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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Water and land: why care if it will always be there - right?


In Texas, where about 95 percent of the land is privately owned, and 83 percent of that land is rural farms, ranches, forests, plains and deserts, it’s essential that all Texans understand the connection between land and water to ensure the healthy stewardship of both, according to natural resource professional Kathy Wythe (Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas H2O).

Did you know that rain—whether it falls in Colorado, New Mexico or Texas—replenishes our water supplies so we have water that comes out of the tap at home? When land is managed properly, water will flow to rivers or be absorbed into the ground. It is critical to know that good water stewardship is not enough; we must also conserve the lands that help us conserve our water.  

A Texas statewide voter opinion survey conducted by Hill Research in December, 2014, found that 92% of respondents saw parks as especially important in tough economic times and that 88% viewed parks as essential to healthy living and an active lifestyle for Texans. In addition 84% understood the need for protecting natural areas. 

We have even stronger support in west Texas for open space and parks. The survey by Hill Research goes on to state that in West Texas 96% of the people believe that unless we protect Texas’ natural areas we will lose the very things that makes Texas such a special place in which to live. In addition, the survey showed that 94% believe that public parks and natural areas are especially important to families needing an affordable recreational outlet. 

It’s clear that there is support for conservation and preservation of our region’s water, wildlife and open lands. One way to ensure that land is preserved is with a conservation easement.  A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust such as the Frontera Land Alliance, that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values, while allowing the owner to retain title and continue to manage the land with certain mutually agreed upon limitations.   

The Frontera Land Alliance and the landowner work together to write a conservation easement that reflects both the landowner's desires and ensures the protection of all existing conservation values. A conservation easement restricts development to the degree that is necessary to protect those values be they scenic views, water, wildlife habitat, plants, forests, deserts, etc. Every conservation easement is uniquely tailored to a particular landowner's goals and land. 

Through such preservation you’re impacting more than just you and your family. You are leaving a legacy to for future generations by maintaining an irreplaceable view of a mountain, the preservation of a working pecan groves or cotton fields, by keeping an arroyo open for water to flow naturally, or by assuring that a natural corridor continues to provide a safe pathway for wildlife in an ever-growing urban setting. 

El Paso is a very special place. We’re separated by great distances from other large urban centers in Texas and surrounded by ranches, farms, deserts and a major mountain range. The types of plants and wildlife found in our region are irreplaceable (as are, of course, the people who live there). And it’s also the case that “It’s better outdoors!” to cite the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s motto. So by being outdoors you improve your mental and physical self - whether sitting on a bench or biking on a trail. A conservation easement is a very effective way to protect those special places in our lives and ensure they will be there for those who follow us.

-Janae’ Renaud Field

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