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

May 12 in Fredericksburg - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Hill Country University Center - Details

May 13 in Llano - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Details

May 14 in Marble Falls - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Details

May 16 in Fredericksburg - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - 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

April 2, 2014

A more “Night Skies” friendly community

It started when the Kimble County Commissioners Court, followed by the City Council, passed resolutions supporting voluntary efforts to protect the Night Skies. This paralleled actions being taken in other Hill Country communities to preserve the awe-inspiring Night Skies and the enjoyment that comes with stargazing, including its attraction for visitors. Read more from the Junction Eagle.

March 11, 2014

Light pollution impairs rainforest regeneration

Increasing light pollution in tropical habitats could be hampering regeneration of rainforests because of its impact on nocturnal seed-dispersers. Read more from Alpha Galileo.

February 14, 2014

Globe At Night – Get Out and Observe the Night Sky!

The Globe at Night program is 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. This hands-on learning activity is designed for schools, students, communities and families. The more participation we inspire in the Hill Country the better data we’ll have for our region. It’s easy, learn more at www.globeatnight.org

February 11, 2014

Dripping Springs Named The First International Dark Sky Community In Texas

The stars at night remain big and bright deep in the heart of the Texas – thanks to the hard work and dedication of Texas Hill Country residents. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) announced today it has designated the first International Dark Sky Community in Texas. “Dripping Springs joins a select club as the world’s sixth Dark Sky Community,” said IDA Ex-ecutive Director Bob Parks. Read More

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

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

City Wastewater Discharge May Threaten Clear-running Creeks and Water Wells

Some water experts believe Hill Country clear-running creeks and streams may soon be a thing of the past if cities are permitted to discharge treated wastewater directly into creeks such as Onion Creek. Water wells may also become contaminated. Read More

Sky Lewey, HCA Board Member receives Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Award

Sky has been selected to receive a “Lone Star Land Steward Award” for her work in education and outreach for the Nueces River Authority in Uvalde County. “Sky Lewey is a conservation educator with extraordinary leadership and dedication. A key figure in the efforts to restore healthy riparian function to the Nueces River Basin and beyond.” David Langford, HCA Advisor, and his wife Myrna are also receiving an award for their landowner cooperative in Kendall County. Congratulations HCA leaders! Read more from TPWD.

Keeping Rivers Flowing: Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers - Starts April 30

"Keeping Rivers Flowing" is a free three-part webinar series designed to inform interested persons about strategies to ensure the future health of Texas' rivers, bays and estuaries. Drawing on practical experience from here in Texas and around the world, speakers will discuss innovative approaches for ensuring that rivers, bays and estuaries continue to get the flow needed to protect water quality and support healthy fish and wildlife populations. Learn More

Amazing rally for Bracken Bat Cave

Bat Conservation International has inspired major support to prevent intense development of 1500 acres adjacent to Bracken Cave from the City of San Antonio, Mayor Julian Castro, City Councilman Ron Nirenberg, The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and others. Find out more about recent negotiations to save the cave and learn about upcoming opportunities to personally visit Bracken Bat Cave and see the bats take flight.

The Great Grassland Myth of the Texas Hill Country

How many times have you heard that the Hill Country was once a great vast grassland with only a modest covering of trees and brush? Although this longstanding myth is deeply ingrained and embraced by many government agencies, biologists, landowners and professionals, it is false and misleading. Learn what the Hill Country was really like prior to 1860 from eye-witness accounts, and why it is important to understand the past. Read and share from Steve Nelle.

Georgetown moves to limit residential lawns and landscaping to save water

“The rules require residential developers to use only drought-resistant plants from a list provided by the city. St. Augustine grass, which tends to be very thirsty, can only be planted in areas where there is 10 inches of topsoil and less than 6 hours of full sunlight per day.” Read more from the American Statesman (subscription required). Learn more about St. Augustine and the impact lawn watering has on our regional water supply from Native American Seed here. KXAN reports “more buyers want homes with smaller yards and less grass to water.” View video here.

The High Cost of San Antonio’s North-South Water Divide

The fact is the city’s sprawling suburbs, gated communities and ex-urban neighborhoods are addicted to lawn and landscape watering. SAWS officials say about one-third of all the water we use in the hot summer months is pumped to keep grass alive. Not humans, but grass. Learn More

TWDB launches Interactive State Water Plan Website

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has developed a new Interactive 2012 State Water Plan webpage that will let water users statewide take an up-close look at data in the 2012 State Water Plan and how our water needs will change over time. This data will arm communities with important information as they plan for projects to submit for State Water Implementation Fund (SWIFT) funding. Learn More

A more “Night Skies” friendly community

It started when the Kimble County Commissioners Court, followed by the City Council, passed resolutions supporting voluntary efforts to protect the Night Skies. This paralleled actions being taken in other Hill Country communities to preserve the awe-inspiring Night Skies and the enjoyment that comes with stargazing, including its attraction for visitors. Read more from the Junction Eagle.

