Mission

To bring together an ever-expanding alliance of groups throughout a multi-county region of Central Texas with the long-term objective of preserving open spaces, water supply, water quality and the unique character of the Texas Hill Country.

Purpose

The Hill Country Alliance is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to raise public awareness and build community support around the need to preserve the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas Hill Country.

2004

The First Meeting
We held our first meeting September 4, 2004. Texas Hill Country residents met to share ideas and learn from each other about development issues in their area. From that day, we decided to begin meeting monthly and to create a website. Through e-mail we drafted paper detailing our positions and began expanding our resources. We established three core goals: 1) To protect water quality and supply, 2) To preserve open space and 3) To promote responsible growth in the Hill Country.

Building Our Alliances
In the last quarter of 2004, we spent time getting to know organizations who shared our concerns about the effects of growth and development in the Hill Country. The following groups pledged support for our efforts: The Hamilton Pool Road Scenic Corridor Coalition, The Guardians of Lick Creek, Citizens in the Bee Creek Valley, Citizens for a Livable Bee Cave, Lakeway First, Save Barton Creek Association, Concerned Citizens of Spicewood, The Friendship Alliance, Citizens Assembly of Blanco County, La Tierra Property Owners Association, Public Citizen Texas Office, The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.

2005

Establishing Our Organization
In 2005 we decided to form a non-profit corporation. We raised enough seed money to allow a contracted director to spend 6 months developing HCA into a well-organized, highly credible organization with a business plan and funding opportunities. HCA applied for and achieved its status as a 501c3, a non-profit organization recognized by the federal government, in December 2005.

Our Leadership
HCA’s first board of directors, led by Pam Reese as president, included: Rob Baxter, Don Bosse, Lee Carrell, Karen Ford, Pepper Morris, Nell Penridge, Damian Priour, Pat Sinnot and Ira Yates.

Encouraging Regional Planning
Participants in HCA became involved in many regional planning processes; The Regional Water Quality Plan, The Hamilton Pool Road Regional Plan, The Southwest Travis County Growth Dialog and the Lower Colorado River Authority NPS Stakeholders Group, Envision Central Texas and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). Through our alliance, they have been able to share ideas about the progress of regional planning in the Hill Country and help pave the way for future efforts.

Educating the Public
Through media attention, public speaking opportunities and community outreach, HCA began raising public awareness of the effects development has on the sensitive environment of the Texas Hill Country.

Our First Bond Initiative
In Travis County’s November 2005 bond election, HCA partnered with the Texas Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land and the Hill Country Conservancy to help the county pass an initiative that included more than $62 million for open space. An HCA Board Member served on the Travis County Bonds Citizens Advisory Committee. The bond package passed Nov. 8, 2005.

Building a New Database and Website
We created a database and integrated it with our website to help coordinate HCA efforts.

Providing Testimony
HCA has and will continue to regularly provide testimony at county commissioner’s courts, river authority board meetings, legislative hearings and any other opportunities to educate key decision makers about concerns in the Texas Hill Country.

Educational Events
Public Seminar – June 9, 2005 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center HCA hosted and co-sponsored seminars on transfer of development rights, responsible land use, open space bond elections and water quality rules, a key concept in the Regional Water Quality Plan. More than 100 individuals, including landowners, public officials, developers and others from the general public, attended our free June 9, 2005 program.

Participating in Advocacy
Throughout each legislative session we keep our members engaged and informed about bills that effect growth in the Texas Hill Country. During HCA’s first year attending the Texas Legislature, we provided testimony at several committee hearings and tuned in to ACT (the Alliance for Clean Texas, a coalition of grassroots lobbying groups). We also wrote a summary of legislation important to HCA and distributed it to our groups and individuals.

Promoting Conservation Development Standards
Promoting Conservation Development Standards HCA provided input for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center project; to produce a “primer” on conservation development in the Hill Country.

2006

Our Leadership
Karen Ford served as president of HCA in 2006. Our other board members included: Lee Carrell, Colleen Gardner, Roy Mann, Pepper Morris, Nell Penridge, Damian Priour, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. We also created an Advisory Board in 2006, which included: Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Sky Lewey, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot and Raymond Slade. Creating our “Neighbor to Neighbor” publication as a collaborative project, HCA worked with a coalition of experts to produce an educational publication about the direct discharge permit application for Belterra in Hays County. We hand delivered the piece to the community and posted it on the HCA website for future reference.

Hosting Educational Events
In 2006 HCA hosted events on dark skies, groundwater districts, transportation plans and CAMPO. HCA also partnered with the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods to host a candidate debate for the Texas House District 47 seat.

