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.

Night Skies

Photographer: Rob Greebon

Stepping outside on a cold, clear Hill Country night to gaze at the stars helps us escape the fast pace of our daily lives for a few precious minutes. However, growing urban sprawl and development can bring more than just air pollution — they bring “light pollution,” where unnecessary artificial light floods peaceful natural skies, making stargazing a thing of memory.

Restoring the stars’ brilliance against an unpolluted sky can be accomplished through properly designed and installed outdoor lighting. Simple downlighting and shielding techniques can reduce glare, light trespass (light shining on other properties) and sky glow (hazy, amber or pink sky on cloudy nights) while improving safety, security and the enjoyment of property.

Some urban areas in the Hill Country area have instituted outdoor lighting ordinances in an attempt to minimize light pollution, including the City of Austin, the City of San Antonio, Bexar County (near Camp Bullis, Blanco, Village of Wimberley, Helotes, Bulverde, Boerne and City of Dripping Springs. However, Texas counties do not generally have the authority to pass ordinances for effective lighting for clearer night skies. See our County Authority page here for more information about county authority in the Hill Country.

Download HCA's Night Sky issue paper

"The stars are the jewels of the night, and perchance surpass anything which day has to show." - Henry David Thoreau




Hill Country Night Skies 1992 - 2010 Map Set

The Hill Country Night Skies map set is a set of 6 maps showing the night time light intensity of the Hill Country in 1992, 1995, 2000, and 2010. The final map shows the change in intensity from 1992 to 2010. The data was collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Download Hill Country Night Skies 1992 – 2010 map set





Night Sky Friendly Business Recognition Program

The Night Sky Friendly Business Recognition Program is a cooperative
program between Hill Country Chambers of Commerce and the
Hill Country Alliance to recognize businesses and organizations that
have night sky-friendly outdoor lighting and to encourage others
to follow suit.

Learn more about the Night Sky Business Recognition Program and how you can bring it to your County.



Night Sky Co-op

Join the Hill Country Night Sky Co-op,
a group of landowners, businesses and
communities who have pledged their commitment
to protecting the night skies.

Learn more at http://www.hillcountrynightskycoop.org.


Upcoming Events

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

Monthly, San Antonio and South Texas - Star Parties by San Antonio League of Sidewalk Astronomers (SALSA)- Several member and non-member stargazing events held each month - Details

Monthly, Austin - Monthly star parties at Westcave Preserve - Calendar

Recent News

August 26, 2014

The City of Fredericksburg takes steps to protect the night sky

Efforts to limit the nighttime glow in and around Fredericksburg were buoyed this month as the council approved an outdoor lighting standards ordinance, which will primarily affect new residential and commercial development. A complete draft of the ordinance can be found on the city’s website, www.fbgtx.org. Learn about Hill Country attorney-astronomer, HCA Night Sky team member Ken Kattner who records skies from home observatory and advocates for proper lighting in the Hill Country here.

August 11, 2014

Preserving the Starry Starry Night

This CBS Sunday Morning segment on preserving the night sky was filmed in West Texas and features Bill Wren of the McDonald Observatory. Watch it here.

August 6, 2014

Enchanted Rock International ‘Dark Sky’ Status!

Copper Breaks and Enchanted Rock, which were awarded the highest “Gold-tier” night skies status by IDA, join Big Bend National Park and the City of Dripping Springs as the only locations in Texas to have earned the coveted Dark Sky Places recognition. Learn more

June 19, 2014

Better Lights for Better Nights Conference

The City of Dripping Springs, in partnership with the International Dark Sky Association Texas (IDA Texas), will host the Better Lights for Better Nights Conference on Friday, August 15, 2014 at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park Events Center. Details

May 20, 2014

Seeing Stars in Dripping Springs

As Texas booms, the state is less and less able to brag that the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas. In the big cities and the sprawling suburbs, and even in Far West Texas near the McDonald Observatory, light pollution is increasingly limiting our ability to enjoy the night sky. But the Hill Country town of Dripping Springs is showing that the starry skies can be preserved or restored even as the state grows. Associate Editor Forrest Wilder writes about the growing dark skies movement and how unlike many environmental woes—climate change, for instance, or the extinction of species—light pollution is eminently reversible. More from the Texas Observer.

Read more news on Night Skies and find upcoming events.



