“The case is clear: Investing in natural infrastructure now is the most cost-effective way to ensure the Hill Country is here to hand on to our kids and grandkids,” said Katherine Romans, current co-chair of the network and executive director of the Hill Country Alliance.
The conservation network is composed of dozens of nonprofit organizations, government agencies, Texas universities, and resource management agencies with the general goal of protecting the Hill Country. Released to the public on June 28, its plan paints a vibrant picture of the tangible benefits of maintaining and improving upon Texas’ natural resources:
For every $1 invested in conservation, $4 to $11 are returned in natural goods and services such as clean air and water and reduced risk of flooding.
Every $1 invested in land conservation for water protection helps avoid $6 in water infrastructure costs.
Texas’ working lands provide $629 per acre per year in benefits, which totals $89 billion annually across 141 million acres in the state.
Outdoor recreation generated $37.5 billion in Texas in 2021, including $2 billion from boating and fishing and $1.2 billion from hunting.
“So often, our discussion around infrastructure investments are centered on roads, transmission lines, pipelines and sewer systems, or other ‘hard’ infrastructure projects,” said Texas Hill Country Conservation Network Manager Josh Sendejar in a media release. “We know that open spaces, clean and flowing rivers, aquifers, working ranchlands, dark night skies, and healthy riparian areas provide invaluable infrastructure services, at little to no cost to taxpayers.”
The nonprofit group spent several years collecting the data included in the plan.
According to a network survey, most Hill Country residents see water conservation as the biggest issue. Forty-nine percent said protecting rivers, streams, and aquifers is of paramount importance. Twenty-two percent listed climate resilience, such as flood and wildfire protection, as most important. The remaining percentages were divided among wildlife conservation, providing more outdoor access, and protecting working ranchland.
To learn more about the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network and how to get involved, visit its website.