Promoting the Travis County Greenprint
HCA participated as a stakeholder in the Trust for Public Land Greenprint for Travis County.

Collaborating for County Authority
HCA collaborated with county commissioners, landowners, The Texas Association of Counties, environmental groups and developers to collect information and write recommendations for increased county authority in the Hill Country. The resulting Issues and Actions Report on county tools to plan for growth was published online and distributed throughout the region.

Marketing
HCA worked with EMG Marketing to develop a marketing package that includes a membership brochure, Web card and bumper sticker with the theme: Education-Conservation-Cooperation. A volunteer leader created a marketing plan to help articulate specific tasks to help HCA with our mission.

Creating an Economic Study
Through a partnership with the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, HCA began an economic study of the hill country region. The project moved forward, but not to the degree we had hoped.

2007

Our Leadership
In 2007, Damian Priour served as president of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Roy Mann, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included; Bob Ayers, Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, David Langford, Sky Lewey, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Debra Trejo and Terry Tull.

Creating a Technical Advisory Committee
Raymond Slade recruited the “A-Team” of scientists and engineers in the Hill Country to offer advice and work with HCA on special projects.

Hosting Educational Events
HCA co-hosted a conservation development program in Hays County.

Mapping the Hill Country
HCA partnered with Texas State University to create interactive digital maps of the 17-county hill country region.

Legal Research
HCA partnered with citizen groups along the Colorado River corridor to conduct research on LCRA’s jurisdiction.

Outreach
The HCA database of groups and individuals who support HCA grew from 400 to more than 1300 and communications reached more than 7,000 Hill Country residents.

Web site
We further enhanced our Web site in 2007. A proposal for a re-design is in the works to be considered for the 2008 budget, and timely Neighbor to Neighbor news and alerts on local and regional issues and events went out as needed.

More Collaborating for County Authority
HCA informed groups in the Hill Country region about HB 3447, a bill authored by Representative Patrick Rose to give counties in the Hill Country Priority Groundwater Management Area the authority to limit density, set guidelines to deal with incompatible land use and collect development impact fees to help counties pay for the services needed to keep up with growth.

Starting Our Photo Contest
HCA conducted our first Hill Country Photo Contest. We received more than 200 photos, and plan on continuing the contest annually.

Hill Country Calendar
HCA created, produced and sold an educational calendar using winning photo’s from the photo contest.

Hiring on a New Staff Member
We hired Pepper Morris to work on administrative duties, outreach, database maintenance and fundraising.

2008

Our Leadership
Nell Penridge served as President of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, David Baker, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Sky Lewey, Damian Priour, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayers, Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Julie Koppenheffer, Jaynellen Ladd, David Langford, Michael Looney, Roy Mann, Milan Michalec, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Debra Trejo, Terry Tull.

Research and Support for County Authority
HCA has provided research and support for the Hill Country County Coalition, a group of Hill Country elected officials who are working together to define specific tools that are necessary to help counties keep up with and plan for the pace of growth we are experiencing in the region.

Our Partnership with UT
We have partnered with the UT Law School Environmental Clinic to provide legal research for the Hill Country Coalition. An extensive analysis was developed illustrating how Texas compares to other states regarding various county authority and planning issues.

Mapping the Hill Country
We completed an interactive GIS based website containing over 70 layers of GIS data for the 17 county region. This tool is offered free of charge to organizations throughout the region, county governments, landowners and the general public. HCA developed mapping capabilities to create custom maps illustrating watersheds, groundwater districts, development plats, springs, etc. A plethora of data is available.

Educational Events
We hosted and co-hosted numerous educational events including the Texas Water Issues Symposia Series put on by a partnership of Schreiner University, Texas Tech University, Texas Public Radio, and the Hill Country Alliance.

20 Year Scenario Presentation
We created the 20 Year Scenario Presentation; a look at what this region will likely become if trends continue in the same path, which will soon be accompanied by a State of the Hill Country report to be released the first quarter of 2009.

Hill Country Calendar
We conducted our 2nd annual Hill Country Photo Contest and published the 2009 Calendar which has quickly become a popular resource on Hill Country issues as well as a beautiful calendar to share.

New staff member
Shannon Chambers joined the HCA staff in November bringing new energy and her own passion for the Hill Country region.

2009

Our Leadership
Ira Yates served as President of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, David Baker, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Sky Lewey, Damian Priour, Pam Reese, Nell Penridge, Milan Michalec, and Chris Hale. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayers, Bill Barker, Don Bosse, Dave Collins, Julie Dill, Bebe Fenstermaker, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Susan Hughes, Julie Koppenheffer, David Langford, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Debra Trejo, and Terry Tull.

