwater, an unprecedented amount of water may soon be pumped from underneath already parched Hays County with virtually no oversight. Read more from the Texas Tribune.

Hays County Commissioners Court Forms Committee to Further Groundwater Pumping Discussions with Public

The Hays County Commissioners Court voted unanimously January 20 to form a committee that would hold public forums to discuss concerns over groundwater pumping, particularly in areas where conservation districts have no authority, in the interest of protecting private land rights while promoting public responsibility. Read more from Hays County. Also read related article from Statesman.com: "Critics see conflicts of interest in Hays County water wells".

Lone Star Rail kicks off environmental study

A decade-old project to build a passenger rail line between the San Antonio and Austin areas picked up steam January 21 with a public meeting of the Lone Star Rail Project. The meeting served as the kickoff to the project’s environmental impact study, which Lone Star Rail Director Joe Black called a “major, major point in the project.” Read more from the Austin Monitor.

Registration is open for Land Conservation Conference

On March 4th, hundreds of conservation professionals, land trust volunteers, landowners and agency folks working on land and water conservation issues in Texas will travel to Austin to gather for the 19th annual Texas Land Conservation Conference. Learn more

Study shows Texas voters maintain strong support for state parks

“Conservation and the importance of preserving our natural habitat are deeply held Texas values,” said Dan Allen Hughes, Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. “Texas voters understand that a strong and thriving system of state parks contributes to a vibrant economy, is an important source of recreation for Texas families and helps protect the natural environment that makes Texas unique.” Read more

Firm’s plan to pump, sell water raises alarm in northern Hays County

A new player has plans to sell up to 5.3 million gallons of water per day to utilities in Hays County, where rapidly growing communities are increasingly desperate to secure water. But the location of Houston-based Electro Purification’s well field, near the intersection of three water districts, has Hays County officials worried that the company will dodge regulatory oversight and hog more than half of the water available from the Trinity Aquifer — an already-depleted aquifer in the northern part of the county. Read more from Statesman.com

Public Meetings Scheduled on the Southern Edwards Plateau draft Habitat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be conducting public meetings in Helotes and Kerrville in early February to obtain comments on the Southern Edwards Plateau draft Habitat Conservation Plan, draft Environmental Impact Statement and an incidental take permit application. Learn more

Hays County dreaming big for FM 150

Hays County commissioners are pretty sure of one thing: Changes will need to be made to FM 150 if it is to accommodate the increased traffic expected to come as a result of Hays County’s rapid growth. However, commissioners are unsure of what exactly those changes will look like. Read more from Community Impact.

Defending Local Control

"Texans living in the Hill Country have a deep and abiding understanding of the importance of clear, flowing streams, heritage trees, trash-free landscapes, and a calm, quiet environment. We also have a very strong belief in property rights and the responsibilities that accompany those rights." Read more from Leo Tynan as published in the Fredericksburg Times Standard.

Hill Country Science Mill Grand Opening, February 14

The Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City will be hold its Grand Opening Celebration February 14 from 10am -6pm. Included will be a presentation by Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve as well as live music and fun activities. Proceeds from the Grand Opening will benefit the Science Mill's Scholarship Program, which will help defray the transportation costs for field trips, admission, and enrollment in science programs and camps for qualified students. Learn more

Edwards Aquifer Dispute forum on Tuesday in San Marcos

The pumping of water from the Edwards Aquifer, the enormous underground cave system beneath Central Texas, has long been a topic of fierce dispute, involving property rights, endangered species, and drinking water needs. Leading policy-makers, scientists, environmentalists and attorneys will convene Tuesday in San Marcos for a day-long free forum titled History of the Edwards Aquifer Dispute: A View from the Trenches. Read more from Statesman.com.

Unregulated Pumping Threatens Trinity Aquifer

“These wells are being drilled THROUGH and BELOW the Edwards Aquifer into the underlying Trinity Aquifer, the aquifer that supplies the groundwater for western Hays County, including the Wimberley and Dripping Springs areas (not to mention most of Blanco, Kendall, Bandera and many other Texas counties).” Learn more from CARD about this critical Hill Country issue in an area that is not covered by a Groundwater Conservation District. More from CARD.

