How communities are joining the fight to keep Texas’ night skies big and bright

How communities are joining the fight to keep Texas’ night skies big and bright

In his time as a naturalist at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Scott Whitener loved taking kids on night hikes. Whitener had left his previous job teaching in Fredericksburg partly because he wanted to spend more time outside. On treks up the massive granite dome, he encouraged young people to overcome their nerves as they grew accustomed to the dark, their senses sharpening in the absence of artificial light. A group of high school students from San Antonio made a…

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Q&A+water: Katherine Romans

Q&A+water: Katherine Romans

Executive Director of the Hill Country Alliance In this issue’s Q&A, Texas+Water Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Todd Votteler, interviews Katherine Romans, Executive Director of the Hill Country Alliance, a regional nonprofit focused on protecting the water, land, communities and night skies of the Texas Hill Country. She has more than a decade of nonprofit and legislative experience in natural resource issues and holds a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Romans serves on the board…

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Hill Country photo contest winners announced

Hill Country photo contest winners announced

The Texas Hill Country is a unique region filled with diverse wildlife, clear springs, sprawling rural landscapes, historic towns, and some of the starriest night skies in the country. Each year the Hill Country Alliance (HCA) holds a photo contest encouraging photographers to capture the Texas Hill Country they would like to protect forever. HCA received over 300 entries in the 2019 photo contest from amateur and professional photographers alike. Submissions, ranging from the starry sky over Enchanted Rock, to…

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One Water: Projects In Motion

One Water: Projects In Motion

Ian Taylor, Chief Executive Officer at New Braunfels Utilities, knows his city is growing, fast. And that with that growth means looking at new ideas to manage resources. “I really struggled with [One Water] because … it was just kind of this out there concept,” Taylor explained at the Texas Water Symposium held on November 21, 2019 in San Marcos. “I had trouble trying to figure out how to nail it down and figure out how you apply this thing.…

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Light pollution is key ‘bringer of insect apocalypse’

Light pollution is key ‘bringer of insect apocalypse’

Light pollution is a significant but overlooked driver of the rapid decline of insect populations, according to the most comprehensive review of the scientific evidence to date. Artificial light at night can affect every aspect of insects’ lives, the researchers said, from luring moths to their deaths around bulbs, to spotlighting insect prey for rats and toads, to obscuring the mating signals of fireflies. “We strongly believe artificial light at night – in combination with habitat loss, chemical pollution, invasive…

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Mysterious creatures: Exploring the depths of our karst aquifers

Mysterious creatures: Exploring the depths of our karst aquifers

“These ecosystems harbor some really amazing species,” said Dr. Ben Hutchins at the most recent Texas Water Symposium forum on Wednesday, November 13 at Schreiner University in Kerrville. Referencing the plethora of creatures that reside within Texas’ karst aquifers, Hutchins continued, “A lot of these are crustaceans; you may be familiar with shrimp, but relatively few people have seen a Texas Blind Cave Shrimp. These species occur sometimes at great depths. We have records from close to 2,000 feet under…

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Former Boy Scout camp will become next Hill Country swimming hole after Tuesday vote

Former Boy Scout camp will become next Hill Country swimming hole after Tuesday vote

Hays County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to put up about half the money to buy a portion of the former El Rancho Cima Boy Scout camp along the Blanco River. The Nature Conservancy pledged the other half of the $13 million price tag in a bid to acquire the 536-acre plot to turn the plot into a reservation-based recreation and swimming area, similar to Hamilton Pool or Jacob’s Well (another partnership between the county and the Conservancy). The conservation…

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Nirenberg calls for shifting sales tax to VIA Transit, away from Aquifer Protection

Nirenberg calls for shifting sales tax to VIA Transit, away from Aquifer Protection

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg joined other local leaders this week in calling for  a one-eighth-cent sales tax to be redirected towards funding mass transit – and away from popular water quality protection and trailway programs. Voters would need to approve the new appropriation of the existing tax, and City Council’s OK is is required to set the ballot language for the November 2020 election. The Advanced Transportation District board, comprising VIA Metropolitan Transit board members, would first call for…

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Pipeline opponents focus on ESA: Agencies put on notice to comply with law or be sued

Pipeline opponents focus on ESA: Agencies put on notice to comply with law or be sued

Opponents of Kinder Morgan’s routing of its Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) have put two federal agencies on notice – either comply with existing federal law or face legal action. In one of the latest challenges to the 435-mile, 42-inch natural gas pipeline, which is planned to cross the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, the focus has turned to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Last month, the T.R.E.A.D. Coalition (Texas Real Estate Advocacy & Defense Coalition), along with the cities…

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Efforts encouraging Texas ranchers to restore native grasses show promise

Efforts encouraging Texas ranchers to restore native grasses show promise

There aren’t many pastures with native grasses left in Texas. Instead there are invasive weeds like bermudagrass and Old World bluestem. Some Texas landowners and nonprofits are working together to change that. Restoring native grasslands takes years and is an arduous process. But the payout is significant, because when native flora returns, fauna are often not far behind. For example, bobwhite quail are popular and profitable as hunting game. Once a native grassland is established, it requires less weed control…

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