Thanks to the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the City of Austin, and the Ruby family, our latest conservation easement project is a monumental one! The permanent conservation of the 747-acre Ruby Ranch, a historical property in Hays County, is the final piece of the puzzle that will result in over 10,000 acres of contiguous open space!
As rapid development continues in the region, it has become harder and harder for families to keep lands together and intact. Like many ranching families, the Ruby’s felt the burden of these pressures. This property has been in the Ruby family since the 1930s. The ranch was used for a combination of livestock operation and hunting. Jim Ruby grew up on this ranch and was very much involved in the day-to-day operations required to raise goats, sheep, cattle, and horses. Jim and his wife Peggy took great pride in teaching their children and grandchildren how to ride horses and work with cattle and goats.
Now, Peggy and Jim’s children, including son Cecil Ruby and daughter Jessie Ruby, see value in not only protecting the land, but also their family heritage. In working with HCC, the Ruby family decided a partnership with a land trust was a way to accomplish these goals and in a sense, save part of their family history.
“Adding our property to a network of thousands of acres of contiguous preserved open space is really exciting,” said Cecil Ruby. “We have a strong connection to this land and we believe its best use is to remain in a natural state, providing much needed protection for the Onion Creek watershed and the native wildlife inhabiting the ranch. The protection of Ruby Ranch will also preserve the history of our family and the heritage of this ranch for future generations.”
This project is particularly important as it provides high quality water run-off and recharge to the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer (BSEA). The BSEA provides water for thousands of central Texans as well as several wildlife populations also dependent on nesting habitat and food sources found in the Onion Creek corridor and watershed. The easement will also protect native rangeland, which provides habitat for a variety of native birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other native wildlife by ensuring that it remains in a natural state.
The properties around Ruby Ranch remain mostly rural, including Dahlstrom Ranch, which borders the eastern portion of the property. Dahlstrom Ranch, a 2,252-acre working ranch, is also protected by a conservation easement held by Hill Country Conservancy – as well as the City of Austin and Hays County – purchased in part with funds from the NRCS Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program (FRPP).