Greater San Antonio Area residents eliminate more than 1 million vehicle trips in 2014

Residents of Greater San Antonio area reduced the number of vehicle trips taken on area roads by more than 1 million during 2014, according to AACOG, who sponsors NuRide, an online carpool matching, alternative transportation tracking, and reward system. The eliminated vehicle trips cited by AACOG were those of individuals who walked, cycled, took transit, carpooled/vanpooled, worked a compressed schedule, or telecommuted; and self-reported these trips through NuRide.com. More from AACOG.

New York executive tapped to lead Waller Creek Conservancy

Peter Mullan, who helped lead the critically acclaimed redevelopment of New York City's High Line park, has been tapped to lead the Waller Creek Conservancy, which is itself looking to dramatically reshape Waller Creek into a lush greenbelt park running through central Austin. Read more from Austin Business Journal.

South Llano River Watershed Alliance

If you don't know what water catchment area (watershed) your land is in, you can find it on our map viewer. Landowner networks exist in many fragile hill country water catchments. Learn about current news and events of the South Llano River Watershed Alliance here. If you're interested in networking with landowners in your water catchment, send us a note.

TWDB encourages all of us to learn about drought

TWDB unveils new tools for observing drought data and trends. "We wanted Texans and all those interested in our state's drought resources to not only see the information we use when evaluating drought in Texas, but also understand why and how we use it," explained Robert Mace. This data is easy to access whether you are doing technical research or simply trying to understand “Drought in your backyard.” More from TWDB.

LCRA releases drought update

The LCRA's drought update for the Highland Lakes region is full of interesting- and disappointing - facts. Due to the rainfall in the Colorado watershed coming in dispersed events and generating little runoff, 2014 inflows into the Highland Lakes system were the second lowest on record. In fact, 7 of the 10 lowest inflow years on record have happened since 2006. If the combined storage of the Highland Lakes fall to below 600,000 acre feet, the LCRA board would be forced to declare a drought worse than the drought of record. For more information, read the LCRA's drought update page here.

City Council Poised to Renew Edwards Aquifer Protection Program

“San Antonio voters have long recognized that our economy and quality of life rest on protecting the water and green spaces that drew people here centuries ago,” Councilmember Nirenberg said. Renewing this highly successful Hill Country conservation program for a fourth five-year term would require voter approval on the May 9 ballot. Learn more from the Rivard Report.

Water as a Crop?

Should, could and would water be considered “a crop” by agricultural interests to market to water short urban neighbors? And, while protecting their own property’s value, their neighbor’s, natural resources possibly dependent upon that water (springs, creeks, etc.) and the community’s future needs? Read more from Mike Mecke, published in Ranch and Rural Living Magazine.

State parks embrace measures to protect dark skies at night

“The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas...” The 1942 Hit Parade song paying tribute to the Lone Star State’s starry skies strikes a sour note today in large cities nestled deep in the heart of Texas, where artificial light pollution has rendered all but the very brightest celestial bodies invisible to stargazers. But there’s a meteoric movement in Texas to hit the dimmer switch on manmade illumination that obscures night skies across much of our state. Read more from the January issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.

I Received a Letter Saying They’re Taking My Land…Now What?

Patrick L. Reznik, an attorney with Braun & Gresham, answers a few common questions about the rights of Texas landowners threatened by eminent domain, a process by which private and public entities condemn private lands to build transmission lines, pipelines, rail systems and roads, and to take surface or groundwater. Learn more

Texas Land Conservancy takes us to the Pedernales

Carolyn and Roy Horton are passionate stewards of Sandylands Ranch, a sweeping property that backs up to the Pedernales River in the Hill Country. Texas Land Conservancy (TLC) sat down with Carolyn and Roy to ask them about their stewardship ethic, their love of the land, and their vision for the future of Texas. Read the interview and learn more about TLC including a January 17th hike at Sandylands Ranch.

Three Part Workshop on Wildlife Tax Valuation Scheduled in Boerne

The Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne plans on starting the new year with a 3-part workshop on Texas's wildlife tax valuation. If you are a landowner with 20 acres or more and are interested in learning more about switching your land from agricultural to wildlife valuation, this is the course for you. More details and registration information available here.

TPW Magazine Profiles Texas Conservation Hero Terese Hershey

The January/February edition of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine features a profile of Terry Hershey, an important pioneer in the history of conservation. Hershey left a lasting impact on the Hill Country and the rest of Texas by championing the use of conservation easements to permanently protect open spaces. Check out the full story here. Read the entire issue (including a story about protecting our dark night skies) here.

