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Smithsonian Institute Archives Relating to the Hill Country


Found on the Smithsonian Institute website, this study is an excellent comprehensive summary of the unique natural features, challenges and conservation goals for the Hill Country Region.

Please click here to review the complete site including links to resources and maps.

Geography

The Edwards Plateau, lying east of the continental divide, is a plateau sloping gently eastward, dropping on average about 180 cm per km, but steeper at the western margin. The southern and eastern margins, and to a lesser extent the other parts, are much dissected by the following rivers: Colorado of Texas, Guadalupe, Nueces, Rio Grande/Pecos, and tributaries thereof (Map 8). This is an ancient evolutionary arena. Most of the land surface has been exposed continuously for occupation by terrestrial biota for at least 65,000,000 years. The plateau consists of three sub-regions:

1. The north-western sub-region, with little macrorelief (i.e., flat or gently undulating), a true plateau geomorphically, comprising about half the Edwards Plateau. Elevation 700-1000 m. Soil is a dark stony clay loam where present, but much of the surface consists of outcrops of Cretaceous limestone. The part of the Edwards Plateau west of the Pecos River is sometimes called the Stockton Plateau.

2. The southern and eastern margins are dissected by canyons separated by flat or undulating divides. The dissected part is locally known as the Texas Hill Country (picture); roughly half of the total area of the Edwards Plateau. Virtually the entire surface consists of outcrops of Cretaceous limestone. Elevation: 250-800 m, or as low as 100 m in the bottom of the canyon mouths.

3. Most geomorphologists also include in this broad category a relatively small area of about 6000 km², known as the Granitic Central Basin, or Central Mineral Region, in the north-central margin. In this area the Cretaceous limestone has been removed by erosion. A variety of rocks crop out, ranging from Archean through upper Palaeozoic in age. The soil, where present, is thin and stony. The exposed rocks are largely granitic and gneissic, with some sandstones and limestones. Elevation: 500-800 m.

Average annual rainfall varies from about 800 mm on the eastern encanyonated margin to 500 mm at the western margin. Rainfall is erratic on the eastern margin and its dependability declines even further westward. Virtually all rain runs off rapidly in the eastern and southern parts. In the north-western quarter of the Plateau, water accumulates for some days after rains, gradually permeating the underlying strata. Some years are virtually rainless. In relatively "normal" years, rainfall is low in winter and spring through April, but a peak of rainfall occurs in May/June followed by a summer slump and then another peak in September, tapering off in October. Rainfall usually occurs as local, moving, showers or storms, originating from cumulus clouds. Rare flooding is associated with the "hurricane season", May through October. Winter snow is rare, scant and usually melts within 24 hours.

Average annual temperature for the Edwards Plateau is approximately 21°C. Monthly average temperatures vary from around 11°C in January to 30°C in August. Temperatures are lowest at the western, higher parts of the Edwards Plateau, and higher at the eastern, lower parts. But, as in the case of precipitation records, extremes are in several ways more important statistics for the biologist. July afternoon highs often range to 41° or 42°C and January night-time lows often approximate -10°C. The lowest night-time temperature ever recorded in the Plateau was about -23°C. The average last spring frost is usually in late March and the earliest frost in autumn is in mid-November.

Vegetation

The "original" (c. 1800) vegetation was grassland or, more commonly, a type of open savanna, with shrubs and low trees along rocky slopes (Correll and Johnston 1970; Stanford 1976; Hatch, Gandhi and Brown 1990). "Tall" prairie grasses (about 1 m tall in late September, the month of maximum height) are still common on level or nearly level rocky outcrops and protected areas having good soil moisture. Shallow or more xeric, exposed sites support "midgrasses" (maximum heights usually 20-50 cm) and those areas with much grazing have a predominance of "shortgrasses" not more than about 15 cm in height. The vegetation in 1800 was therefore not as dense or lush as would be expected in a climate with a mean annual precipitation of 500 to 800 mm, but this is because of the unpredictable rainfall. In the early 1800s and even up into the 1840s, 1850s and later, the open, grassy nature of the landscape was associated with recurrent fires which suppressed woody growth. Fires are well known to be propagated on relatively level ground, but not on steep slopes. Thus the woody brush was confined to the steeper slopes and canyon walls.

