In the Green

 Five Ways Your Support Improves the Local Economy

Hill Country Conservancy (HCC) was born of an unlikely but necessary marriage between conservation and growth. In the mid-1990’s the Texas Hill Country, which includes the City of Austin, began exploding in population and new development without many protections for our natural resources. At the time, people argued that land conservation would inhibit economic growth by restricting building opportunities. HCC, and supporters like you, saw a future for the Hill Country based on the belief that development and conservation are both essential economic drivers which are complementary rather than dichotomous. Today, multiple economic impact studies show this philosophy to hold true. Here are just five of the evidence-based ways that your continued support of HCC positively impacts the Hill Country economy.

1. Land Protection Generates Revenue from Tourism
Outdoor recreation opportunities generate tourism– a powerful boon to the area’s bottom line. According to a study by the Outdoor Industry Association, the nationwide outdoor recreation economy generates $59.2 billion annually in state and local tax revenue. People visit the Texas Hill Country from all over the country to hunt, fish, camp, go tubing, mountain bike, boat, hike, bird watch, bat watch and more. Participation in these activities often requires a stay in a local hotel, dining in area restaurants, a purchase of specialized equipment, hunting or fishing licenses, car rentals and other travel costs. Your dedication to HCC protects the reason outdoor enthusiasts continue to visit the Hill Country.

2. Your Support Creates Jobs
Greenspace affords job opportunities not only through tourism but also by attracting new business investment. In urban areas, the number of parks, trails, and outdoor recreation opportunities are standard measures for high quality of life— a critical factor for business leaders when deciding where to locate and how to attract top talent. In rural areas, studies have shown that land protection leads to employment growth where opportunities for recreation and visitation are most impactful—think wedding venues with beautiful Hill Country views and the associated catering and rental businesses.

3. Being in Nature Saves on Health Care Costs
Your support of HCC provides outdoor recreation opportunities to everyone in the community. The health benefits of spending time in nature are immense, translating to both personal and municipal savings in the cost of health care. Plants and trees absorb air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone, reducing their negative impact on your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Additionally, a 2018 research study by the University of East Anglia concluded that “exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth… and high blood pressure.” Furthermore, people who spend more time in nature tend to have significantly reduced levels of salivary cortisol–otherwise known as the stress hormone. Don’t you feel better already, knowing that you are a part of the solution?

4. Properties near greenspace generate revenue for your community
Properties located near a trail, park, or a great view of the Hill Country are often valued higher and generate more property tax revenue than comparable properties located elsewhere. These revenues can be recirculated into the economy to pay debt used to acquire or protect the nearby greenspace.  Once debt is repaid, the additional funds can begin to provide additional funds to benefit the community as needed— such as improving roads or other infrastructure. A 2005 study based in Austin found that properties along the Barton Creek Greenbelt section of the Violet Crown Trail, had a sales price of up to 20% higher than that of comparable homes in other areas. And that was 2005…

5. Conservation lowers your monthly bills
There are at least two of your bills that your conservation efforts reduce.

    • Your water bill. The presence of trees and grasses lowers the cost of treating stormwater included in your water bill. When rainwater flows over impervious surfaces like roads and sidewalks, it picks up pollutants and carrys them into the waterways from which we derive our drinking water. Conversely, pervious surfaces absorb rainwater, recharging area aquifers and replenishing groundwater supplies properly, lowering the cost of water treatment.
    • Your electric bill. Areas with shady tree canopies such as the Violet Crown Trail and urban parks can reduce energy costs and, in turn, your electric bill. A 2017 study conducted by the USDA states ”If not for urban trees, energy used for heating and cooling homes in the United States would be more than 7 percent higher.”

There are endless benefits to land conservation, and these are just a few of the economic ones. We thank you for being a part of HCC’s vision of using land conservation to both stimulate the economy and to keep the Hill Country—here forever.

To become a sustaining member of Hill Country Conservancy,  join Wellspring, HCC’s monthly giving club.

About the Author

Fleetwood Jacobs