On February 27, members of the Texas Land Trust Council (TLTC), including Hill Country Conservancy (HCC), spent an advocacy day at the capitol meeting with and discussing land conservation initiatives with our state law makers. The TLTC set the agenda based their recent study (completed in conjunction with Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute , the Siglo Group, and the Texas A&M Forest Service) which quantifies the value of land conservation as it pertains to water quality and quantity, flood prevention, and rural economies. The study found that lands conserved through land trusts such as HCC are estimated to provide more than $1 billion in benefits to Texas taxpayers each year. Of this savings, 47% is associated with flood prevention and damage reduction, 37% benefits area water quality and quantity, and 16% contributes to rural economies.
Equipped with this meaningful data, the TLTC members focused their conversations at the capitol on three key points:
• Create a fund and planning process to help Texas better mitigate flood hazards. Conserved land captures rainfall, slows water movement, mitigates erosion, and reduces surge levels all of which results in decreased flood damage. According to the study, every $1 spent on flood risk reduction can decrease disaster costs by $4.
• Increase funding for the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program (TFRLCP), a state program that funds the purchase of conservation easements on private lands. Conserving land, is a cost-effective strategy for securing clean water. Every $1 invested in land conservation for water protection can save $6 in water infrastructure costs for Texas taxpayer. Additionally, over the last two legislative sessions, the TFRLCP invested $4M into conservation easements which equated to an impressive $34.7M in appraised value.
• Constitutionally allocate the Sporting Goods Sales Tax (SGST) to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to be used for state parks. State and local parks are a vital part of our state’s economy and play an important role in providing access to nature and preserving our Texas heritage. Unfortunately, our state parks are in desperate need of repair. A constitutional dedication of 100% of the SGST will help preserve our Texas State Parks for our children and grandchildren.
HCC met with Representative Erin Zwiener and with staff from the offices of Representative Andrew Murr and Senator Dawn Buckingham. All were eager to hear about the public benefits that arise from the protection of agricultural lands, and were glad to learn more about the TFRLCP’s success in their respective regions. We appreciate the time the lawmakers took to learn more about the public benefit of land conservation and we look forward to our continued collaboration on the importance of conservation.
HCC invites you to join our advocacy efforts by calling your state representative in support of these initiatives.