New bill will help preserve family farms

New bill will help preserve family farms

A bill introduced today to help more farm families continue their livelihoods after the death of a loved one has the full support of the American Farm Bureau Federation. The Preserving Family Farms Act of 2019 is sponsored by Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.). “Farm and ranch families often face a significant financial burden when they have to pay estate taxes,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Farm families should be able to pay based on how their land…

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Doctor’s orders: Support land and water conservation

Doctor’s orders: Support land and water conservation

Humans are a part of nature. We can’t be healthy if the world around us isn’t healthy enough to sustain, nourish and protect us. And without a healthy population, we can’t achieve our full potential for generating strong economies, driving innovation and securing a safe future. Nature is at the heart of it all. Supporting nature and supporting ourselves is one and the same task, and it is a critical task. Right now, Congress has a chance to make big…

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When a developer uses a cow or two to dodge property taxes, guess who pays: Homeowners

When a developer uses a cow or two to dodge property taxes, guess who pays: Homeowners

We finally know what Texas lawmakers meant when, at the end of this year’s legislative session, they crowed about relief from property taxes. Developers who keep a cow or two on a few urban or suburban acres are paying less in back taxes when they cash in and build a shopping center or another subdivision, thanks to a new state law. Yes, the Legislature also poured more money into schools, allowing local districts to lower their tax rates. But that…

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Songwriters unite in support of Blanco’s night skies and BHS students learn how to preserve the night sky

Songwriters unite in support of Blanco’s night skies and BHS students learn how to preserve the night sky

Thirteen area songwriters gathered on Friday, November 22 in the basement of Liz on the Square in Blanco to perform original songs for the “Deep in the Dark of Texas ™” songwriting contest, sponsored by the Blanco County Friends of the Night Sky.   The more than 70 attendees were treated to a real “Blanco Happening” as the mostly local performers wowed the audience with song after original song extolling the virtues of the night sky or lamenting the light pollution…

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An unlikely environmentalist with an eye on the future

An unlikely environmentalist with an eye on the future

I’m an unlikely environmentalist. I spent most of my working life with a state transportation agency. I was an advocate for investments in safe efficient highways. Suffice it to say, I made few friends among those who worked for environmental groups. Ironically, I often agreed with their positions. I valued clean water and air and open natural spaces. What was frustrating is that they almost never offered any support for my view that safe and efficient highways saved lives and…

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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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San Antonio’s challenge: Protect the aquifer and get real with VIA Funding

San Antonio’s challenge: Protect the aquifer and get real with VIA Funding

San Antonio’s efforts to increase funding for VIA Metropolitan Service to give citizens a better mass transit system suffered a significant setback last week and left mobility advocates uncertain of the road ahead. The ConnectSA initiative right now is a plan without funding, and VIA’s historic underfunding compared to other Texas metro areas leaves it with ambitious plans that it cannot execute. At least $1.3 billion is needed to fund the 25 projects by 2025 recommended in the ConnectSA plan.…

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Hill Country landowners say Kinder Morgan is lowballing them. Special courts are agreeing.

Hill Country landowners say Kinder Morgan is lowballing them. Special courts are agreeing.

Kay Pence owns a ranch in the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg. About a year ago, she got a call from the pipeline company Kinder Morgan. The caller told her the company planned to run a section of its 430-mile Permian Highway natural gas pipeline through her property. Pence didn’t like that. “This is going to sound overreactive, but you felt violated,” Pence says. “They have access to your property, and there was nothing you could do.” In Texas, pipeline…

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