Mapping the Hill Country
We launched our online mapping tool which brings HCA’s valuable data sets and GIS capabilities to the public. The Technical Advisory Committee completed groundwater and surface water vulnerability maps of the region, creating an extremely valuable tool for planners, developers and landowners to see what areas are more fragile than others and why.

2050 Vision Tools
HCA created alternative future maps of the 17 county Hill Country Alliance area contrasting the affects of status quo development as compared to quality growth development principles that incorporate water quality protection to the year 2050. The project was developed using readily available datasets that are standard across the study area to give an overview of two scenarios of how future development might occur within the study area.

Hill Country View
72 ninety second radio briefs titled “Hill Country View” were written and produced. Texas Public Radio out of Kerrville regularly aired these programs during the morning and evening commute.

Educational Programs and Partnerships
HCA continued the Texas Water Issues Symposium partnership with Texas Tech University, Schreiner University and Texas Public Radio. The series brings water resource issues to the people with expert panelists. We average 120 live attendees in addition to the wide radio audience and viewers of the website. HCA co-hosted a conservation development symposium at the Wildflower Center in the spring of 2009 with the Congress of New Urbanism.

Regional Outreach
HCA presented to numerous groups throughout the region including Chambers of Commerce, master naturalists, neighborhood activists, groundwater districts, UT LAMP, Lyons Clubs etc. We also exhibited at many events such as the Lavender Fest in Blanco, Roundup in Fredericksburg, Earth Day at Aquarina in San Marcos, and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Celebration in Wimberley.

New Website, More effective Newsletters
A new design was created in early 2009. The site has grown rich with content organized by issue. The Neighbor to Neighbor News expanded with an average of 3 newsletters a month. These succinct timely email newsletters highlight current news and events related to the HCA mission. The database of subscribers grew from 1732 in the end of 2008 to 2464.

Calendar/Photo Contest
The photo contest was expanded with over 400 entries. The third annual Calendar was redesigned and we printed a second series of Hill Country postcards, at no cost, to use for marketing and gifts.

County Authority research support and advocacy
HCA continued to assist the Hill Country County Coalition, a work group of county commissioners and judges as they convene meetings and build consensus about legislation to improve county planning tools in the Hill Country. We created resources to educate elected officials and citizens about HB 3265 to enhance county authority and delivered the “State of the Hill Country” resource packet to Hill Country legislators which included maps, the 2030 report, Regional Water Quality Protection Plan summary and Cost of Community Services studies.

Issue Development
As timely issues surface, HCA staff works with volunteers, advisors and the TAC to unite stakeholders for sustainable solutions to difficult issues such as transmission lines through scenic lands, direct discharge permits in fragile streams, the desired future conditions process mandated by the legislature, transportation planning.

2010

Our Leadership
Carolyn Chipman-Evans serves as President of HCA. Other board members include: David Baker, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Sky Lewey, Milan Michalec, Bill Neiman, Nell Penridge, Dr. Leo Tynan, and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members include: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Dave Collins, Brian Davis, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Colleen Gardner, Susan Hughes, James Kimmel, David Langford, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Mike Mecke, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, Bob Petersen, Damian Priour, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Deborah Trejo, and Terry Tull.

Strategic Plan
Carolyn Chipman Evans and Advisory Board member Mike Morton lead HCA through a process that resulted in a concise, thoughtful, achievable strategic plan.

Hill Country County Coalition and the County Authority Issue
Four County to County sessions were held in 2010 resulting in more coordination between Hill Country county elected officials. In addition, representatives from HCCC travelled to Austin to give testimony before the House Interim Committee on County Affairs. HCA supplied resource materials and prepared written testimony for Chairman Coleman, which is evident in the Interim Report recommendations for expanded County tools including infrastructure fees and incompatible land-use buffers. After the November election, HCA visited newly elected officials to encourage participation.

County Focus Groups completed
HCA was successful conducting focus groups in 10 rural Hill Country counties. Each one was unique and gave us new insight about specific needs in different parts of the Hill Country region. The focus groups provided not only valuable feedback about issues and programs, but also introduced us to new leaders and created relationships with opinion leaders. More focus groups are being scheduled for 2011.

Hill Country View Radio Show
Twenty-six new shows were produced bring our total to 98 segments of the Hill Country View, a 90 second radio feature packed with information about caring for the natural resources and cultural heritage of the Hill Country. We expanded air time to include 3 radio stations. All of the segments are now accessible on the HCA website in the resource section as well as broken out by issue and posted on related issue pages. We also developed a marketing one-sheet for promoting the Hill Country View to new stations.

Website
The website has again been re-designed and all of the content has been refreshed and updated. Issues have been re-organized. All new mapping resources have been added. We continue to receive praise that this is a comprehensive and always current valuable regional tool.

