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Lone Star Green

Fate of natural Texas rests on landowners and smart conservation

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To generate a new round of interest in the program as officials tee up another $90 million infusion for this fall, the San Antonio River Authority held an open house last week for curious landowners.

At least one landowner seemed disappointed to hear that the easements keeps minerals — should they be found — in the ground. But the fractured limestone formations that is the recharge zone have little chance of holding oil and gas anyway. "It's more probable," said Grant Ellis, special projects manager of San Antonio's Edwards Aquifer Protection Program, "that water is where the value of your land is."

That's true for the state as a whole.

"Our economy cannot function if we don't have enough water," reminds Lori Olson, executive director of the Texas Land Trust Council.

With a fast doubling population, Texas' formerly open land is fast fracturing into suburbs from the Red River to the Rio Grande. And Texas doesn't have much land reserved to the air, purify the water, or allow wild creatures room to roam. Less than 4 percent of the state is protected for wilderness and water. And that puts the ball squarely in the landowner's court. "It all kind of goes back to responsibility and being willing to take a hard look at the impact of the decisions you make," Hughes said, "being willing to stick your neck out and say, 'I'm going to rule in favor of sustainability and the long-term health of our region and wanting to live here for a long, long time.'"

Fueled by our vulnerabilities and informed by past mistakes, San Antonio today has a model program supported repeatedly by local voters. Will property owners continue to step up to make it work? •

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