Hill Country View Segments

Quality Night Light


Learn More about Light Pollution

Introduction to Light Pollution - A brochure from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) introducing the problems caused by light pollution and potential solutions (2009).
Better Lights for Better Nights - A quick and helpful guide to for choosing the best lighting fixtures
Missing the Dark - An article from Environmental Health Perspectives discussing the detrimental health effects of light pollution and the value of dark skies (2009).
Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) – Program to safeguard migratory birds through education, research, rescue and rehabilitation. Artificial lighting in the out of doors poses a significant, often fatal threat to migrating birds.
Urban Wildlands Group - The Urban Wildlands Group is dedicated to the conservation of species, habitats, and ecological processes in urban and urbanizing areas. Their website has many great links to conservation information and programs including their book “Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting”.
Our Vanishing Night - A paper on light pollution from the National Geographic.
Outdoor Lighting Control: A Win-Win Situation! – Educational materials, solutions, and helpful resources from the McDonald Observatory.
Dark Skies Awareness - A nonprofit organization educating the public and providing information on light pollution and the benefits of dark skies as part of the International Year of Astronomy project.
International Dark-Sky Association Home – The home page for the IDA, a major authority on the preservation of the night sky . Link:
Sky and Telescope – News and helpful information on light pollution including tips on how to restore the night sky from Sky and Telescope Magazine.
Health Effects of Light Pollution – Delves deeply into the health issues connected to light pollution.

Fun Activities for Kids of All Ages

The GLOBE at Night Program - An international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure their night sky brightness and submit their observations to a website from a computer or smart phone. Light pollution threatens not only our “right to starlight”, but can affect energy consumption, wildlife and health.
Dark Skies Rangers Program - The preservation of dark skies is important for many reasons including astronomy, energy conservation, wildlife and even human health. Through the Dark Skies Ranger Program, students learn about the importance of dark skies and experience activities that illustrate proper lighting, light pollution’s effects on wildlife and how to measure the darkness of your skies.
Nighttime Rocks! - An activity book from IDA for kids and their parents. It includes information on how to apply for the George and Edythe Taylor Student Award. Winners in their age category receive $100 prizes.
Educational sites about Astronomy and Space

Protecting the Night Sky

Business, City and County Resolutions

City of Mason Night Sky Resolution
Fredericksburg Night Sky Resolution
Kimble County Chamber of Commerce and Junction Tourism Night Sky Friendly Business Recognition Program Resolution
Burnet County Night Sky Resolution
Kimble County Night Sky Resolution
City of LaGrange Resolution Supporting Night Skies - Passed December 12, 2011
PEC Area Lighting Resolution

City and County Ordinances

Sample Texas Ordinance
San Angelo, TX Nuisance Ordinance addresses proper lighting
Bambridge Island, WA Lighting Ordinance
City of Blanco Uniform Development Code - Includes separate language for both outdoor lighting and lighting of signage.
City of Dripping Springs Outdoor Lighting Ordinance
Order of the Jeff Davis County Commissioners Court Governing Outdoor Lighting
Camp Bullis Dark Skies Ordinance
Camp Bullis Dark Skies Zone Map
Camp Bullis Dark Skies Zone
Camp Bullis Dark Skies Zone Sign
Village of Webberville Lighting Ordinance

Information on Protecting Night Skies

NewStreetlights.com - The premier information source for leaders in the public sector, industry, and academia driving the LED streetlight revolution.
Medical Effects of Light Pollution
Billboard Lighting Breakthrough News from the International Dark-Sky Association about how some U.S. cities and companies are reducing light pollution through more effective billboard lighting (2008).
The Starlight Initiative and World Night The World Night is an opportunity to get involved to raise awareness about defending our starry skies. Our ability to maintain the right to observe stars for ourselves and future generations is in our hands.
Lighting Code Handbook – This Handbook discusses issues relative to outdoor lighting codes, their effectiveness, implementation, and enforcement.
Pattern Lighting Code – Updated version of the pattern lighting code that is included in the Lighting Code Handbook listed above. This code is a comprehensive definition of practical and effective measures by which the obtrusive aspects of outdoor light usage can be reduced, while preserving safety, security, and the nighttime use and enjoyment of property.
Dark Sky Communities - An IDA award program for a town, city, municipality, or other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of quality lighting codes, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies.
Dark Sky Friendly Development of Distinction – IDA award program for subdivisions, master planned communities and unincorporated townships that have actively promoted sensitive outdoor lighting in an effort to preserve their environment from unnecessary light at night. The award is designed to garner community support for environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.
Texas IDA - The Texas chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association.
Locations in Texas Where You Can See Lots of Stars – Visit these locations around Texas to have a great view of the stars. Let’s get the Hill Country on this map!
Sports and Recreational Area Lighting - A good lighting guide from the International Dark-Sky Association












Sports complex with unshielded lights vs. shielded lights


Helpful videos

Losing the Dark
A Simple 6 ½ minute video about light pollution and what to do about it, produced by the International Dark Sky Association.