Conserving private lands conserves water

Former President and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson once said: “Saving the water and the soil must start where the first raindrop falls.” In Texas, where about 95 percent of the land is privately owned, and 83 percent of that land is rural farms, ranches and forests, it is essential that all Texans understand the interconnection of land and water to ensure the healthy stewardship of both, according to natural resource professionals. Read more from TAMU.

Genuine Land Stewardship

The topic of land stewardship has gained a great deal of public attention during recent years. This is a good trend since it helps focus greater awareness to the importance of how the land is treated, and the people who carry out responsible land care. However, land stewardship to some extent, has become a catchphrase; feel-good words; frequently used but seldom clearly defined. In some ways, land stewardship is becoming an over-used slogan; thus the need to clarify its true meaning and character. Read more from Steve Nelle's article published in the Hill Country Land Trust Newsletter.

Why Water is Not the New Oil

The legislative session is gearing up, and increasing groundwater production will be the objective of at least a couple of bills. Groundwater will be an important asset for Texas' future water portfolio, but should maximization be the goal? That's one of the questions Our Desired Future is meant to provoke. Read Sharlene Leurig’s recent op-ed in the Texas Tribune.

Scientists Seek Public Help to Track Monarch Butterfly Milkweed Habitat

“Where have all the monarchs gone?” This is becoming an oft repeated query, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists are asking for citizen help in answering the question. Since monitoring of overwintering monarch butterfly populations 1993, the WWF has documented a significant decline that reached an all-time low in the winter of 2013. Biologists recently launched a project to explore Texas milkweed and determine where it is, how much is out there and are the monarchs using it. Read more.

Hamilton Pool Road targeted for 1600 homes

A TCEQ Public Meeting will be held Monday night, December 15th at 7 pm at Star Hill Ranch to hear concerns about the wastewater treatment plant to service this large, dense proposed development. Community members encourage participation as this development will profoundly change the Hamilton Pool Road neighborhood. View the meeting notice here. You can learn more about this project and other issues affecting the Bee Cave and Hamilton Pool Road community at www.HPRmatters.com.

Can we start thinking of water as a crop?

Water is not traditionally thought of as a crop, but Water As A Crop® and its partners are hoping to change that. This organization promotes the idea that water falling on private, rural land can be effectively conserved and marketed in a manner similar to crops. In exchange for implementing conservation practices, rural landowners receive financial incentives to reimburse their costs. These conservation practices benefit investors and landowners and preserve water for rural and urban communities alike. Read more from Texas Water Resource Institute.

Now it’s time to implement SWIFT

You’ve been hearing about SWIFT for months; TWDB is now ready to implement this revolving loan program for water supply projects. The first round of applications are due February 3rd. Conservation is the least expensive and most efficient strategy of all which is why SWIFT legislation requires that not less than 20 percent of this program (hopefully more) is spent on conservation and reuse. Learn more

US cities increasingly embracing water conservation

Los Angeles is a city that is notorious for its use of water- importing it from hundreds of miles away and delivering stormwater to the Pacific Ocean through the Los Angeles River, which largely has been converted to a concrete ditch. The story that is less often told is how this city of 3.8 million, and cities across the country, have begun implementing conservation practices that have shrunk their water footprint and changed the way we look at stormwater. Read more here.

Travis County OKs Land Water and Transportation Plan

Despite the fact that Texas counties have very little real control over how unincorporated land is developed, Travis County is giving it its best effort, as Commissioners approved a comprehensive Land Water and Transportation Plan on Tuesday. Read more from Austin Monitor.

How Underground Sensors in Texas Will Help NASA Predict Drought and Floods

Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s. Learn about the Bureau of Economic Geology research the Rabke’s are participating in. Read the full story from Mose Buchele at State Impact.

Comal Commissioners Support Trinity GCD Bill

Comal commissioners are supporting proposed legislation to create the “Comal Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.” “The GCD is necessary because the Trinity, a major source of well water in the Hill Country area west of Interstate 35, already has dropped some 87 feet in the last 15 years” Read more from the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.

