The Hill Country Conservancy (HCC) and 18 of its partners, including a new collaborative group called the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network (the Network), recently received a $5.15 million pledge from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), part of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The award will support the Hill Country Headwaters Conservation Initiative, which will provide funding to private landowners performing land stewardship best practices and ensuring long-term conservation of sensitive agricultural lands across the Blanco, Middle Colorado and Llano River basins in the Hill Country area.
“This award will allow HCC, the Network and our partners to work with private landowners to
protect water, enhance habitat for iconic Texas wildlife, and mitigate flooding risks, while
supporting agricultural production throughout a region that provides drinking water for millions of
Central Texans,” said Frank Davis, Director of Land Conservation for Hill Country Conservancy.
“The RCPP award allows us to channel environmental quality incentive and agricultural
conservation easement dollars directly to Hill Country landowners – who are daily caring for our
precious natural resources, growing our food, and keeping our land beautiful, often without
recognition for their work.”
The Hill Country region is characterized by both extreme drought and flooding, both occurring
with increasing intensity and frequency. Compounded by climate change, development
pressures and ecological vulnerability, the region’s rich natural resources are at risk of
permanent damage. 95 percent of Texas is privately owned, making it critical to incentivize
private landowners within rapidly-developing regions such as the Hill Country, to enhance and
protect their rural lands. The Hill Country Headwaters Conservation Initiative is set to positively influence more than 4.5 million acres of private land in Texas.
As one of its first major collaborative efforts, the Network crafted the Hill Country Headwaters
Conservation Initiative project to channel resources to Hill Country landowners to address these
natural resource challenges. Using the collective power of its members, the proposal was
submitted in the fall of 2017 by members of the Network, including: HCC, the Hill Country
Alliance, The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, Llano River Watershed Alliance, Texas Water Resources Institute, Holistic Management International, The Nature Conservancy of Texas, United States Fish and Wildlife
Service’s Partners Program, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Texas Forest Service, Texas Parks
& Wildlife Department’s Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program and Department of
Inland Fisheries, Texas Wildlife Association, Travis County, Hill Country Land Trust, Texas Land
Conservancy, the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department and Texas Tech Llano
River Field Station.
“The Natural Resources Conservation Service is pleased to partner with the Texas Hill Country
Conservation Network as they have demonstrated an innovative approach and proposed lasting
solutions to the state’s conservation and agricultural needs,” said Claude Ross, Natural
Resources Specialist of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The diverse array of
stakeholders from the 19 partner organizations made for a very compelling application, and
we’re honored to be a part of this critical investment in the protection of Central Texas’ working
lands and natural resources.”
Through this pledge, HCC, the Network and their partners will assist landowners with projects
addressing short-term and long-term conservation of water quality, wildlife habitat, and drought
and flood management, with roughly 48 percent being allocated to the Agricultural Conservation
Easement Program (ACEP), 39 percent to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program
(EQIP) and 13 percent to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
HMI is excited to be a part of this Network in order to further support conservation efforts and smart growth, and gain professional diversity that allows the group to meet key economic, social and environmental objectives at a regional scale in Texas.
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