The Hidden Costs of Light Pollution
A great 1.38 minute introduction to light pollution from Insurance Quotes' Hidden Cost series.




Back to Issues

The Latest News

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.

Developer pivots on water source for Fair Oaks subdivision

The developer of The Reserve at Fair Oaks Ranch now plans to buy Canyon Lake water to supply the proposed 635-home subdivision after project opponents expressed fears that using groundwater would deplete the Trinity Aquifer. More from SA Express-News.

Cibolo Nature Center & Farm to open restored historic homestead at Herff Farm on Sept. 20 amid festivities

The historic Herff Homestead at the Herff Farm at the Cibolo will open to the public for the first time since its restoration was completed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, sponsored by the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. Learn more

As Drought Persists, Cities Look to Texas ‘Lakes’ to Answer Needs

If the City of Austin continues with its plan to shut down Decker Power plant, Decker Lake, a little known lake that has fed the power plant for more than 50 years, could end up serving as the city's new reservoir. Read more from State Impact.

Hill Country Land Trust urges support for charitable giving

The United States Senate has the opportunity before the end of the year to provide a powerful boost to charitable organizations working to preserve our beautiful Hill Country. Read more from the Hill Country Land Trust.

City Planning for San Antonio Growth Bomb

“Bexar County Commissioners reviewing their own 2015 proposed budget, were told by county planners on Tuesday that the biggest challenge they face now and in the coming years is the startling rate of population growth in the far reaches of the county, well beyond the reach of city services with expectations that county government will meet infrastructure, public safety and social needs.” Read the full story in the Rivard Report.

Green Spaces Alliance's Picture Your World Youth Photography Project 2014-2015

Open to youth ages 8-18, the Picture Your World weekend workshops teach photographic composition and technique through hands-on demonstration, and constructive critique. Participants will produce a visual memory of their day and begin a creative portfolio while experiencing the wonders of the natural environment. Learn more

Austin Sierra Club talks water in two upcoming meetings

Bruce Melton discusses how Texas' changing weather patterns are affecting our water supply and HCA's Sharlene Leurig discusses the newly formed Austin Water Resources Task Force water in two upcoming meetings of the Austin Sierra Club, September 9 and November 11. Learn more

Fredericksburg SHINES Hosts Second Annual Sustainability-Green Home Tour

Fredericksburg SHINES (FBG SHINES), a local organization dedicated to educating the public about sustainable living, will host their second annual Fredericksburg fall tour of homes to spotlight local examples of sustainable, green-living practices. Learn more

Watershed Stewardship for the Edwards Aquifer Region, a Low Impact Development Manual

The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) has announced completion of a helpful low impact development publication. This 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. The manual is available for download on the GEAA website.

Travis County Wants Your Feedback - Land Water and Transportation Plan Ready for Review

The population of Travis County is expected to grow 50% by 2035 for a total of 1,500,000 people. Planning for growth outside of the city limits is critical for the county to continue to thrive in a sustainable manner. As such, Travis County needs your feedback to ensure the County's first comprehensive, long-range Land Water and Transportation Plan reflects local values and priorities. Click here to learn how you can help Travis County plan for future growth.

California’s water crisis and new groundwater rules are worth learning about

“Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers — always a backup source during the region’s periodic droughts — are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable.” Read more from the Washington Post. Now California lawmakers are overhauling the state's longstanding "pump-as-you-please" groundwater policy under a package of bills lawmakers recently sent Gov. Jerry Brown. Read about California’s new groundwater rules in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Also read “Desperately Dry” in the New York Times.

Truck Stop in Hill Country Threatens Llano River

Hill Country preservationists are calling on state officials to act after Pilot Flying J, the nation’s largest truck stop operator and diesel fuel retailer, broke ground on an environmentally sensitive site in Junction only a few hundred yards from the banks of the North Fork of the Llano River. Read more from the Rivard Report.

Workshop Will Feature Discussion of Proposed Blumenthal Substation and Transmission Line

A landowner workshop has been planned for all interested in, or potentially impacted by, the proposed substation and transmission line planned for the Blumenthal area, September 6 near Fredericksburg. Learn more

Texans Speak Up for Beautiful Highways: TxDOT withdraws proposal for taller billboards

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has withdrawn its June 2014 proposed rule change that would have allowed billboards along federal highways to be taller. After receiving public comments from more than 900 Texans and 15 organizations in opposition to taller billboards, the agency advised today it is removing the item from consideration on the August 28 Texas Transportation Commission agenda. Learn more

The City of Fredericksburg takes steps to protect the night sky

Efforts to limit the nighttime glow in and around Fredericksburg were buoyed this month as the council approved an outdoor lighting standards ordinance, which will primarily affect new residential and commercial development. A complete draft of the ordinance can be found on the city’s website, www.fbgtx.org. Learn about Hill Country attorney-astronomer, HCA Night Sky team member Ken Kattner who records skies from home observatory and advocates for proper lighting in the Hill Country here.