Presently not only the rocky slopes but many of the undulating uplands, especially in the eastern and southern halves, carry a dense growth, 3-8 m tall, of shrubs and small trees, mostly oaks (Quercus fusiformis and other species) and juniper (Juniperus ashei). This invasion of woody plants into former grasslands is attributed to the suppression of fires in historical times, which allowed the woody invaders to displace some of the grassland. Some writers invoke the working of cattle and other livestock on the landscape to help explain these historical trends. At the north-western margin of the Edwards Plateau, the vegetation grades into that of the "mesquite-tobosa country" of the Rolling Plains, also a short-grass savanna with mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) dotting the short tobosa grass (Hilaria mutica) which forms vast almost mono-specific stands on flatlands with slow run-off.

Flora

The earliest professional botanical collections in the Edwards Plateau were those of Jean Louis Berlandier, who accompanied a bison-hunting party in the Hill Country late in 1828. Another notable Texas botanist, Ferdinand Lindheimer, settled at the mouth of a Hill Country canyon in 1843 and collected in the area for some years. Many of the species of the region carry his name. A few other botanists collected in the area in the nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries. From the 1920s onward, many botanists have collected here. The Edwards Plateau is well known botanically. Approximately 2300 species of native vascular plants have been recorded from the Edwards Plateau (Correll and Johnston 1970; Stanford 1976; Hatch, Gandhi and Brown 1990). An additional 200 species are introduced. A study of the distributions of the species outside of the Edwards Plateau indicates that about 500 of the gramineous and herbaceous, especially the prairie-type, species tend to be those of wide distribution in the grasslands of North America, many extending south into north-central Mexico and north into the Great Plains and even into southern Canada. Of the shrubs and small trees, most reach their northern and/or eastern limits in the Edwards Plateau, and thus can be thought of as having floristic relationships more with the calcareous mountains and plateaux of northern Mexico (the Sierra Madre Oriental, broadly construed). Many of these plants seem to "spill over" to some extent onto the edaphically similar limestone uplands just east of the Edwards Plateau, for example, the upper Cretaceous Austin Chalk outcrop, or farther south onto the calcareous hills of the Rio Grande plain, especially the Bordas Scarp.

Only a few species (about 10% of the Plateau flora) are strictly endemic, that is, they are not known to occur at all outside of the Edwards Plateau. But the list of strictly endemic species includes some truly fascinating threatened and endangered species. In the listings below a careful attempt has been made to list the rarest species first, and less and less rare species in sequence. Topping the list are the beautiful and endangered Styrax texana and the threatened Styrax platanifolia, known from a few canyons in the Hill Country (Gonsoulin 1974). The rare, beautiful and probably endangered Salvia penstemonoides deserves an early listing, followed by: Dalea sabinalis (Barneby 1977), Streptanthus bracteatus, Crataegus secreta (Phipps 1990), Philadelphus ernestii, P. texanus, Penstemon triflorus, Carex edwardsensis (Bridges and Orzell 1989), Seymeria texana (Turner 1982), Tridens buckleyanus (Gould 1975), Anemone edwardsiana, Penstemon helleri, Matelea edwardsensis, Amsonia tharpii, Ancistrocactus tobuschii, Onosmodium helleri, Erigeron mimegletes, Tragia nigricans, Berberis swaseyi, Amorpha texana (Wilbur 1975), Hesperaloë parviflora, Galactia texana, Opuntia edwardsensis (Grant and Grant 1979, 1982), Kuhnia leptophylla (Turner 1989), Perityle lindheimeri (Powell 1974), Tradescantia edwardsiana, Chaetopappa effusa (Nesom 1988), C. bellidifolia (Nesom 1988), Quercus laceyi, Vitis monticola (Moore 1991), Buddleja racemosa, Garrya lindheimeri (Dahling 1978) and Verbesina lindheimeri.

