Tell us a little about your family land. What makes it special to you?
Our grandfather purchased this property in 1937. He went to school and grew up in Buda. His grandparents and parents had lived in the area. This was a 5000+ acre property with Onion Creek running through the middle of it. Our father grew up on this ranch learning to tend to the land and livestock. Dad would bring us to the ranch for family gatherings of which Christmas was the most memorable. Our grandfather and father were successful in highway construction.
The Lodge was built on the banks of Onion Creek, and to spend time with men hunting, eating, and engaging in social activities was also memorable. As children, we learned to hunt and fish. When I became old enough I spent summers assisting Arturo Gonzales with all aspects of raising cattle, mending fences, and clearing brush along the dirt roads.
Our parents lived on this property as well. This is home. My wife and I are so fortunate to currently be living in the same house my father grew up in so that when our children and grandchildren visit, the ranch is where they come developing their own experience and memories of the ranch.
Why did you choose to place a conservation easement on your property? What issues and concerns were at play and how did a conservation easement address those issues?
It is costly maintaining a ranch. With the death of our grandfather, the ranch was divided between our father and aunt. Our father, concerned with the maintenance expense and taxes, decided to sell a portion of the ranch for development. After our father’s death, we (Jim and Peggy Ruby’s children) were facing similar concerns when we contacted George Cofer with Hill Country Conservancy to determine if a conservation easement was a viable option.
Our family had big concerns about being in giving up control as a result of the conservation easement. We grew up with Texas property owner values, concerning respect for what is ours and what is others’. We were very concerned about how the conservation easement would affect this.
However, our experience with Hill Country Conservancy and its partners in the conservation easement has been a blessing for our family. We are able to maintain the property as a working ranch where family members continue to enjoy spending time with family, hunting, and experience ranch life, with no intrusion by others.
What is life like with the conservation easement? What if anything has changed since you placed an easement on your property?
Hill Country Conservancy staff have been on the property on many occasions, and because of the relationship experienced by our family, is always welcome. The HCC staff is courteous, always providing notice of a request to visit. The HCC staff is available and helpful in assisting us in determining best practices for the management of the property as well as clarification on limitations of the easement. The City of Austin representative has also been very helpful in sharing experiences of best practices in controlling cedar and mesquite.
Why did you choose to work with HCC?
Hill Country Conservancy makes the challenging prospect of a conservation easement a reality. The complexities of conservation easements are two-fold. First, there is the process of setting up the easement, and then there is the long-term partnership. HCC has untold experience with both the easement and the partnership making them an incredible asset. Our family, as well as the other partners, would be lost without their help in the process.