by: Callie ThompsonIn a great win for conservation, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted unanimously on November 16, 2011, to approve $300,000 of matching funds to the Texas Land Conservancy. This funding is dedicated to the conservation of a 244-acre property just 20 miles from Austin.
The property, Doerfler Ranch, is of high conservation value and, with its proximity to Austin, is a vital component of protecting green spaces for future generations.
“Austin’s rapid growth and development, as well as the historic drought, make conserving this green space especially important,” says Kate Vickery, TLC development director. “We are thrilled to be part of this unique project. This is an example of how public-private partnerships can protect our future.”
The Doerfler Ranch sits in the Wilbarger Watershed and houses 1.2 miles of Wilbarger Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. The Colorado River provides water for thousands of Texas residents, and wildlife populations. The Wilbarger Creek watershed is rated as a “high conservation priority” according to the Trust for Public Land’s Travis County Greenprint for Growth.
The project, jointly funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, the landowner, and Travis County bond initiatives, will protect 244 acres in perpetuity. The property’s location, across the road from 300-acre Brockenbrough Ranch, makes it even more special. The Brockenbrough Ranch is also protected by a conservation easement, held by the Hill County Conservancy. Together this makes 500 acres of conserved land in a sensitive area that is threatened by impending development.
This kind of project is in keeping with a national trend of increasing creative conservation strategies despite the recession. The National Land Trust Census, released by the Land Trust Alliance this week, shows that voluntarily protected private land increased 27 percent between 2005 and 2010. Texas land trusts, including the accredited Texas Land Conservancy, have protected 55% more land in this same period. Meanwhile, the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, a major federal conservation program, added just over 500,000 acres and saw a 38% funding cut. The census is online at www.lta.org/census.
“We know that the majority of conservation work in this country is done by local land trusts,” said Mark Steinbach, TLC executive director.
As development in Travis County continues, the protection of green spaces and open lands like these is vital. Ninety-seven percent of land in Texas is privately owned, making private lands conservation the only serious method for protecting land and water for future generations. With this $300,000 funding from the county, Texas Land Conservancy will be able to ensure that the future of Central Texas includes wide open green spaces forever.