In July 2005, Hill Country Conservancy announced the closing of Phase I of an unprecedented land preservation agreement with the Storm Ranch that will preserve this historic land and symbol of Texas’ rural heritage forever. Located in northern Hays County, the beautiful 5,685-acre tract is a working cattle ranch, with ancient rock fences separating pastures of native grasses, magnificent live oaks and almost 20 miles of small creeks and streams.
Before this historic agreement, developers and environmentalists had been at odds over new development in the environmentally sensitive Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer area. The Storm Ranch preservation agreement marks the beginning of a new era in environmental protection and cooperation in the Austin area because environmentalists, federal state and local agencies, developers, business leaders and ranchers worked together to finalize the agreement.
The land preservation agreement is an enormously flexible tool for land conservation. In general, the landowner retains private ownership and is compensated for the voluntary restrictions he places on his land.
In this case, HCC will purchase the development rights to the ranch ensuring the land will remain pristine forever. The Storm family will retain private ownership and continue to manage and operate their cattle ranch. They also perform extensive wildlife management and restoration activities and lease the land for hunting and horseback rides. A quote from the late Lynn Storm accurately portays the family’s long-term perspective:
So, all in all, I don’t know, the country has changed. Some of it for the better, some for the worse. But we’re going to take whatever it is. We still love the country. We’re going to do everything we can to keep it a pretty place and preserve as much of the old time stuff as we can.
The Storm Ranch includes portions of the Onion Creek Watershed, the Colorado River Basin and the Blanco Watershed, and the Guadalupe/Blanco River Basin. Hill Country Conservancy has raised more than half of the purchase price for the property’s development rights.