Texas Water Symposium
HCA served as the lead organization along with partners; Schreiner University, Texas Tech University and Texas Public Radio to host 4 educational programs about water resources in the Hill Country that were taped and aired on TPR. Topics included legislative action, energy/water nexus, river clean-up programs, conservation and planning. Each program is archived and available for listening.

Farm and Range Forum
HCA partnered with Texas Wildlife, AgriLife, Green Spaces Alliances and others to bring back the forum. This event was held in Fredericksburg. The focus of the forum is to bring together rural landowners with the urban conservationist, explore ways to keep rural landowners on the land and enlighten urban dwellers of the value of rural land stewards.

Rainwater Revival
HCA partnered with Hays County and served as the lead NGO to organize this first annual one day festival/educational event all about rainwater harvesting.

Conservation Development Symposium
HCA was invited as a new partner with APA and the City of San Antonio to co-host a Randall Arendt event at Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. The event drew about 150 participants representing public and private stakeholders to come together to learn about conservation development design.

National Conservation Initiative
We network with national leaders in large landscape conservation planning and mega-region infrastructure planning and were invited to participate in a national practitioner’s network of leaders in regional conservation, as the only representative from Texas.

Neighbor to Neighbor Newsletter
Newsletters are distributed 3- 4 times a month featuring the latest news, events and resources on all things related to growth, development, water, conservation and other issues in the Texas Hill Country.

Photo Contest and Calendar
Over 550 photographs were entered in the 4th annual photo contest. Another spectacular HCA Calendar was produced and delivered to leaders, elected officials and decision makers throughout the region.

HCA Endowment Created
An endowment fund was established at the Austin Community Foundation with an initial $45,000 investment.

Issue Outreach
HCA was a leader in the dissemination of information and a united voice for critical regional issues including; the construction of transmission lines to bring wind energy through the Hill Country (CREZ), the desired future conditions process for regional groundwater conservation districts (GMA 9 – DFC), Tri-County Groundwater Conservation District proposal by the TCEQ, multiple habitat conservation planning programs (HCP’s), Sunset Review of TCEQ and conservation initiatives.

2011

Our Leadership
Sky Lewey served as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Milan Michalec, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Jim Dahlglish, Brian Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Mike Mecke, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Paul Sumrall, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, and Ken Whalen.

The HCA Network
The HCA network grew significantly in 2011 both in numbers and in diversity. HCA leadership has grown to include rural ranchers, the former President of The Wildlife Association, two County Elected officials, 3 mayor/former mayors from Hill Country towns, economic development professionals, landowners, rural Agri-life experts. The HCA database grew to more than 4,000 subscribers.

Website
The HCA website received re-design making it more streamlined and aesthetically pleasing. We continue to receive praise that this is a comprehensive and always current valuable regional tool.

GIS Mapping Tool
HCA completed a complete reconstruction of our GIS interactive mapping tool. The new format is user friendly for the general public and valuable to the water resource planning expert. Illustrations include hydrology, watersheds and topography in an interactive format. Vulnerability layers have been added to demonstrate areas where groundwater is more susceptible to degradation.

Development of Hill Country Groundwater Websites
Google Hill Country Groundwater and you will find one or several HCA pages. We have become the “go to” resource for groundwater news, data, maps and experts. HCA’s newsletters go out three to four times a month driving traffic to additional resources from HCA and also our many partnering organizations. In addition, HCA has developed extensive web resources for water conservation, rainwater harvesting, the drought, water quality, groundwater planning and watershed protection.

Hill Country Groundwater Primer
HCA created and distributed more than 28,000 Hill Country Groundwater four page color primer. This publication was distributed during spring 2011 GCD elections to educate voters. We also provided this resource to all Hill Country legislators and it was displayed in many of their Capitol offices. 23,000 pieces distributed as newspaper inserts in Hays, Kendall and Bandera Counties.

Photo Contest and Calendar
Over 400 photographs were entered in the 5th annual HCA Photo Contest. Another spectacular HCA Calendar was produced and delivered to leaders, elected officials and decision makers throughout the region.

Development of “I’m for the Hill Country” campaign
HCA has created a new campaign strategy coined “I’m for the Hill Country” to gain broader acceptance for the message of conservative groundwater planning, water conservation, public engagement in groundwater planning, and in general HCA positions relating to better planning for land use and water resource protection. The new “I’m for the Hill Country” logo has been placed on decals, the HCA website, HCA’s social media outlets and on all HCA outreach communications.

