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

February 17 in Johnson City - Better Lights for Starry Nights - Details

February 21 in Fredericksburg - Enchanted Rock Star Festival, 12-10pm - Come out and celebrate the stars! - 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

Ongoing,Texas State Parks - TPWD offers star parties at state parks throughout Texas year-round - Calendar

Recent News

February 1, 2015

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.

January 6, 2015

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.

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.

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

HCA's 2015 Photo Contest has begun!

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

"Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth"

Join HCA at this first of many educational programs at the Hill Country Science Mill: Ecologist G. David Tilman presents, "Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth." Dr. Tilman's research focuses on how to provide secure, sufficient and equitable food to all people of all nations while preserving biodiversity and minimizing agricultural impacts on water quality and climate change. March 29th at 4:30 pm at the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City. Details

Central Texas Drought Is Worst on Record

Competition for water prompts a quest for new sources. “The rule of capture is coming to the forefront again,” Venessa Puig-Williams explained. “People in Hays County are seeing that, though the rule purports to uphold property rights, it doesn’t really protect them. Large-scale pumping could dry up nearby groundwater sources.” Read more from Circle of Blue.

CAMPO Public Input Opportunities

The CAMPO Transportation Policy Board (TPB) is taking public comment on the draft 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, amendments to the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan and the FY's 2015-2018 Transportation Improvement Program. The TPB will hold a public hearing on March 9, and CAMPO will host a series of public meetings before the comment period ends on April 2, 2015. These meetings provide opportunities for the public to comment on the draft 2040 Plan, and on the proposed amendments. Learn more

Texas Wildlife Association to host three-day Women of the Land workshop

This workshop will cover basic skills from chainsaw operation to prescribed fire basics, geared towards female land managers. Interested in building your understanding of some of these important ranch management skills? This could be the workshop for you. Signup deadline is March 13th and space is limited. Details and Registration

Partnership created to establish the Center for Private Land Stewardship

The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) recently joined with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the East Foundation to form the Center for Private Land Stewardship. The center will be the hub of education for private landowners and the public, according to a Noble Foundation news release. Learn more from Texas Water Resources Institute here.

On the Road: A Symposium on Water

The Texas Tribune and Texas State University will be hosting a day long symposium on water, March 10 from 8:00 am to 2:45 pm. Topics include life after Proposition 6, the battle over groundwater, strategies for conservation and the poor quality of water along the Texas-Mexico border. Learn more and register for free.

Joe Beal, politically connected engineer, back in the water game

Former LCRA General Manager and groundwater developer, Joe Beal is back in the news with plans to transport water from Bastrop and Lee counties to Travis and Williamson Counties. "It was Beal’s empire-building effort at the river authority in the early 2000s that sent water pipelines shooting into the Hill Country, accelerating suburbia in areas around Dripping Springs" Read more from Statesman.com

Pollinator PowWow Draws Hundreds from Texas and Beyond

Icy roads and freezing rain couldn’t stop more than 200 people from making their way to the second annual Pollinator PowWow in Austin last weekend. The all-day gathering of pollinator advocates and native plant evangelists gathered at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Saturday for a full day of education, enlightenment and wisdom sharing. Read more from Texas Butterfly Ranch here.

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

Texas Wildlife Association to host three-day Women of the Land workshop

This workshop will cover basic skills from chainsaw operation to prescribed fire basics, geared towards female land managers. Interested in building your understanding of some of these important ranch management skills? This could be the workshop for you. Signup deadline is March 13th and space is limited. Details and Registration

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

Upcoming Events


March

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

March 10 in San Marcos - "On the Road: A Symposium on Water" - Presented by the Texas Tribune and Texas State University - Details and Registration

March 13-15 in Llano: Llano Earth Art Fest - 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 27-28 in Hunt - "Introduction to Holistic Management and Ecosystem Function" - Part one in HMI's Mitigating Drought with Holistic Management Workshop Series - 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

March 29 in Johnson City - "Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth," presented by Ecologist, Dr. G. David Tilman - 4:30 pm at the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City. Details

April

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

April 24-26 in Fredericksburg - 5th Annual Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival - Details

See more upcoming events


2015 Photo Contest

Runs March 1 - May 31
Enter Now!


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



Hill Country View
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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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