Symposium explores land, water connection

HCA’s March 20th Texas Water Symposium generated a crowd of more than 150 to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the Pedernales River watershed. Landowners, state and local officials and non-profit representatives gathered to explore these issues and the steps being taken to solve them. Learn more from the Fredericksburg Standard. An hour-long version of the event will be aired on Texas Public Radio in select regions Sunday, April 6th at 8pm - Details

You Can’t Say They Don’t Care What You Think – Public Input on HB 4

Approval of “Prop 6” indirectly transferred $2 billion from the state’s “rainy day” fund into this new State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) to provide water for “non-rainy” days. But just moving money around doesn’t create water. That’s why what’s happening now at the state’s Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is so important. Read more from Ken Kramer at TexasLivingWaters.org.

Groundwater Levels on the Decline

Stay informed about your local Groundwater Conservation District (GCD). The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) creates a monthly bulletin full of helpful water conservation information and news. Read the latest edition here. Do you know your local GCD? Do you have a local GCD? If you are unsure, contact HCA and we’ll help you learn.

Build Smart Water Now

While we continue to reduce our water use, demands increase every day with new homes of suburbia appearing on the horizon. Each will require more water, with a considerable amount going to establish and maintain hundreds of acres of new turf grass each year. In this region, traditional home lawns typically consume 25 to 35% of the annual treated water. Projecting into the future, new residential yards could require up to 30,000 acre-feet per year by 2040—enough water to meet about 20 percent of Austin’s current demand. Read More

A fun way for students to learn about life sciences from TWA

The Texas Wildlife Association provides Distance Learning programs to bring education about our natural world into the classroom via videoconferencing. Discover resources HCA has assembled to help parents and teachers inspire our next generations to be thoughtful stewards of the Hill Country here.

Financing the Cost of New Development

“With growth projected to skyrocket in the Hill Country, GEAA will keep working to make sure that the costs of growth are distributed equitably.” While the SAWS staff recommends new impact fees to fund additional water supplies, development interests are pushing back. Learn More

HCA's Certified Interpretive Guide Training Workshop Returns

Do you want to create meaningful experiences that last a lifetime? HCA is offering an Interpretive Guide Training workshop that will help you connect the minds and hearts of your audience to the beauty of nature and the mysteries of history. The four-day workshop will be held April 28-29 and May 5-6. Register now, class size limited. Details

EPA proposes greater protections for streams, wetlands under Clean Water Act

“Intermittent and ephemeral streams provide critical fish habitat out West. They account for 94 percent of Arizona’s streams, according to the EPA, and 88 percent of those in New Mexico.” The same holds true here in the Hill Country as these tributaries feed the Llano, Pedernales, Blanco, Guadalupe and Nueces Rivers. “These streams provide the flow for larger rivers and spawning and rearing habitat for young fish and insects; they also help to determine the quality of downstream habitat for fish.” Read more from the Washington Post.

TWDB's Water Data for Texas website now includes groundwater data

Today Texans are more aware than ever of the importance of groundwater. As part of ongoing efforts to synthesize and communicate water-related data to scientists, policy makers and the public, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) recently announced its Water Data for Texas website now includes groundwater data. Learn More

CAMPO Planning – Now is the time to get involved

The Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is currently seeking public input for projects including new roads in the long-ranch plan. Learn more about transportation planning taking place in Burnett, Travis and Hays counties and attend an open house near you.

New Billboard Fact Sheet

Scenic America has just released a handy 4-page reference guide to basic facts and figures about billboards. Download the PDF here. Learn more about scenic issues and billboard in the Hill Country here.

The Bats are on their way back to the Hill Country

While South by Southwest (SXSW) comes to a close in Austin, Texas' bat season is just beginning. That's right, the Mexican free-tailed bats have begun their northward migration. To celebrate, here's a little "Q&A" to help answer any questions you may have about this awesome spring event. Learn more from Bat Conservation International.

Stormwater Management Can Be “Green” Too

Meet Dr. Katherine Lieberknecht. She is a professor in the University of Texas School of Architecture who proposes the revolutionary idea that stormwater runoff can – and should – be managed as a water resource, rather than as nuisance to be drained “away” as “efficiently” as practical. Read more from Waterblogue.

West's Drought and Growth Intensify Conflicts over Water Rights

Across the parched American West, the long drought has set off a series of fierce legal and political battles over who controls an increasingly dear treasure - water. Read more from the New York Times.

HCA’s Rainwater Revival calls for grant applications to fund water conservation and catchment programs at Hill Country schools

The Hill Country Alliance has set an April 30 deadline for local schools to apply for grants of up to $1,000 to develop or continue water catchment and conservation programs. The auction of “art barrels” during the Alliance’s annual Rainwater Revival, held in November, funds the grants. Learn more...