SAWS proposing Burleson County pipeline – questions raised

SAWS presented plans for a 142 mile pipeline from Burleson County to San Antonio at a recent community forum at UTSA. Learn more and watch a video from SAWS news here. While the plan promises 50,000 acre feet of non-Edwards water annually, a Texas Public Radio segment points out that perhaps not enough questions have been raised. Are there consequences related to costs to the community and impacts on San Antonio’s conservation ethic worth exploring? Click here to read and listen to “The Source: Some Critique On A SAWS, Vista Ridge Deal." Decisions will be made by SAWS in September and SA City Council could take this up in October.

Save the date for the October 8th Water Forum: Securing our Water Future

“Innovative Strategies and Hard Choices for a Secure Future” will be moderated by Robert Rivard and hosted at the Historic Pearl Stable in San Antonio. A stellar line-up of speakers includes: Berto Guerra, Bill West, Andy Sansom and Karen Guz. Learn more and mark your calendar today.

The City of Dripping Springs is planning for a “World Class Trail”

“The routes will connect destinations beyond Dripping Springs and will take advantage of opportunities to reach the proposed Violet Crown Trail and other regional trails and parks planned for Central Texas.” Read more and get involved. The City of Dripping Springs is soliciting input.

Rainwater Revival Returns to Dripping Springs on October 25

Look to the sky for your water supply—and learn how to capture and use it at the fifth annual Rainwater Revival, which returns to Dripping Springs on October 25. The popular and free edu-fest event is put on by the Hill Country Alliance. “We began our part-educational, part-fun fest in Dripping Springs in 2010, and after two years there we took the event on the road to other parts of the Hill Country,” said Event Chair Karen Ford. “We’re happy to be coming ‘home’ to share the latest information about rainwater conservation and harvesting at Dripping Springs Ranch Park. Learn more

Lack of Shared Dream Challenges Management of Rural, Open Space

“The population growth has had some obvious impacts, For one, there are a lot more straws, big and small, taking from the groundwater supply.” David K. Langford tells the audience at a recent private lands summit hosted by the Texas Wildlife Association. Read more from Livestock Weekly.

NPSOT Native Landscape Certification Program - Register Now for 2014 Fall Classes

The Native Plant Society of Texas Native Landscape Certification Program is a series of courses that teaches best practices for native plant landscape and habitat preservation. Targeted audiences are homeowners, native plant enthusiasts, landscape architects, architects, landscape designers and nurserymen, Master Naturalists, teachers, citizens, Master Gardeners, engineers, and more. Learn more and register.

San Antonio Mulls $3 Billion Water Supply Project

Depending on whom you ask, San Antonio might either be on the cusp of securing its water future at a relatively low cost, or it is pinning most of its hopes on a multibillion-dollar boondoggle that could diminish the water supply for fast-growing Central Texas and wouldn’t deliver what San Antonio expects. Read more from the Texas Tribune

Hill Country Alliance Announces Winners of Photography Contest for 2015 Calendar

“It’s through photographs like these that we help share the importance of protecting our Hill Country environment, and one of the reasons our calendar has been so popular with both area residents and nature lovers worldw

Upcoming Events

September

September 17 in Lakeway - Water Matters by Central Texas Water Coalition - Details

September 18 in Austin - The Barstow Speakers Series: Wat're the possibilities? Strategies to Reduce the Strain on the Colorado River - Details

September 20 in Fredericksburg - Fredericksburg Shines 2nd Annual Sustainability Green Homes Tour - Details

September 22 in Kerrville - Monthly meeting of the Texas Master Naturalists - Topic: Hill Country Land Trusts, Speaker: Bill Lindemann, Vice President of Hill Country Land Trust - Details

September 25 in Fredericksburg - Hill Country Alliance Leadership Summit - Details

September 26 in Kerrville - 2014 New Landowner Series: Back to Basics, Home Gardening, Chickens, Natural vs. Organic - Presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details

September 26-28 in Belton - Renewable Energy Roundup - Details

September 27-28 in Boerne - Texas Hydro-Geo Workshop - Details

September 28 in Austin - 7th Annual Celebration of Children in Nature - Hosted by The Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin and the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center - Details

October

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more upcoming events


2015 Calendar

HCA's 2015 Calendar is coming soon! Check back for availability.

Check out the top photos from our 2014 HCA Photo Contest


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



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Maps

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

HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool

 
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