CCGCD provides rainwater harvesting resource videos

Storing and using the rainwater that falls on your roof can improve the quality of your drinking water and free you from the restricted use of water for your landscape in time of drought. The Cow Creek GCD has provided several video examples to show how it's done.

Mason County community ready to do battle

Residents are concerned that a sand quarry would destroy the tranquility of the rural community. Because mines typically operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a quarry would bring noise and heavy truck traffic to the area…and because Pontotoc is emerging as a destination for wine tasting, local vintners fear that noise and dust from a mine would bring an end to a growing ecotourism business that has brought visitors to its tasting rooms. Read more from the San Antonio Express News.

GEAA announces low impact development manual

The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance has published "Watershed Stewardship for the Edwards Aquifer Region, a Low Impact Development Manual." The manual was designed for developers, landscape architects, and all of those who live on, or are planning to build over our fragile aquifer recharge areas. Information about techniques that encourage infiltration of clean stormwater on site, and how plantings and landscaping can be used to mitigate stormwater pollution are outlined. Download the manual for free here.

Texas’ Courts Legal Treatment of Groundwater is Fluid

Groundwater rights have been hotly debated in Texas for as long as there has been the ability to pump it. Unlike surface water, which is owned by the state and held in trust for the public, Texas courts have ruled that groundwater is the surface owner’s vested private property. This vested right can be regulated by Groundwater Conservation Districts. Read more from Texas Living Waters.

Depleting the Water, 15 minutes you shouldn’t miss

This 60 Minutes segment on Groundwater Depletion in California’s Central Valley explores California’s drought and the depletion of it’s Central Valley aquifer due to agricultural over-pumping. With dwindling reservoirs here in Central Texas and ever growing population projections, numerous proposals are under consideration to pump and pipe groundwater to the I-35 Corridor and beyond. What can the Hill Country learn from California’s “groundwater overdraft?”

HCA honored by Hays County Master Naturalists!

HCA has been recognized as an "HONORARY MEMBER” in the Hays County Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist for exemplary service and commitment to the community and natural resources of the State of Texas. Thank you Dixie Camp and the HCMN for many years of collaboration, we look forward to many more. Read more about the award and learn about the Master Naturalist program here.

HCA to co-host Workshop on Riparian Function in the Pedernales Basin

The Hill Country Alliance, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and The Nature Conservancy, will host a workshop on the nature and function of stream and riparian zones in the Hill Country. The workshop will feature presentations on riparian plants, basic hydrology, and techniques for ensuring healthy riparian function. The workshop will take place from 8am-4pm on Friday, December 5th. A variety of continuing education credits are available. Details

The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

This amazing natural area is devoted to protecting the habitats of hundreds of species of native flora and fauna, grasslands, wooded hills and canyons, and vital watersheds. Thousands of school children visit and participate in hands-on learning experiences here. Learn more about this resource and how you can help protect it. Friends of Balcones Canyonlands

Landowners Appeal Party Status to State District Court

"The regulatory process, including groundwater districts' permitting process for huge commercial projects like this one, must afford the same due process to landowners who do not wish to sell their groundwater as it provides to private water marketers who derive their water rights from landowners who do choose to sell water." Read more

Prince Charles says people’s connection with countryside is dying

"Prince Charles has warned that the majority of people have 'lost any real connection with the land' as he outlined his concerns about the future of the countryside. He stressed the benefits to the wider economy of the countryside's 'ecosystem services' - with meadows and other grasslands storing millions of tonnes of carbon, providing homes for pollinating insects, supporting the agricultural economy and areas of beauty attracting visitors to boost local tourism." These issues translate here in the Texas Hill Country, read more from The Guardian.

Maps illustrate seriousness of California’s water shortage

“Groundwater is being pumped at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished, so that many of the largest aquifers on most continents are being mined, their precious contents never to be returned.” Take a look at these maps that illustration how serious water shortages are in California, it’s essential to learn this lesson and protect healthy aquifers here in Texas, particularly here in the Hill Country.

Texas A&M Study Trumpets Texas State Parks’ Economic Benefit

"The take-away message from this study," Dr. Crompton says, "should be that the state park system is an important contributor to the Texas economy, particularly in rural areas and that the state’s net investment in parks is returned many times over as visitors travel to enjoy the outdoors and leave their dollars behind." Many of state’s most popular parks are right here in the Texas Hill Country. More from TPWD.