Hill Country County Coalition and the County Authority issue
Two more County to County sessions were held to convene County Judges and Commissioners. In addition, the initiation of the Hill Country County Caucus with Representative Jason Isaac resulted in the first ever legislative cause of all House and Senate members representing our 17 county region. The most recent session, of the coalition attracted 33 county elected officials representing 11 counties as well as Representative Isaac, Representative Miller, Senator Wentworth and staff from Hilderbran and Fraser’s offices.

County Focus Groups
HCA continued to conduct focus groups with the help of Peggy Sechrist who was hired as part-time outreach contractor. Peggy hosted focus in Gillespie, Kerr, Medina and Kendall counties. Each one was unique and gave us new insight about specific needs in different parts of the Hill Country region. We learned that our mission for educational outreach is considered to be most valuable and that rural landowners want HCA to strive to incentivize education and advocate for conservation practices. Scenic beauty, water policy, heritage ranch land protection, property taxes and development pressure continue to be most frequent issues raised. These focus groups also help HCA identify opinion leaders in the community and build trusting relationships.

Education and Collaboration during Groundwater Rights Legislation Debate
HCA was successful getting guest commentaries published in the Austin American Statesman and also the San Antonio Express News to urge caution with SB 332, what was known during the session as the “vested rights bill”. Our SB 332 resource page is very thorough and used frequently by the media and public. Though difficult to measure, we believe we had a strong impact on what resulted in a compromise.

Coordinating Regional Support for the Hays County DFC Protest
HCA brought David Baker of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association together with David Langford, former TWA CEO, rural landowner and Milan Michalec, local GCD director together to help provide understanding of why the DFC process needs further clarification and modification. A 30-ft drawdown will not sustain water supplies for future generations. This technical issue can be best summed up by saying we are currently pumping more than is being recharged. In addition, HCA created an informative resource page on this issue and a guest commentary was published in the Austin American Statesman in November of 2011.

Regional Water Catchment Watershed) Planning Assessment Project
Understanding that water planning must begin to follow natural watershed boundaries rather than political lines, HCA began building new resources and tools to help generate more collaboration between watershed planning projects and also to move these programs from reactive to proactive efforts. Currently most of these watershed programs are done as a result of a threatened or impaired water system. The Pedernales watershed was identified as a focus area collaboration.

Creation of the short film, “I’m for the Hill Country”
HCA created an 8 minute mini-documentary to build awareness about the major regional issues; water resource protection, land stewardship and conservation. This film has received high praise and is currently being requested by many entities for viewing.

Rainwater Harvesting Outreach
HCA hosted the second annual Rainwater Revival event in Dripping Springs. A new tour of homes was added giving participants a close-up look at rainwater harvesting in action. Plans are already underway to bring the event to Boerne on October 27th 2012.

PEC Night Skies Policy
Because of HCA’s influence, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative adopted the following policy in August 2011:

Area Lighting in the Texas Hill Country
WHEREAS, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (“the Cooperative”) recognizes the Texas Hill Country for its diverse ecosystems, ethics for land stewardship, rich cultural heritage, and breathtaking scenic beauty; and
WHEREAS, the influx of people into the region over the years and accompanying light trespass from area lighting fixtures has been steadily on the rise, and these factors have impacted the natural environment and the quality of life of the people of this region; and
WHEREAS, the Cooperative is committed to protecting the beauty of the night skies
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE
COOPERATIVE, that the Cooperative shall promote outdoor lighting fixtures and practices that follow up-to-date guidelines for efficient, non-intrusive lighting and work with its partners to educate and encourage landowners, businesses, residential communities, and public entities to join in this commitment; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Chief Executive Officer or his designee is authorized to take such actions as needed to implement this resolution

2012

Our Leadership
Sky Lewey served her second term as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Milan J. Michalec, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates.

Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Debbie Brient, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Cristi Clement, Bryan Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Liz Stool Friedman, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Commissioner Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Tom Mason, Stan Meador, Mike Mecke, Judge Garry Merritt, Myfe Moore, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Jill Nokes, Jake Patoski, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Michele Thompson, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, Bob Webster and Ken Whalen.
The HCA Network

Our database grew to 5300 supporters, friends and subscribers and increased and 490 Facebook and Twitter followers.
The significant amount of interest in participation on HCA issue based projects lead to the creation of Issue Teams. About one hundred volunteer leaders found their place on one or more of several teams including Water Policy, Night Sky, Land Conservation, Rainwater Harvesting, Land Stewardship, County Authority, Young Leaders (Team Future), Pedernales and Low Impact Development. These teams tackle timely issues; create educational events and resources; and provide comments on local, regional and state policy decisions.

