The pandemic is turning the natural world upside down

The pandemic is turning the natural world upside down

From inside her living room in London, Paula Koelemeijer can feel the world around her growing quieter. Koelemeijer, a seismologist, has a miniature seismometer sitting on a concrete slab at the base of her first-floor fireplace. The apparatus, though smaller than a box of tissues, can sense all kinds of movement, from the rattle of trains on the tracks near Koelemeijer’s home to the waves of earthquakes rolling in from afar. Since the United Kingdom announced stricter social-distancing rules last…

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Well water tests underway after pipeline crew hits Karst feature

Well water tests underway after pipeline crew hits Karst feature

Discolored water from wells near the Kinder Morgan Permian Highway Pipeline is causing distress. Test results on the water, taken where the pipeline is about to cross the Blanco River, are expected soon from a Lower Colorado River Authority laboratory. Once the results are received, David Baker of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) and others opposed to the pipeline’s route through the fragile Texas Hill Country will have a better idea of what their next steps should be. Read more…

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Newly detected moth threatens prickly pear in Texas

Newly detected moth threatens prickly pear in Texas

Texas is now the front line of an ecological battle pitting a devastating invasive moth against the state’s ubiquitous prickly pear cactus. Already, the South American cactus moth has laid waste to the cactus population in Florida, having come ashore there roughly 30 years ago. Now field biologists with the University of Texas have spotted it in South Texas and are rushing to bring the moth population under control. If they can’t, they say, a plant iconic to the Texas frontier…

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HOAs slow to accept native plant landscaping

HOAs slow to accept native plant landscaping

San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has long offered incentives to homeowners to replace non-native grass lawns with drought-resistant native plants. But the city’s many homeowner associations (HOAs) continue to favor water-thirsty, non-native turf grasses and resist residents who want native plant landscaping. Reducing lawn watering during the hot summer months and eliminating automatic irrigation systems is considered a major step toward enhancing water conservation efforts. Yet some HOAs tell homeowners they cannot install drought-tolerant landscaping featuring native plants, even though…

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Crops to cul-de-sacs: As pastoral land disappears in Central Texas, one man holds back the tide

Crops to cul-de-sacs: As pastoral land disappears in Central Texas, one man holds back the tide

From the cab of his pickup, Ron Collins gives a tour of a bygone era, when his Pilot Knob neighborhood in southeastern Travis County was a country outpost, home to his extended family, which traces its roots there back more than a century. Here is where his old two-room, all-black elementary school sat — his teacher used to drive him home with a loaf of bread on the dash to warm it up enough that butter would melt right on…

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Hill Country Alliance 14th annual photo contest kicks off

Hill Country Alliance 14th annual photo contest kicks off

The Texas Hill Country is a unique region of pristine springs, sprawling landscapes, diverse wildlife, star-filled skies, multi-generational land stewards, historic towns, and hidden oases. With a rapidly growing population and increasing development coming into the region, many of these special qualities are at risk of being lost forever.  For the 14th annual Hill Country photo contest, HCA asks photographers to take out their cameras and focus on “The Wild and Wonderful Texas Hill Country.” We are looking for photography…

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Is it okay to visit Texas Parks during the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Is it okay to visit Texas Parks during the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Earlier this month, I went shopping at H-E-B and bought more food than I needed. But I wasn’t stocking up my bunker; I was buying supplies for a camping trip at Big Bend National Park. Back then—a whole couple of weeks ago—the new coronavirus still felt relatively abstract. I was planning to spend spring break with my boyfriend, a teacher, under the West Texas stars, hiking along the Rio Grande, and climbing the classic South Rim trail to gaze at…

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No flights cancelled for birds or butterflies

No flights cancelled for birds or butterflies

South Central Texas and the Texas Hill Country are in the central flyway for migratory birds flying north for spring and summer breeding, according to Bexar Audubon Society (BAS) in San Antonio, which is officially the local National Audubon Society (NAS) chapter for Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina, Bandera and Wilson counties. “While the world’s thoughts this Spring turn to social isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, colorful warblers, bright red tanagers, orange orioles, and other avian gems will still be…

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Eastern monarch butterfly population plunges below extinction threshold

Eastern monarch butterfly population plunges below extinction threshold

The yearly count of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico, released today, shows a decrease of 53% from last year’s count and is well below the threshold at which government scientists predict the migration could collapse. Scientists estimate that 6 hectares—about 15 acres—is the extinction threshold for the migratory butterflies’ survival in North America. The latest count, conducted by World Wildlife Fund Mexico, found overwintering monarchs occupying just 2.83 hectares, or 7 acres. Read more from Tierra Curry, of the Center for…

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Rare native prairie near Texarkana preserved by family, conservation groups

Rare native prairie near Texarkana preserved by family, conservation groups

Fifth-generation Texans, David and John Talbot of New Boston, in February 2020 sold one of the last examples of unplowed native prairie in northeast Texas to the Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT) for permanent preservation as the Talbot Brothers Prairie Preserve. The 366 acres in Bowie County also includes more than 200 acres of bottomland hardwood forest and wetlands. The Talbot family owned the property for more than 55 years. “The land stewardship and preservation of these unique prairie…

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