I’ve lived in the Hill Country for five years now, yet I’m still finding new reasons to admire its grandeur on a regular basis. I love that my kids get to grow up in such a beautiful, wild landscape, and I hope their kids will have the same opportunity. As Central Texas faces rapid population growth and development, measures to conserve the beloved region are increasingly vital to its preservation. The Texas Hill Country Conservation Network (THCCN)—a partnership comprising dozens of public and private entities—released a “State of the Hill Country” report in February that outlines eight key conservation and growth metrics to mitigate the threats facing the 18-county area. (The full report can be viewed at ourtxhillcountry.org.) “The Hill Country is a sensitive area,” THCCN manager John Rooney says. “We are not anti-growth, but we are for thoughtful growth that is sustainable for the particular ecosystem we’re in.”
While many of the metrics focus on sustainable development for cities and counties, the report includes practical takeaways for residents and visitors. Along with emphasizing the importance of contacting elected officials to let them know land conservation issues are important to you, Rooney says individuals can make an impact by limiting personal water usage, planting native grasses and plants, and watering in the morning or evening.
The overarching goal of the network, based on recommendations by conservation scientists, is to permanently protect 30% of the Hill Country as conservation land. Currently, 5% of the region—546,301 acres—is preserved, including privately owned land and state, city, and county parks. Reaching the 30% goal will maintain river levels, provide clean water and air, mitigate flooding, protect wildlife and plant habitats, and ensure generations to come can enjoy the scenic views and natural wonders of the area. “Texans have taken pride in stewarding these lands for generations, but now the region’s getting loved to death,” Rooney says. “So, we all have to take into account the caretaking part of loving the land.”
Emily Roberts Stone
Editor in Chief