Rainwater Catchment Program

Ranchers and Landowners Association in collaboration with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District will be hosting a rainwater catchment program November 15th in Bandera. Topics will include the state of Bandera County water, rainwater harvesting systems, and rainwater harvesting impact on appraisals. Details

Living With Karst: The Benefits and Challenges of Living in a Cavernous Environment

Do you live in karst? About 25% of the US and the planet’s land surface is karst. Karst areas are the world’s most diverse, fascinating, resource-rich, yet problematic terrains. They contain the largest springs and most productive groundwater supplies on Earth. They provide unique subsurface habitat to rare animals, and their caves preserve fragile prehistoric material for millennia. They are also the landscapes most vulnerable to environmental impacts. Their groundwater is the most easily depleted and polluted. Learn more about the importance of Karsts during a free webinar from SNS, November 18. Details

Next Steps for San Antonio’s Vista Ridge Project

Last week, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Vista Ridge Project that plans to bring 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Burleson County to the city. Because of our many concerns with this project, the vote was a disappointment, but last Thursday’s Council deliberation did stir some positives worth discussing. Read more from Texas Living Waters.

SH 130 key road in Travis County’s plans for growth

While much of the plan is dedicated to the preservation of farmland, watersheds and nature preserves, other parts focus on encouraging building more dense, urban-like centers in the county’s unincorporated and undeveloped areas. Read more from Community Impact.

Texas Water Development Board adopts rules for SWIFT

On November 6, 2014, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) adopted a set of rules needed for fully implementing SWIFT in the lone star state. These rules will determine how projects eligible for SWIFT will be prioritized for funding. Now that the rules are official, public water providers are encouraged to submit an abridged application as the first step to receiving funding. More from TWDB.

Share your thoughts about regional issues

HCA is interested in learning how you feel about the challenges facing the Texas Hill Country. Please take two minutes to fill out a brief public opinion survey by Monday, November 10th and you may win a two night stay at the Cool River Cabin along the beautiful Llano River. Take the survey here.

Don’t miss Chuck Marohn from Strong Towns November 20th

CNU Texas Chapter is bringing Chuck back to Texas for a three hour workshop on sensible transportation and infrastructure planning. “We advocate for a model of growth that allows America's places to grow financially strong and resilient,” Strong Towns. Chuck was a huge hit at HCA’s Summit, catch him November 20th in Austin. Learn more

The 2014 Rainwater Revival was a great success!

Yes! Rainwater harvesting is a doable, practical, affordable and great tasting way to provide water for homes, gardens and businesses. That was the message heard by the more than 750 people who came out to Dripping Springs to celebrate and learn at HCA's day long edu-fest. Attendees enjoyed 63 booths filled with helpful information and demonstrations, live music, great food and 13 speakers who discussed a range of rainwater harvesting and water conservation related topics. Thanks to all who participated and we'll see you next year! See photos from this year's event here.

Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer District Announces Precinct 2 Directorship

Blayne Stansberry has been announced as the unofficial winner of of the Precinct 2 Directorship for The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. She and Director Craig Smith (Precinct 5, uncontested this election) will serve 4 year terms and join current directors Mary Stone (Precinct 1), Blake Dorsett (Precinct 3) and Robert (Bob) Larsen (Precinct 4) on the Board. More from BSEACD.

Join us November 20th at Schreiner University for the Texas Water Symposium

Balancing Rural and Urban Water Needs: How Local and Regional Planning Activities Ensure Long-Term Supplies. Join State Representative-Elect Andrew Murr as he moderates a discussion with SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott; Hydro-geologist, Region J consultant, John Ashworth and GBRA director/former CCGCD president, Tommy Mathews. Difficult decisions lie ahead as urban areas demand more water, rural areas experience loss of spring flow and our region faces increased challenges brought by population growth and drought. Are Central Texas’ water planning processes on track to balance the needs of its rural and urban users and protect the natural water resources that sustain our ecologic and economic health? Learn more

LCRA Submits Blumenthal Transmission Line Application to the PUC

On October 31 the LCRA formally submitted an application with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) for the construction of a 138-kV transmission line project in Blanco, Gillespie and Kendall counties. Potentially impacted landowners should receive notice in the mail in the coming days. That information is also posted on the LCRA website. Potentially impacted landowners are encouraged to review the application documents, including the updated map, and participate in the PUC process. Landowners have until December 15 to become formal interveners in the PUC review process. More information and instructions on accessing LCRA TSC’s complete CCN application are available here.