One special case is that of Muhlenbergia involuta which appears to be a series of sterile first-generation hybrids between M. lindheimeri and M. reverchonii. These hybrids are known only from the Edwards Plateau, which is the overlap-area of the ranges of the two putative parental species.

Examples of more widespread species of which endemic varieties occur in the Edwards Plateau are few. Some examples are Samolus ebracteatus var. cuneatus, a variety of a very widespread American tropical complex (Henrickson 1983) and Aesculus pavia var. flavescens, a local variety of a species widespread in the woodlands of south-eastern U.S.A. Likewise, Vitis aestivalis var. lincecumii is the Edwards Plateau race of a grape widespread in eastern North America (Moore 1991). Pediomelum hypogaeum var. scaposum on the other hand is a variety of a species widespread in the southern Great Plains and Prairie States (Grimes 1988). Croton alabamensis is a special case, with one extremely rare variety endemic to northern Alabama and an even rarer variety endemic to the eastern Edwards Plateau (Ginzbarg 1991, 1992).

If we extend our consideration of endemism to limestone uplands generally in northern Mexico and southern, central and western Texas, we find many species that occur in the Edwards Plateau and range perhaps 100 to 300 km outside of the strictly defined Edwards Plateau. Among the species that are not strictly endemic to the Edwards Plateau but also occur on the edaphically similar limestone uplands of central and southern Texas (including the Austin chalk) are Euphorbia jejuna, Brickellia dentata, Agalinis edwardsiana, Physostegia correllii (Cantino 1982), Clematis texensis, Penstemon guadalupensis, P. brevibarbatus, Yucca rupicola, Muhlenbergia reverchonii, Vernonia larsenii (King and Jones 1975), Argythamnia simulans, Dichromena nivea, Thelesperma curvicarpum, Mirabilis lindheimeri, Desmanthus reticulatus, Pediomelum cyphocalyx (Grimes 1988), Desmanthus velutinus, Hedeoma acinoides, Panicum pedicellatum, Salvia roemeriana, Tetragonotheca texana, Lespedeza texana, Salvia dolichantha, Salvia texana and Quercus buckleyi (Dorr and Nixon 1985).

Species common to the flora of limestone uplands of western Nuevo Leon and Coahuila (Mexico) and also the Edwards Plateau include: Colubrina stricta, Hesperaloë funifera, Pinus remota (Bailey and Hawksworth 1979), Bouteloua uniflora, Pistacia texana, Pavonia lasiopetala, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, Hunzikeria texana (Hunziker and Subils 1979), Antiphytum heliotropioides, Salvia engelmannii, Lythrum ovalifolium, Passiflora affinis, Penstemon baccharifolius, Scutellaria microphylla, Forestiera reticulata, Rhus virens, Thelesperma longipes, T. simplicifolium, Chaptalia texana, Chrysactinia mexicana, Bernardia myricifolia, Galphimia angustifolia, Croton fruticulosus, Acacia roemeriana, Stillingia texana, Indigofera lindheimeri and Cassia lindheimeriana.

Many other species of the Edwards Plateau could be listed as widely distributed in the south-western U.S.A. and northern Mexico. Examples are Thamnosma texanum and Pinaropappus roseus. A compilation of species common to both the desertic and montane floras of trans-Pecos Texas and adjacent areas and the Edwards Plateau will probably total 300 species. A few species are known to be endemic to non-limestone substrate in the Central Mineral Region, e.g. Campanula reverchonii and Valerianella texana (Mahler 1981). Two widespread subtropical ferns are found in Texas only on Enchanted Rock, one of the granitic knobs of the Central Mineral Region: Blechnum occidentale (Seigler and Lockwood 1975) and Cheilanthes kaulfusii.