Website and Newsletter
The HCA website continues to evolve, Google “Hill Country Groundwater” you will likely find one or several HCA pages. We have become the “go to” resource for groundwater news, data, maps and experts. HCA’s newsletters go out three to four times a month driving traffic to additional resources from HCA and also our many partnering organizations. In addition, HCA has developed extensive web resources for night sky protection, land conservation, rainwater harvesting, the drought, water quality, groundwater planning and watershed protection and low impact development strategies.

Rainwater
Our Rainwater Team hosted the 3th Annual “Rainwater Revival. In 2012 we moved to Boerne where we experienced a terrific turnout estimated at 900 attendees. The program was well received and enjoyed wonderful media coverage. Attendees were treated to educational sessions and exhibits all designed to make rainwater harvesting a more widely used water strategy in this region. We also raised funds to award another round of grants to area schools for rainwater harvesting and native landscaping projects. Four grants of $900 each were given to: Bandera High School, Dripping Springs Middle School, Hill Country Montessori and Utopia ISD.

Night Skies
Our Night Sky Team created an entire menu of programs aimed at reducing light pollution. We hosted a series of “Better Lights for Starry Nights” workshops, with participation by the McDonald Observatory, Texas Parks and Wildlife and local partners. The “Night Sky Coop” was launched, where landowners take a voluntary pledge to end light trespass from their land and a new chamber of commerce recognition program was created where businesses are acknowledged for being night sky friendly. We coordinated and funded the retrofitting of lights in the City of Junction, Kimble County, Texas Tech in Junction and the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with support from The Coypu Foundation.

Water Planning
Our Water Team grew to include more regional experts. They are coordinating involvement in all regional water planning processes including Groundwater Management Areas 7, 9 and 10, Regional Water Planning Groups J, K and L as well as the Environment Flows, Bay Basin planning groups. The team hired a part-time coordinator, Charlie Flatten, a graduate student at Texas State University

Pedernales Team
We created a team which includes representatives from TPWD, LCRA, all land trusts working along the river, Bamberger Ranch, Westcave, Travis County and others. The purpose is to share information and collaborate more effectively on many projects such as landowner workshops, mapping and watershed planning.

Issue Papers
We published a new series of Issue papers branded “I’m for the Hill Country.” The issue paper library was built to include: Hill Country Groundwater, Healthy Riparian Lands, Groundwater/Surface Water connection, working with Land Trusts and Conservation Easements, Native Landscaping, Lighting for Night Skies, Myths and Truths of Groundwater Conservation Districts, Population Growth and Rural County Land Development. These papers are designed to provide general information to the public and elected decision makers.

Conservation Finance Feasibility Study
We partnered with the Trust for Public Land and the Texas Land Trust council to create a Conservation Finance Feasibility Study for our fastest growing counties. This report inspires public funding initiatives to conserve more land. The report reveals that minimal public investments can yield significant funding for conservation easements (local purchase of development rights programs).

Photo Contest and Calendar
We continued our tradition of hosting a Hill Country photo contest and publishing our beautiful Hill Country Calendar.

“Hill Country View”
We built our radio program to now include over 150 “Hill Country View” segments which air on Texas Public Radio. And, we produced two movie shorts to compliment the Hill Country View.

Hill Country Summit
We gathered over 70 diverse regional thinkers and leaders to strategize about water policy, land conservation, watershed initiatives, night skies, county authority and figuring out new ways to involve our next generation. It was amazing to experience TPWD, Texas Wildlife Association, land trusts, landowners, scientists, elected officials, historians, activists working together to help HCA plan for the Hill Country’s future.

Development Plan
We completed a financial development plan in 2012 which includes strategies to strengthen the long term financial health of HCA and we accomplished the first strategy in that plan, to add a new development director. HCA welcomes Amanda Longtain to our team.

Preserved-Land Inventory
We began work on a unique preserved-land inventory metric in order to facilitate goal setting and measuring conservation results region-wide.

2013

Our Leadership
Milan J. Michalec took the helm as served as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Sky Lewey, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates. We also added three new board members: Karen Huber, Sharlene Leurig and Garry Merritt.

Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Debbie Brient, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Cristi Clement, Bryan Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Liz Stool Friedman, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Commissioner Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Tom Mason, Stan Meador, Mike Mecke, Judge Garry Merritt, Myfe Moore, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Jill Nokes, Jake Patoski, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Michele Thompson, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, Bob Webster and Ken Whalen.

