The city of Austin and The Nature Conservancy of Texas have unveiled an initiative to protect 611 acres of highly environmentally sensitive land in the heart of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.
The city’s proposed purchase of Southern Avaña in southwest Austin accomplishes two major conservation objectives: it would safeguard one of the region’s most critical areas for water filtration by retiring development rights for approximately 500 homes (58.5 acres of impervious cover) and stitch together a 9,000-acre contiguous block of conservation land vital to aquifer protection.
The city council is expected to vote on the deal on August 18. If approved, Southern Avaña would be the last project funded by the $50 in million open space bonds passed by city voters in 2006.
“Austin is a city that understands the link between protecting our natural resources today to ensure our health and economic success in the future. We envisioned a dream more than a decade ago to balance development in the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone with land conservation,” said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “Today we prove that we have made great progress toward the protection of critical open space.”
Since 1998 voters have passed conservation bond funding on three separate occasions, resulting in the protection of more than 26,000 acres that are essential to the health of the region’s water quality and quantity. The last bond was passed in November 2006, enabling the protection of 6,500 acres that directly benefit iconic Austin swimming holes like Hamilton Pool and Barton Springs Pool and broad expanses of public open space in the Hill Country.
“We have a responsibility to make sure these water resources are available for future generations,” said Laura Huffman, executive director for The Nature Conservancy of Texas. “The upshot is that protecting land is protecting water. And in light of one of the worst droughts in Texas history, this deal is a monumental step forward.”
The city is purchasing the property at a bargain sale price of $11.8 million. In addition to the $11.1 million in bonds for this project, other funding for the project includes $400,000 from the Barton Springs Redevelopment Ordinance and a contribution from Standard Pacific Homes for $300,000, which was integral to bridge the remaining funding.
This project continues a more than twenty-year partnership between The city of Austin and The Nature Conservancy, which has led to the protection of nearly 42,000 acres through several land protection projects in the region’s most environmentally significant landscapes and waters.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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