New snorkel tours offer up-close view of protected San Marcos springs

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The springs that once played host to an underwater theme park are now protected, and the group leading conservation efforts at Spring Lake is offering an up-close view of the area’s ecology. The springs that form Spring Lake, the headwaters of the San Marcos River, host a variety of endangered species, including the Texas blind salamander. The health of the springs has a direct impact downstream on popular tubing and swimming spots. “We’re trying to…

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Reflections on Texas, the outdoors and 40 years of writing and photography

Reflections on Texas, the outdoors and 40 years of writing and photography

Shannon Tompkins, who retires as September arrives and hunting seasons begin, has covered outdoor recreation and natural resources issues for four decades. September’s arrival marks a time of transition for Texas’ natural world and those whose hearts and actions are tied to the rhythms of land, water, sky and the life in, on and over it. This makes the month special for all Texans, but especially those of us who fish, hunt or otherwise spend time engaged with the natural…

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San Marcos City Council passes resolution for support of Emerald Crown Trail

San Marcos City Council passes resolution for support of Emerald Crown Trail

The San Marcos City Council voted 7-0 to pass a resolution for support of the Emerald Crown Regional Trail Proposal on Tuesday. The Emerald Crown Trail is a proposed regional trail system that aims to connect Hays County cities and ultimately cities to the North and South. The project was developed through a collaborative effort between members of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, Hays County, the City of San Marcos, the City of Kyle, the City of Buda, the Guadalupe-Blanco…

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Underground lakes part of major new discoveries at Natural Bridge Caverns

Underground lakes part of major new discoveries at Natural Bridge Caverns

A 19-hour trip deep into the caves at Natural Bridge Caverns in July led to some major new discoveries, including underground lakes and massive rooms. Brad Wuest and Travis Wuest, who own and operate Natural Bridge Caverns, were joined by Bill Steele on their journey into the uncharted portions of the cave. Travertine Passage is one of the new areas the team discovered during their July trip. “I was descending deeper than anticipated into large, never before seen passage. I could…

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The butterfly effect: Native milkweed can save monarchs – if you know how to grow it

The butterfly effect: Native milkweed can save monarchs – if you know how to grow it

Barbara Keller-Willy remembers her reaction when fellow Texas gardeners told her that native milkweed, a plant essential for the survival of the monarch butterfly, was nearly impossible to grow: How hard could it be? It was 2009, and Keller-Willy had just quit her job as an engineering executive. She was spending her time volunteering for local nature and prairie restoration projects. Keller-Willy had been a corporate problem-solver for most of her professional career. Learning that milkweed was resistant to even…

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Wimberley residents want to buy Mount Edith to protect it from developers

Wimberley residents want to buy Mount Edith to protect it from developers

Hill Country residents are worried developers will scar the area’s scenic hill tops, and one town has decided to do something about it. Mostly pickups, SUVS and bikers drive down the scenic main drag of the little town of Wimberley, about an hour’s drive from San Antonio. Councilwoman Christine Byrne said the city has a cool vibe. “Wimberley is kind of a small, rural community right outside of Austin,” she said. “Very artsy. We love our natural spaces. We are…

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Creatures of the deep karst

Creatures of the deep karst

Groundwater—the water that is stored beneath the Earth’s surface in soil and rock—makes up more than 95 percent of the Earth’s liquid fresh water. The subsurface aquatic realm is also the world’s largest freshwater habitat. Although organisms that live only in subterranean aquifers make up a relatively small fraction of the total number of freshwater species, they are an important component of biodiversity. They are poorly understood, however, because they are to a large extent inaccessible and are difficult or…

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Here’s how America uses its land

Here’s how America uses its land

There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is. Its economy is the largest in the world and grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter, its fastest pace since 2014. The unemployment rate is near the lowest mark in a half century. What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that…

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A challenge awaits all of us

A challenge awaits all of us

Ernie Wittwer is a resident of New Braunfels. He is a volunteer for the Comal County Conservation Alliance (CCCA), believing that the wonderful natural features of the area should be preserved. He is retired after a career in public service. Those of us who live in Comal County face a challenge that will not disappear. How can we live with significant growth while maintaining the things that brought us to the county in the first place? The Comal County Conservation Alliance was formed to…

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Sink Creek Project Awarded U.S. Forest Service Grant

Sink Creek Project Awarded U.S. Forest Service Grant

The City of San Marcos will receive a $423,500 grant from the United States Forest Service to fund the land purchase of the Sink Creek Community Forest Tract. This is the first Community Forest and Open Space Program grant awarded to a project in Texas. The City purchased the 102-acre tract through a three-year lease with The Trust for Public Land in 2017 for a total purchase price of $1.27 million. City Council approved the lease-purchase agreement with the expectation…

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