SAWS Backpedals on Right Choice – Still Considering Groundwater Importation Project

Last month, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club praised staff at the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) for recommending to their Board that the focus of future water supplies for the city should rest on nearby brackish groundwater, rather than the importation of fresh groundwater from locations distant of the city. Unfortunately, the SAWS Board, sensing pressure from the business community, has backpedaled against that recommendation to reject all three of the groundwater proposals. Read more from the Texas Living Waters Project.

American Dream and the Economic Myth

Property is a thing. Happiness is an ideal, a story of the future created by the imagination. The American dream, even when it takes material form, is a wish the heart makes in its pursuit of happiness. It is an act of the imagination made vivid by the life and liberty that allow us to pursue it with hope. Read and share one of our timeless favorite pieces by Betty Sue Flowers.

SAWS: Yes to Desal Plant, Maybe to Pipeline

The San Antonio Water System board voted unanimously Tuesday to fund Phase I construction of a brackish water desalination plant in southern Bexar County – the most ambitious water diversification project in the city’s history – and enter negotiations with the Vista Ridge Consortium to provide San Antonio with an even greater supply of new water via a privately-owned regional pipeline, a second diversification project of unprecedented scope and cost. Read more from the Rivard Report.

Registration is open for the Annual Kent Butler Summit

Faucets, Toilets, and Automobiles: Balancing Growth and Sustainability in the Barton Springs Aquifer Region. Join us Friday, April 25th for a day of learning at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center. Click here to learn more and register online.

Texas’ Most Endangered Places

Nominations are now being accepted for the Preservation Texas, Most Endangered Place list. Some wonderful places in the Hill Country already grace this list including the Spettel Riverside House in Bandera County, The Old Llano County Jail, Hamilton Pool, Scenic Loop-Boerne Stage Corridor and statewide, Texas Dance Halls! The deadline is fast approaching, March 21st, take it upon yourself to nominate an iconic Hill Country treasure. Learn More

More News

Upcoming Events

April

April 16 in Canyon Lake - Billboards in Comal County: TxDOT will present findings from a recent inventory of billboards in Comal County - Presented by the League of Women Voters, Comal Area - Details

April 17 in Austin - TWDB will hold two Board meetings to discuss innovative water solutions for Texas and financial assistance for water projects - The public and interested stakeholders encouraged to attend and provide public comment - Details

April 19 in Boerne - Streamside Management: Restoring and Maintaining Riparian Areas - Details

April 22 - Earth Day! - Earth Day Events

April 22 in Austin - Texas Water Journal Forum focusing on current challenges to rural and urban water conservation - Details

April 23-25 in Kerrville - Bennett Trust Educational Program: "Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau" - Details

April 23-27 - 2014 Hill Country Nature Quest - Tour the Hill Country River Region and learn about native plants, birds, butterflies and wildlife - Details

April 25 in Austin - Kent Butler Summit, “Faucets, Toilets, and Automobiles: Balancing Growth and Sustainability in the Barton Springs Aquifer Region” - Details

April 25-27 in Fredericksburg - 4th Annual Wings over the Hills Nature Festival - Details

April 26 in Austin - Native Plant Spring Symposium - Hosted by The Native Plant Society of Texas and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Details

April 28 in Kerrville - Native Bees of Texas - A meeting of the Hill Country Master Naturalist - Free and open to the public - Details

April 30 - Keeping Rivers Flowing: Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers - Free three-part webinar series on strategies to ensure the future health of Texas' rivers, bays and estuaries - Details

May

May 3 in Bandera - 13th Annual Medina River Cleanup - Details

May 6 in Medina - Fruit Tree Management Workshop - Hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details

May 7 in San Antonio - Public Health and the Built Environment - Healthy Communities by Design - Details

May 8 in San Antonio - Urban Wildlife Management Workshop - Details

May 9 in Boerne - Monarch Workshop: Monarch Biology, Ecology & Monarch Larval Monitoring Project Training - Hosted by the Cibolo Nature Center - Details

May 9 in Stonewall - 2014 New Landowner Series: Forage Production, Livestock Production and Handling, Crop Production - Presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details

May 10 in Wimberley - Grand Opening of the newly improved Jacob's Well Natural Area - Details

May 12 in Fredericksburg - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Hill Country University Center - Details

May 13 in Llano - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Details

May 14 in Marble Falls - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Details

May 16 in Fredericksburg - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - Details

May 16 in Austin - Exploring Conservation Design in Central Texas with Randall Arendt - Details

May 28-30 in San Antonio - Southwest Stream Restoration Conference - Details



See more upcoming events


Photo Contest

Photo contest begins March 1st!
Details


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
Listen and Learn



Maps

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

HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool

 
Website Development by
Website Development By
Edit PageUploadHelp