San Antonio Approves Historic Water Project

Last week, the San Antonio City Council “unanimously voted in front of a packed chamber to approve a controversial pipeline that would bring in groundwater from 142 miles away. The $3.4 billion project would pipe in 16 billion gallons of water each year from Central Texas' Burleson County.” Read the full story as well as related stories leading up to this vote in the Texas Tribune.

Bamberger Foundation supports a new garden

The Community Gardens Program recently announced that the Bamberger Foundation will be funding a new urban garden in San Antonio. The garden will emulate many of the practices set forth by J. David Bamberger at the award winning Bamberger Ranch Preserve in Johnson City. Learn more

The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve – A Western Travis County Asset Worth Learning About

Driving through western portions of Austin, maybe you’ve noticed scenic, tree-covered hills spreading across the landscape and wondered when they will become a new shopping area or residential development. While growth is inevitable, it is also important to preserve land for the environmental benefits it provides. Learn more

Protecting the Hill Country begins with an informed, engaged citizenry

Water is a hot topic in Texas – and it’s getting hotter. Register for Trib + Water to stay informed. This bi-weekly newsletter is brought to you at no cost by The Meadows Center for the Environment and The Texas Tribune.

The Vista Ridge Pipeline - a regional game changer

“The project is much too important and costly for San Antonio not to have a full and complete understanding about the reliability of the groundwater supply.” Read more from this open-letter by Dr. Curtis Chubb, rancher and groundwater expert, published in the Rivard Report. Citizens have the opportunity to address the San Antonio City Council each Wednesday at 6:00 pm. The Alamo Group of the Sierra Club has created a clearinghouse of articles and reports to keep you informed. SA City Council is likely to vote on the project Thursday, October 30th.

San Antonio invests 5 million in Bracken Cave!

“This historic decision puts us within reach of purchasing the entire tract of land and protecting the habitat Bracken’s bats have used for thousands of years.” Read more from Bat Conservation International. “San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the county, in part because of the vast natural resources of the region. It’s our responsibility to ensure we protect and conserve what makes this region incredibly special.” Councilman Ron Nirenburg, quoted in the Rivard Report.

The many reasons millennials are shunning cars

There's a lot of evidence that millennials don't drive as much — or care as much for cars in general — as previous generations their own age did. They're less likely to get driver's licenses. They tend to take fewer car trips, and when they do, those trips are shorter. They're also more likely than older generations to get around by alternative means: by foot, by bike, or by transit. There's still a lot of dispute, however, over exactly what these trends mean. Read more from the Washington Post.

Summit addresses Hill Country issues

"Everything from urban development to dance hall preservation was on the agenda at the Hill Country Alliance 2014 Leadership Summit, held Thursday at the Nimitz Hotel Ballroom." Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.

Keeping Open Spaces Open

“We are reaching a point in Texas where simply standing on common ground is not enough. The lives of urban and rural Texans are irreversibly intertwined, so we must all join forces to create and define initiatives and policies that conserve the common good, while protecting the heritage of private landowners.” Read more of David K. Langford's guest blog for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

Harvest that Rain!

Most food growers rely on tap water to keep their plants alive during dry weather, but gardeners are discovering that chemicals in tap water harm the soil organisms that plants depend upon to absorb nutrients. As a result, more and more gardeners are storing rainwater. Read more from Sustainable Food Center.

Bracken Bat Cave needs your help

For the past year, San Antonio City officials, Bat Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and many other organizations and community leaders have been searching for a solution to avert a 3,500-home development over the Edwards Aquifer and adjacent to Bracken Cave Preserve. Next week, San Antonio's city council will meet to vote on whether to invest $5 million from their Edwards Aquifer Protection Program toward the purchase of the property and a conservation easement to protect aquifer recharge. Learn more from BCI.

Citizens Rule the Night at City Council

City Council chambers filled Wednesday evening with more than 100 people who signed up to speak for or against the proposed SAWS-Vista Ridge Consortium water agreement. Individuals were given two minutes to express their views, while group representatives were allotted five minutes. Read more from the Rivard Report.