Useful plants

The region abounds, during years of normal rainfall, with grasses and herbs useful for foraging by domestic stock. In comparison to this role in ranching, the direct human values of these and other plants of the Edwards Plateau are miniscule. An industry of moderate proportion derives fence posts from the abundant Juniperus ashei of the region. These posts have the reputation of high decay-resistance, when in contact with soil, as compared to any other readily available natural posts. A small industry in the region derives, through steam-distillation, an aromatic oil from the roots, trunks and branches of the same Juniperus ashei. The aromatic oil is incorporated into germicidal bathroom cleaners, all of which have the word "pine" in the name. Exploitation of trees for timber and lumber is of negligible importance. A small industry derives firewood for sale to householders and restaurateurs, mainly from Prosopis glandulosa and Quercus fusiformis. A couple of endemic species have been taken into the horticultural trade, namely Clematis texana and more importantly Hesperaloë parviflora.

Social and environmental values

The region comprises mainly small to large ranches with a mixture of domestic stock including many cattle and slightly fewer goats. Sheep are infrequent, followed by even fewer pigs. Hunting privileges, contracted months or even years in advance of the annual season, provide significant revenues to landowners. The major species hunted is the white tailed deer. Harvests of Rio Grande turkey, wild boar, javalina (collared peccary), bobwhite and scaled quail, and mourning doves are of lesser value. Some ranchers stock exotic species, such as various African and Indian antelopes, for sport hunting. Others stock ostriches and emus, these large birds being valued principally for their skins used in making "cowboy boots". Non-hunting recreation and tourism brings in some revenue. Eco-tourism, specifically ornitho-tourism brings thousands to catch a glimpse of the increasingly uncommon endemic black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapillus) and the golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysopareia). Hill Country rivers, clear, relatively cool and lined with stately Taxodium distichum trees, attract thousands of visitors, principally from the even hotter and more humid coastal cities such as Houston. In the last 20 years the Hill Country has blossomed as a sun-belt retirement area with relatively low land values and other low living costs, compared to the traditional overcrowded areas The region comprises mainly small to large ranches with a mixture of domestic stock including many cattle and slightly fewer goats. Sheep are infrequent, followed by even fewer pigs. Hunting privileges, contracted months or even years in advance of the annual season, provide significant revenues to landowners. The major species hunted is the white tailed deer. Harvests of Rio Grande turkey, wild boar, javalina (collared peccary), bobwhite and scaled quail, and mourning doves are of lesser value. Some ranchers stock exotic species, such as various African and Indian antelopes, for sport hunting. Others stock ostriches and emus, these large birds being valued principally for their skins used in making "cowboy boots". Non-hunting recreation and tourism brings in some revenue. Eco-tourism, specifically ornitho-tourism brings thousands to catch a glimpse of the increasingly uncommon endemic black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapillus) and the golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysopareia). Hill Country rivers, clear, relatively cool and lined with stately Taxodium distichum trees, attract thousands of visitors, principally from the even hotter and more humid coastal cities such as Houston. In the last 20 years the Hill Country has blossomed as a sun-belt retirement area with relatively low land values and other low living costs, compared to the traditional overcrowded areas in California, Arizona and Florida. The population approximately doubled in the dacade 1981 through 1990, from 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 (these estimates do not include the nearby cities east and south of the Hill Country).

Economic assessment

The current value of resources and services that the Edwards Plateau provides to the national economy on a sustainable basis is difficult to ascertain. Minor forest products are not only minor, but negligible in importance.