Water Supply:
The Water Team, led by Milan J. Michalec of the Cow Creek GCD, grew to include 27 water experts this year, and contracted with a dedicated water team coordinator. This team stays actively engaged in all water planning processes and current issues, with the coordinator attending and reporting on many of the key water planning meetings affecting the Hill Country region. The team submitted numerous position papers and comments regarding the State Water Plan, groundwater management, river basins and infrastructure decisions. A core goal of this team is to advocate for the long-term health of Hill Country springs through proper groundwater management. HCA collaborated with partner organizations, such as the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, to propose a regional Groundwater Conservation District concept to the TCEQ The proposed GCD would cross county lines and provide much-needed groundwater management in Western Travis, Northern Hays and Western Comal Counties. The team actively supported Bat Conservation International to prevent the development of sensitive lands near Bracken Cave. They also worked closely with the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District to promote conservative and holistic groundwater management of the Hill Country Trinity Aquifer. The Water Team co-produced two Texas Water Symposium programs—one focused on healthy springs and one examined the fine line between protecting private property rights and effectively protecting our shared water supply. Members of the Regional Water Quality Protection Planning Group were re-convened with facilitation and support from HCA for the “Next Wave” to give involved jurisdictions the opportunity to share successes and challenges since the program was completed in 2005. The Team collaborated with and supported the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District in the publication of Water: Yours, Mine and Ours, a public resource about Hill Country hydrology, stewardship and conservation. Water Team members also contributed to the writing of issue papers and web content for wide distribution on key issues, including: Groundwater/Surface Water Integration, Hill Country Groundwater Supply, GCD Myths and Truths, Healthy Riparian Areas, Population Growth, Native Landscaping, The Day Case–what it does and doesn’t do, and County Tools for Reasonable Development Rules.

The Pedernales and Healthy Water Catchment Areas:
HCA convened our “Pedernales Team” to allow partners such as land trusts, landowners, LCRA, TPWD, and others a chance to compare notes and collaborate on projects throughout the basin. Through a partnership with TPWD, a new staff position was created and Katherine Romans, HCA Project Manager, was hired in October. Katherine isexpanding HCA’s landowner outreach and healthy watershed program. A review and assessment of all conservation plans, maps and programs on the Pedernales basin has been assembled to help identify the most needed tools to advance conservation practices. So far, HCA has partnered in four land stewardship educational events in the basin. Through illustrations, such as maps and educational materials, HCA is delivering the message that where once we saw “watersheds” we now can see “water catchments;” natural boundaries to capture, cleanse and store our water supply. These are more logical boundaries for managing water resources than the political jurisdictional boundaries we use today such as county lines.

Land Conservation:
One way all of the Hill Country Land Trusts collaborate is through the HCA Land Conservation Team, chaired by Carolyn Chipman Evans of the Cibolo Conservancy and Carolyn Vogel of Conservation Connection. They have assembled data to create an “All Conserved Lands” inventory including public lands, parks, and easements. Only 3.6 percent of our 17 county/11 million acre region is currently held in permanent conservation. The inventory map they created will provide a way to measure success as the conservation movement grows in the Hill Country. We finalized a Conservation Finance Feasibility Study with the Trust for Public Land and the Texas Land Trust Council. The study area includes our seven highest growth counties and demonstrates how public referendums can help fund land conservation. We regularly distribute our issue paper “Working with Land Trusts” to educate the public about easements and what land trusts do. A new version of the paper is now being vetted to better illustrate exactly where each land trust works and highlighting their unique area of conservation interest.We worked particularly closely with the Hill Country Land Trust on outreach events such as the Round-up and Green Energy Fair, Lavender Fest, various landownergatherings, and numerous Night Sky events.

Protecting the Night Sky:
Our Night Sky Team, led by Bill Neiman of Native American Seed, is the largest issue team, with 31 regional leaders engaged in regular communication about reducing light pollution in the Hill Country. The Team hosted 13 Night Sky educational programs throughout our 17 counties, and with substantial media attention, the attendance reached more than 100 citizens at some of the events. Around two thousand copies of the second edition Night Sky issue paper have been distributed.In Junction, HCA support resulted in more than 101 city lights being retrofitted to more night-sky-friendly fixtures. The result is clearly visible as one drives through the town at night.Our Night Sky Co-op, a volunteer pledge to eliminate sky glow from businesses, ranches and homes, sits at 150 members, and growing.

Rainwater Harvest:
The fourth annual Rainwater Revival was a huge success in Boerne with 550 attendees, ten educational seminars, and about fifty exhibits. This signature event is designed to encourage rainwater harvesting as viable water supply solution for the Texas Hill Country and is led by HCA board member Karen Ford. With funds from the 2012 art barrel auction, HCA provided $1,000 grants to three Hill Country schools for rainwater and rain garden projects. The Rainwater Team consists of 17 experts and advocates who are active in legislative and rule-making processes to make rainwater harvesting more accessible and feasible for homeowners and developers.

