Hill Country Conservancy (HCC) is announcing the closing of a conservation easement on Lazy Bend Ranch. The landowners purchased the property –approximately 150 acres of ranchland outside of Dripping Springs – nearly 25 years ago with the aim of restoring wildlife habitat and preserving a critical reach of Onion Creek.
Since then, they have invested heavily in improving the land through selective habitat management and overseeding with native grasses and wildflowers. Today, thanks to more than two decades of stewardship by the landowners, it boasts a wide variety of native wildlife including imperiled birds such as Painted Bunting, Lark Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Northern Bobwhite. The land also boasts habitat for the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. The owners’ continued stewardship of the land is an important example of private landowners’ efforts to protect the health of local drinking water resources, including the Onion Creek watershed and Trinity and Edwards Aquifers, as well as the vitality of Austin’s iconic Barton Springs.
The landowners contacted us several years ago with the aim of ensuring their long-term vision of protecting the land. Shortly thereafter, our staff reviewed the organization’s Strategic Conservation Plan and determined that the water, wildlife, and soils on Lazy Bend Ranch were an integral part of our “recipe for success.” Close in proximity to the High Gate Ranch and Storm Ranch conservation easements, the location of Lazy Bend Ranch provided an opportunity to expand the footprint of local conversation lands to more than 5,000 acres. This expansion further ensures a large, intact footprint of native habitat and protected waterways.
Located along a crystal-clear stretch of South Onion Creek, with rolling hills and historic rock fences separating pastures and ponds, Lazy Bend Ranch is quintessential Hill Country ranch land. Many of the large ranches in the area have been reduced to 10-, 30- and 50-acre pieces, surely to be subdivided again in the coming years. This limits the land’s ability to reduce flooding, increases pollution and runoff into waterways and local aquifers, and fragments already fragmented habitat for our native wildlife.
The Lazy Bend Ranch landowners are bucking that trend. They have limited their footprint to a modest home and barn, which are supplied by solar power and collected rainwater, and are conveying a conservation easement to voluntarily restrict development of their land with the assurance that their decades-long investments in enhancing its water, wildlife and soils will be preserved for the benefit of future generations forever.
This conservation easement would not have been possible without funding from the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program (TFRLCP), administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The TFRLCP complements TPWD’s mission to conserve natural resources by protecting working lands from fragmentation and development. TFRLCP maintains and enhances the ecological and agricultural productivity of these lands through agricultural conservation easements.