The Edwards Plateau serves as an important watershed and ground-water recharge zone for several of the most important cities of the region (Waco, Temple, Belton, Georgetown, Austin, San Marcos, New Braunfels, San Antonio, Uvalde, Del Rio), lined up along its eastern and southern margins where rivers disgorge onto the coastal plain. All these cities rely for their water supplies on the streams flowing out of the Edwards Plateau and the large springs at its eastern and southern edges (which are marked by the Balcones Fault Zone). Water percolates through the permeable limestone to the water-table, thence to the springs and wells. A number of streams have been dammed in the last 50 years to ensure the continuity of water-supplies and to support aquatic recreation. Watershed protection has not been, and still is not, a priority with governmental agencies of the region. As a result of the rapid population growth, the quality of the surficial and subterranean water has deteriorated in recent years. Nevertheless, the Edwards Plateau's function as a water recharge and supply zone will in the future become more and more its major economic value to the human population of the region. Vegetational integrity and maturity are known to correlate positively with the quality of underground and surficial water.

Threats

The plant resources of the region have been threatened for hundreds of years by an over-abundance of non-native and native animals. Some species have survived the intensive over-browsing only as a few individuals. For example, probably fewer than 15 individuals of Styrax texana exist in the wild. This is an extreme case of poor survival and perhaps indicates the likelihood that some species became extinct prior to botanical exploration. The threat continues and in some areas is further exacerbated by high deer populations which are no longer controlled by natural predation. The major acute new threat, accelerating in recent years, is the development of land for residential and light industrial purposes, especially in the Hill Country near the largest cities (Austin, San Antonio, Waco). Diffuse urbanization, being the result of literally millions of independent decisions to buy small parcels and settle in the area, appears to be immune from governmental regulation without a massive public awakening.

Conservation

The only lasting and worthwhile effort to minimize loss of biotic and genetic diversity will be to establish large biological reserves selected for their relatively undisturbed state. While this concept is not new to existing policymakers and those with financial resources, at the present time only a miniscule area of the region has been set aside. It should be noted that, in contrast to other western states which initially were carved out of federal territorial land (and which therefore presented more opportunities for establishment of federal parks and forest reserves), Texas initially had virtually no federal lands. State and municipal parks in the Edwards Plateau total only c. 30 km² or possibly 35 km². There is no National Park, save one of c. 1 km² devoted mainly to historical interpretation. While no true wilderness presently survives in the Edwards Plateau, tracts of several hundred to several thousand hectares still exist that could be set aside. It is suggested here that a minimum 2% criterion be applied, that is that concerned governmental and private initiatives work together to set aside appropriate tracts with the minimum goal being 2% of the land area, or about 2000 km². That will represent an almost hundred-fold increase over present holdings. Only then can any reasonable expectation that the biotic richness of the region will be passed on to succeeding generations.

The Latest News

San Antonio approves Vista Ridge water supply contract

San Antonio's City Council voted to approve a new contract between San Antonio Water System and the Vista Ridge Consortium on Thursday, October 30.Through this project, SAWS will buy 16.3 billion gallons water from the Carrizo and Simsboro aquifers over the next 30 years. The price tag on the project is $3.4 billion. Read more from the SA Business Journal.

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.

More news

Upcoming Events

October

October 29 in Austin - Great Places and Healthy People, presented by Congress for the New Urbanism - Details

October 30 in Austin - Balcones Canyonland Preserve Infrastructure Workshop - Details

November

November 3 in New Braunfels - 2014 ASACC & Lone Star Rail District Legislative Session Luncheon with State Representatives Donna Howard, Ruth Jones McClendon and Doug Miller - Details

November 6 in Wimberley - A Quiet Day in the Texas Hill Country: "Reflections on the Poetry of Wendell Berry," at the Red Corral Ranch - Details

November 11 in Austin - Meeting of the Austin Sierra Club - Austin Water Resources Planning Task Force with Sharlene Leurig - Details

November 15 in Johnson City - Sneak Peak Fundraiser at the Hill Country Science Mill: A fun foray into the (not-quite-finished) science museum - Details

December

December 5 in Smithson Valley - The Texas Hill Country Water Summit with Representative Doug Miller - Details

December 10-12 in Austin - 3rd Annual Lone Star Water Summit - Details



See more upcoming events


2015 HCA Calendar

One sale now!- Purchase Online

Check out the top photos from our 2014 HCA Photo Contest


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



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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