Outreach and Education:
HCA hosted two “Interpretive Guide” training classes, graduating 24 students with newly honed skills of speaking from the heart, dynamic storytelling, and ways to more effectively connect with audiences about the importance of protecting Hill Country resources.Four new video products were developed that feature land stewardship for water, working with groundwater conservation districts, rainwater harvesting, and the why and how of native plant landscapes. All are available on the HCA YouTube channel, with more than 3,000 views so far. Additional maps have been added to our resource library and are available for sharing. Throughout the year HCA distributed 19 press releases to our list of Hill Country media partners promoting timely issues and events. We met our electronic media goals to expand our database to 6,000 supporters and friends and 1,000 individuals in our social media network. Our popular, annual photo contest produced another spectacular HCA Calendar for 2014, which our board members and staff hand-deliver to all Texas legislators and Hill Country county officials during an HCA day at the Capitol in December. The robust HCA website consistently provides current news and information about regional issues and events and serves as a resource library for all to share. Our Neighbor to Neighbor newsletter is distributed to our 6,000-strong friends list about three times a month in an email format that is visually pleasing and easy to read.

The HCA Leadership Summit:
More than 100 HCA leaders gathered north of Fredericksburg at our second annual Summit to learn and share ideas about the work we do at HCA. This year’s featured keynote speaker was Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. Other speakers included TWA President Greg Simons; new HCA board members Garry Merritt and Sharlene Leurig; writer/historian Scott Zesch; and a preview of the filmed water story of the San Marcos River, Yakona. This Summit has turned out to be one of HCA’s most successful and gratifying collaborative events where our leaders can find inspiration in the works and passions of other like-minded Hill Country citizens. HCA made great strides in carrying out our mission in 2013.

2014

Our Leadership
Milan J. Michalec, served his second term as President of HCA. Other board members included: Garry Merritt (Vice President), Sharlene Leurig (Treasurer), Karen Huber (Secretary), David Baker, Pete Dwyer, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Sky Lewey, Leo Tynan, Bill Neiman, Sarah Schlesinger, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates.

Team Highlights
Teams making things happen! HCA’s issue teams, comprised entirely of volunteers from around the Hill Country, are what drives the mission of the organization. Here are some of the highlights of the work of those teams in 2014.

Water Team 
More than 30 water science and policy experts and enthusiasts guide the HCA water program and create a consistent united voice.

This year the Water Team focused on:
– Supporting Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs)
– Advocating for conservation priorities in state water planning and SWIFT
– Educating the public about groundwater and surface water interaction and water quality concerns in our rivers and aquifers, including two Texas Water Symposiums in 2014 with more than 200 attendees

Pedernales Team 
More than 22 conservation organizations, landowners and agencies working towards common goals and a healthy Pedernales system. All water catchments, large and small, are valuable
natural systems for capturing, cleansing and storing our water supply.

The Pedernales team focused on:
– Sharing research to better understand the condition of the river
– Generating community outreach efforts, educational events and resources
– Providing landowner services for stewardship and conservation

Rainwater Harvesting Team
More than 15 experts and advocates networked to advance rainwater as an important, viable, affordable water supply for the Texas Hill Country region.

This year the Rainwater Harvesting Team:
– Produced the fifth annual Rainwater Revival event in Dripping Springs that drew more than 750 attendees
– Vetted and released the new Rainwater Harvest issue paper

Night Sky Team
More than 40 Night Sky enthusiasts are actively encouraging a Hill Country where the stars shine bright. Community leaders, elected officials, economic development professionals, astronomers and landowners all agree that protecting
the night sky is a Hill Country priority.

Working together this team:
– Hosted five Night Sky educational programs that were attended by more than 200 citizens and grew the Night Sky coop to 203 members
– Received recognition for the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with an “IDA Dark Sky” designation complimenting a similar designation for the City of Dripping Springs.
– Supported Fredericksburg as it adopted its first outdoor lighting ordinance

Land Conservation Team 
More than 20 individuals including representatives from 10 land trusts coordinate to develop metrics, goals and educational resources for land conservation.

In 2014 this team:
– Collaborated to create the “All Conserved Lands” inventory for the Hill Country region where only four percent of the land is currently in permanent conservation
– Created educational resources about conservation easements and working with land trusts
– Promoted conservation funding strategies from local and state public sources as well as from private foundations

Land Practices 
A collective analysis of vegetative management, riparian function and brush control strategies.

This team, new in 2014, prioritized:
– Working with state agencies in ensuring responsible practices in state-funded brush control
– Vetting and releasing a “Common Landowner Myths and Misperceptions” issue paper

In addition to our issue teams, our Technical Advisory Team, comprised of engineers, hydrologists, geologists and other experts, provide ongoing technical review of HCA’s work.