When private property rights clash with the public good

“I have never understood why in Texas zoning laws are good for city mice but not for country mice, especially as we lose more and more of the open land that is necessary to our survival as a species every year, but that is the way it is and there seems to be no way to change it until Texans get tired of seeing our state gobbled up by strip malls and truck stops and march on the state capitol armed with shotguns and pruning hooks.” Read this personal story about the Hill Country, by Lonn Taylor, featured in The Big Bend Sentinel. Learn more about County Authority in Texas here.

Public Meeting: Vision for FM 150, October 16 in Driftwood

The public is invited to learn more about the process to develop a Roadway Character Plan for FM 150 from near Arroyo Ranch Road northwest through the Driftwood to RR 12 in Dripping Springs at an October 16 meeting. Hays County Commissioners Will Conley and Ray Whisenant are hosting the meeting to share information about the roadway and gather ideas from the public about what this important cross-county road needs to look like as changes are phased in to improve mobility and safety. Details

Have You Thought about the Hill Country Soundscape?

“..the effects of human endeavors all around the planet can be gauged by listening to the sounds of different habitats. Wild, urban, rural — they all can be interpreted.” Read more from Bernie Krause in “Call of the Wild,” featured in Sun Magazine. Find out what neighbors are doing through the Noise Pollution Clearning House.

Texas A&M reports loss of farms, ranches and forests

“Through Texas Land Trends, we have been able to raise awareness that ‘Yes, we have a lot of land in Texas,’ but we are losing it at a faster rate than most other states in the country, and that loss is having profound impacts on our agricultural base, our water resources and our native wildlife habitat,” Fitzsimons said. Read more about Land Trends.

The Oak Hill “Y” – A gateway to the Hill Country

A community workshop will be held October 9th from 6–8 pm as part of a “Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process,” a planning approach that invites the surrounding communities and neighborhoods to influence the design, so that it reflects their cultural and historic values and aesthetic preferences. Learn more about the event hosted by the CTRMA and TxDot. Explore http://Fix290.org for more information.

HCA's 2015 Calendar is Available for Sale!

HCA has released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar. Once again, this calendar delivers stunning photography while remaining an informative resource on Hill Country conservation. The stunning photographs featured throughout the 2015 calendar were chosen from nearly 400 submissions to HCA’s 2014 Photo Contest. Learn more

San Antonio a Step Closer to Controversial Pipeline

San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics. Read more from Texas Tribune.

Be a citizen scientist for Wildlife Field Research

at Cibolo Nature Center & Farm on Oct. 6-11 Volunteers interested in learning about Hill Country wildlife and contributing to its scientific study are encouraged to become citizen scientists during the Wildlife Field Research “bio-blitz” taking place Oct. 6-11 at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. Wildlife Field Research is open to participants of all ages and skill levels. Learn more

In Cities Across Texas, Activists Battle Billboard Companies

The Highway Beautification Act will be 50 years old next year. As envisioned by Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, it was supposed to protect the natural landscape from billboards. Ever since its passage, scenic activists and billboard companies have been at war over the views along American highways. More from NPR.

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.

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Upcoming Events


February 28 in Kerrville - Wildlife Tax Valuation Workshop, part 3 of 3 - Details


March 4-6 in Austin - 2015 Texas Land Conservation Conference hosted by the Texas Land Trust Council - Details

March 25 in San Antonio - Saving Family Lands Seminar - Hosted by Texas Agricultural Land Trust - Details

March 26-29 in Brackettville - Advanced Women of the Land Workshop by TWA - Details

March 28 in Austin - Native Plant Society Spring Symposium at the Wildflower Center - Details

March 28 in Stonewall – 8th Annual LBJ 100 Bike Tour - Details


April 9 - Six-county wildlife program and tour by Texas Agri-Life Extention - Participating counties: Mason, Menard, McCulloch, Llano, Gillespie & Kimble - Details

April 22 in Jourdanton - Agri-life Workshop - Presentations by HCA's Sky Jones Lewey, Rainwater Harvesting Expert John Kight and more - Details

April 23-24 in Kerrville - The second annual Bennett Land Stewardship: “Keys to Hill Country Living" - Details

See more upcoming events

2015 Photo Contest

Coming soon! Check back March 1st for a link to enter the contest. The 2015 photo contest will run March 1 through May 31.

Check out the top photos from last year's 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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