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Here in the Hill Country, we are extremely fortunate that so many people are passionate about their relationship with the land. In fact, we often take it for granted, but you don’t have to travel far to see that this land ethic doesn’t exist everywhere. The Hill Country is a truly special place that’s reminiscent of an earlier time before civilization, with its clear streams and springs, rolling hills, rock outcrops, majestic live oaks, abundant wildlife, and (at times) lush grasses and wildflowers.
By most estimates, 94% or more of Texas is privately owned, so the impressive condition of our working farms and ranches, wildlife habitat and natural areas is a result of private landowners’ conscientious stewardship. Hill Country Conservancy partners with landowners such as the Ragland family who care deeply for their land and are looking for an alternative to development and land fragmentation, while wisely planning for their financial future. Partnerships like this are mutually beneficial, as they further HCC’s strategic mission of conserving the most special, sensitive and unique places in the Hill Country while helping landowners to ensure that their land will remain healthy and intact for future generations.
In 2007, Hill Country Conservancy and the Raglands worked together to place a conservation easement on their 292-acre ranch in Driftwood, a few miles south of the Salt Lick. The conservation easement secures our common vision for the ranch, while also providing flexibility for their ongoing agricultural and recreational activities. The Raglands generously donated a significant portion of the value of the conservation easement, and fortunately, federal grant funding from the NRCS as well as local matching funds from the City of Austin were also available at that time. This funding helped to allay some of the potential income they gave up as a result of “retiring” their development rights. In Denton Ragland’s words, “They knew what was important to us and what we were going through in making decisions that would forever affect our land heritage.”
The conservation easement also provides assurance that the land will remain available long-term for agricultural operations and recreational activities, while supporting our unique local wildlife. It is a part of a larger network of over 40,000 acres of lands conserved in the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer region since the 1990s that will become more precious and important as time goes on. Being a part of this larger effort addresses the Raglands’ concern about the future of their land and adjoining areas, but it also benefits all of us by supplying clean air, clean water and diverse wildlife for our use and enjoyment for many years to come. Denton says it better than we ever could:
“Our property is but one piece of the larger effort by HCC to preserve and protect the beauty and values of open spaces. Our land contributes to the well-being of the Edwards Aquifer, of the wildlife that roams well beyond our property lines, of the agribusiness that is vital to the Texas economy, and of the scenic views all who pass by are able to enjoy. What HCC does to continually preserve more open spaces, and share links to resource management, makes our individual efforts seem worthwhile.”
By Frank Davis, HCC Director of Land Conservation