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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 km˛, 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 km˛ or possibly 35 km˛. There is no National Park, save one of c. 1 km˛ 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 km˛. 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

No Land. No Water.

As the current drought reminds us, water continues to impact the sustainability and growth of Texas' economy. Unfortunately, land is disappearing faster than in any other state, threatening the water resources on which our economy depends. Land conservation is a cost-effective water resource protection strategy. Join TALT October 1st in Austin.

Fall Camping Workshops Announced for Outdoor Families

With cool weather around the corner, the Texas Outdoor Family program has scheduled outdoor recreational workshops statewide though the beginning of December. The workshops offer a low-cost weekend trip where families can un-plug, reconnect with nature, and learn the basics of camping. Read more from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Aquifer is No Quick Fix for Central Texas Thirst

Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. What’s the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Read this excellent article by Neena Satija, Texas Tribune.

Where is the Hill Country?

ACC Professor Don Jonsson takes an interesting look at various degrees of consensus about what geography is included in the “Hill Country.” His data shows Luckenbach as generally the mean center of the region and the Pedernales River Basin 100% Texas Hill Country. View his project findings, map and summary. HCA has a plethora of helpful Hill Country map resources available online and as well as an interactive map viewer.

Wild Pigs!

Landowner groups and Wildlife Coops – Here’s something worth passing along to your member lists. Wild Pigs are an issue throughout the Hill Country region. Here’s an opportunity to learn from the comfort of your own ranch/home computer. Dial in September 18th to from noon to 1:00. Find out how to access this webinar made possible by the Texas Wildlife Association.

"I’m a NIMBY and proud"

“The effects of population growth on traffic are easy to understand. More people equal more cars on the road. More cars on the road equal more congestion. Duh! The real culprit is the rate at which new people are moving here.” Read one bold Austinite's views (who happens to also be a Real Estate Developer) about the real issue facing Austin (and the Hill Country) population. Ed Wendler, Special to the Austin American Statesman.

CARD Hosts a Community Water Meeting September 11

to host a free community meeting this Thursday to discuss why water is an increasingly critical issue, and how we can all be part of improving the outlook. Speakers include Andy Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Steve Clouse, Chief Operating Officer of San Antonio Water Systems, Ray Whisenant, Hays County Commissioner, Peter Newell, Water Resources Engineer at HDR Engineering, and Bech Bruun of the TWDB. Details

What’s all this fuss about a Parkway through Oak Hill?

The Fix 290 Coalition, a group of over 40 organizations and businesses and 2,800 petition signers, have been advocating for a “parkway" concept to move traffic through Oak Hill and protect the original character and unique natural environment of the area for more than a decade. The City of Austin is now asking for a study of this community driven “parkway” alternative to TxDot’s traditional elevated/frontage road model. Read more from Fix290.

HCA Transmission Line Workshop Generates Crowd

On Saturday, September 6th the Hill Country Alliance hosted a landowner workshop for those landowners potentially impacted by the LCRA's proposed Blumenthal substation and transmission line project. The workshop featured an update from the LCRA on the status of their application to the Public Utility Commission, and a panel discussion of landowner rights during the transmission line routing and construction process. To read a more detailed summary of the event and access speaker presentations, click here.

A Tale of 2 Water Districts: 1 Aquifer, 2 Strategies

A decade ago, prospective water marketers easily secured the rights to pump more than 20 billion gallons of water annually from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Central Texas’ Burleson County. The company now holding those rights, BlueWater, is negotiating a $3 billion deal to send much of that water to San Antonio. Read more from The Texas Tribune.

Developer pivots on water source for Fair Oaks subdivision

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

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

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

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

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

Hill Country Land Trust urges support for charitable giving

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

City Planning for San Antonio Growth Bomb

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

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

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

Austin Sierra Club talks water in two upcoming meetings

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

Fredericksburg SHINES Hosts Second Annual Sustainability-Green Home Tour

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

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

The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) has announced completion of a helpful low impact development publication. This manual was designed for developers, landscape architects, and all of those who live on, or are planning to build over our fragile aquifer recharge areas. The manual is available for download on the GEAA website.

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

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

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

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

Truck Stop in Hill Country Threatens Llano River

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

Workshop Will Feature Discussion of Proposed Blumenthal Substation and Transmission Line

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

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

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

The City of Fredericksburg takes steps to protect the night sky

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

SAWS proposing Burleson County pipeline – questions raised

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

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

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

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

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

Rainwater Revival Returns to Dripping Springs on October 25

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

Lack of Shared Dream Challenges Management of Rural, Open Space

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

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

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

San Antonio Mulls $3 Billion Water Supply Project

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

Hill Country Alliance Announces Winners of Photography Contest for 2015 Calendar

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

Upcoming Events

September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more upcoming events


2015 Calendar

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

Check out the top photos from our 2014 HCA Photo Contest


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



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

 
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