Tell us a little bit about your family land. What makes it special to you?
The land has been in the family as a working ranch since 1869. It has been recognized a “Century Ranch” by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The stone house built by my great-grandfather in the early 1870s is a designated historic structure by the Texas Historical Commission. The historic home is an icon of Texas period culture and is featured in the book Driftwood Heritage, a history of the families who settled the area during the 1800s. I have known the property all of my life. It is where I learned to fish, hunt, ride horses, tend and herd cattle, drive tractors, and where I have discovered Native American arrowheads. From this land I have learned many things about nature, the abundant wildlife that share it, the big night sky, the give and take relationship between humans and the land, and how important it is that I be a good steward of this precious natural resource.
Why did you choose to place a conservation easement on your property?
Over my lifetime I have seen quite a bit of land development as a natural result of population growth. Our property straddles both recharge and contributing zones of the Edwards Aquifer. Watching rainwater pour into karst formations on the property I know that our drinking water depends upon the protection of a certain amount of protection of environmentally sensitive areas such as ours. I know that a certain amount land must be set aside to assure propagation of the varied plant and animal species that inhabit the hill country. I also know that there is an intrinsic value open spaces to the human spirit. I knew that a conservation easement was the only way to make certain that the property remains the way it is for future generations of Texans.
What issues or concerns were at play, and how did a conservation easement address those issues?
The main concern was that while I wanted to protect the ranch and historic home from growth and development I did not want to give up ownership and enjoyment of the property. I wanted to continue to own and enjoy the property without undue regulation or outside interference. I wanted to be able to pass it along to future generations of the family. A conservation easement allowed me to sever and convey the right to develop the property but otherwise retain full ownership of the property. Through a negotiation process we established the criteria for use of the property in a way that accomplishes the mutually desired goals of preservation and conservation.
What is life like with a conservation easement?
It has been even better than I anticipated. I have a great conservation partner that actively educates and shares resources with me.
What, if anything, has changed?
I have become more educated about conservation issues. I am a better steward of the land.
Why did you choose to work with Hill Country Conservancy?
As I researched conservation easements and potential conservation partners HCC spent a lot of time helping me understand the issues and ramifications involved. I got to know key staff members and was impressed by their commitment to preserving sensitive open spaces for future generations, their respect for the concerns of property owners as they negotiate agreements, and their culture of integrity. I learned how they earnestly work as partners with the landowners to protect and conserve the land. In the end it was an easy decision to choose HCC.