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Conservation network reaches out to private landowners

Thursday, August 2, 2018 by Katy McElroy

The Texas Hill Country Conservation Network announced on Tuesday its receipt of a $5.15 million pledge from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, part of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Formed in 2017, the network aims to promote and encourage conservation and sustainable growth in the Texas Hill Country, especially important as climate change promises increasing droughts and floods in the region. Its 19 partner organizations cover a 17-county area of Central Texas and include conservation groups, nonprofit land trusts, such as the Hill Country Conservancy, and county governments. The award, which is one of the largest ever given to the Hill Country, will support the group’s 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,” according to an HCC press release.

Incentivization like this is an important conservation tool because 95 percent of Texas is privately owned. One example of the network’s work in action is the recent conservation easement obtained for the Puryear family’s 423-acre ranch, which was partly funded by Travis County, one of the network’s partner organizations. “On behalf of all landowners who are receiving this gift, we are deeply grateful to NRCS, HCC and the coalition of environmental organizations who share our values and have invested in the land we love,” said Jennifer Puryear in the release. “Our land has been in the Puryear family for over a century. My husband’s mother, Alice Puryear Perkins, taught her children the value of thoughtful conservation, and now we’re teaching ours. Because of this easement, our beautiful land’s legacy and wildlife will be preserved for many generations to come.” Puryear Ranch, which is on the Hamilton Pool Road corridor, is the first parcel of land to be conserved with $16.6 million for Travis County’s Conservation Easement Program that voters approved in 2017. The last of the county’s 2011 bond funding for this program was used earlier this year to reach agreements with two other ranches in the same area – Peacock Ranch and Los Madrones Ranch – which together total over 1,000 acres.

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