Hays County now has a completed greenprint map to show areas of conservation priority. Click here for an enlarged version.
By SEAN BATURA
Hays County’s $50,000 contribution in 2008 to the Central Texas Greenprint for Growth project bore fruit last month in the form of interactive Geographic Information System (GIS) maps depicting the region’s land conservation priorities.
Overseen by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), Envision Central Texas (ECT), and the Capitol Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG), the Central Texas Greenprint project identified six conservation goals for the county based on input obtained from residents, business owners, elected officials, governmental agency representatives and local experts between May 2008 and June 2009.
The discussions established the following goal areas, with accompanying weights established by Hays County citizens: 1) protect water quality and quantity, 35 percent; 2) protect sensitive ecological areas, 25 percent; 3) preserve farm and ranchlands, 15 percent; 4) enhance recreation opportunities, 12 percent; 5) protect scenic corridors and view sheds, nine percent; and 6) protect cultural resources and historic sites, four percent.
TPL and a technical team of local experts developed individual opportunity maps for each of the six goals and one composite map showing where multiple goals overlap. The composite map highlights in dark red and orange the areas of the county where multiple goals overlap. The most intense colors on the composite map indicate the best opportunities for conservation, with dark red ranking the highest.
The Greenprint project also resulted in the creation of a larger GIS map depicting different conservation priorities in the same six goal areas for Travis, Caldwell and Bastrop Counties, the latter two of which participated in the most recent Greenprint project. Williamson County declined to participate. Data acquired from a Greenprint of Travis County completed in 2006 by Travis County, TPL, the City of Austin, ECT and the University of Texas was included in the Central Texas Greenprint maps.
Hays County Grants Administrator Jeff Hauff said the county will use the greenprint primarily for planning purposes, such as for determining which open spaces to preserve for parks and water quality purposes.
“Part of this greenprint was funded through the Federal Highway Administration (FHA),” Hauff said. “They are planning for future roads, and so on, through some of the … environmentally-sensitive areas that need to be on the radar to avoid or to plan for mitigation for those areas so that they’re not impacting some of the key ecological areas in the county.”
CAPCOG received a $113,882 grant from the Federal Highway Administration for use in the Central Texas Greenprint project.
Hauff said the county will likely be able to use the greenprint maps to assess potential Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) land. The county plans to purchase or obtain conservation easements for between 10,000 and 15,000 acres of Golden-Cheeked Warbler or Black-Capped Vireo habitat in the next 30 years. The county received a $753,750 grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to develop the HCP, though the county is required to provide $251,250 in in-kind services and matching funds.
Participation in the HCP will allow public and private entities in Hays County to more cheaply and quickly obtain “incidental take authorization,” which federal law requires of those whose otherwise lawful activities may cause significant harm to endangered species.
“It’s really going to help our conservation efforts because it prioritizes so well the highest needs to be conserved,” said San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance (SMGA) Board Vice President Maggie Hutchins. “And so, we can look at that and figure out where we need to focus our attention on.”
Hutchins said the greenprint maps will be a useful tool for land developers.
“If someone is interested in developing a piece of land, they can look at that greenprint and go, ‘Oh, that’s a very sensitive area, we might run into issues there — maybe there are other places we can develop,'” Hutchins said.
Hutchins said SMGA has not used the greenprint maps yet in its work, but is still sifting through the data.
“Right now what we’re doing is just trying to get the word out about the greenprint and how it can help different organizations, city officials, developers, that kind of thing,” Hutchins said.Email | Print