The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Land Conservation And Preservation Concerns
Bill Lindemann, Fredericksburg Standard/Radio Post, Kerrville Daily Times, April 2003, © 2003

Two hundred years ago what is now Texas was an ecological wonderland covered by seemingly endless grass covered prairies located between lush forests in the east and the mountainous desert region in the west. These grasslands have all but disappeared; having first been transformed into rich faming and ranching development and now is changing again to a more urban and industrial development.

Severe overgrazing has impacted erosion of our once rich topsoil, limited recharge of our aquifer systems and fostered large tracts of land being occupied by juniper, mesquite and cactus. These changes in our eco-systems have also impacted the quality of life of our wildlife, the scenic beauty of the landscape and eventually will impact our quality of life.

What can be done to protect our land and preserve our rich natural heritage for future generations to enjoy? A number of conservation minded organizations have formed to do what they can to inform the public about land conservation issues, raising public awareness of options available that encourage responsible land stewardship, and working in partnership with landowners who elect to preserve the natural character of their property through the donation of a conservation easement. On April 4 a group of twenty such organizations met in Blanco to discuss and compare plans on how to be more supportive in reaching common goals.

More than five land trust groups from Central Texas were represented, as well as representatives from the Texas Land Trust Council, The Nature Conservancy, Hill Country Conservancy, Natural Area Preservation Association, Land and Greenspace Committee of the Austin/San Antonio Corridor, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Forest Service, Texas Historical Commission, National Audubon Society, and the Cave Conservancy. My interest here is that I am a member of the Hill Country Land Trust Board, who hosted and organized this meeting.

Each of the representative groups was given an opportunity to report on their activities in the region. In a round table discussion and brainstorming session after lunch, everyone discussed how they could share mapping technology, improve communication, and help each other reach common goals. This was the fourth such meeting to allow all of the participants to
meet and share ideas.

The Texas Hill Country is current undergoing a substantial population growth. Many retirees are choosing the area in which to relocate, while urban sprawl from Austin and San Antonio is beginning to reach into the area as well. That ranches are being bought and sub-divided by developers applies increased pressure on our aquifer systems and affects the visual serenity of
the landscape. Many scenic natural areas like, Enchanted Rock Natural Area lie in the path of increased development pressure. Increased development in the region also impacts wildlife like the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. In my opinion, much is at stake for the long term vitality of our region.

Next week, I plan to discuss some of the options available to landowners who might be interested in meeting the challenges of conserving and preserving our Hill Country land and eco-systems.

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