San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger today joined Jeff Francell of The Nature Conservancy of Texas to announce the protection of two ranches in the region that will safeguard more than 20,000 acres of important recharge land for the Edwards Aquifer.
With assistance from The Nature Conservancy, the city has purchased conservation easements on the 14,326-acre Frio Ranch, owned by former Texas Governor Dolph and Janey Briscoe, and the 7,273-acre Friday Ranch, owned by Wright and Suzanne Friday, both in Uvalde County.
Mayor Hardberger and Francell, who is director of land and water protection for The Nature Conservancy of Texas, each congratulated the citizens of San Antonio on the success of the city’s Edwards Aquifer Protection Program, which to date has protected more than 76,000 acres of recharge land to protect the aquifer, the primary source of drinking water for 1.8 million people.
“I commend the citizens of San Antonio for making this far-sighted investment in our future,” Mayor Hardberger said. “Together, we are building upon our city’s legacy of abundant, clean water. This will protect the Edwards Aquifer, our health, our economy and our way of life.”
“This phase of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program has proved to be a winner for San Antonio,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Francell. “Not only does it protect our water, it helps landowners keep their lands intact and safeguards habitat for the wide array of animals and plants that make our part of Texas special.”
San Antonio voters have twice approved ballot initiatives to protect recharge lands important to the Edwards Aquifer.
Proposition 3 in 2000 provided $45 million to fund the purchase of more than 6,500 acres for aquifer protection and parkland in Bexar County.
More recently, Proposition 1 in 2005 provided $90 million strictly for aquifer protection. It allowed the city to purchase conservation easements to restrict development while keeping the land in private ownership, and extended the area in which the city could secure lands for Edwards Aquifer protection to counties in the recharge zone west of Bexar, where 70 percent of Edwards Aquifer recharge takes place.
“By purchasing conservation easements rather than outright land purchases, Proposition 1 has enabled the city to protect valuable recharge lands for an average of less than $1,000 an acre,” Mayor Hardberger said.
To date, Proposition 1 has protected 70,271 acres at a cost of $68,940,350. The city paid $5,720,000 for the easement on the Friday Ranch and $12,875,000 for the easement on the Briscoe family’s Frio Ranch.
The Nature Conservancy of Texas and the Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas (formerly Bexar Land Trust) assisted the city in the negotiations with private landowners to purchase land and conservation easements under both Proposition 1 and Proposition 3. The Trust for Public Land also provided similar assistance under Proposition 3.
“San Antonio is a leader among cities across the nation where citizens are recognizing how much our natural surroundings contribute to our quality of life,” said Francell. “The Nature Conservancy – which works in Texas and around the world to protect ecologically important lands for nature and people – is grateful to be part of this process.”
The former Gov. Briscoe’s Frio Ranch on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone protects such water resources as the Dry Frio River, the Leona River, Deep Creek, Rocky Creek, Lightning Bug Hollow and Kaolin Hollow, along with numerous seeps and springs, according to the City of San Antonio. The conservation easement on the property prevents this land from being subdivided in perpetuity.
“From my point of view, I hope this makes it possible for future generations to be able to keep this ranch as it is, without any development, and be able to keep it in its pristine condition,” Gov. Briscoe said. “The ranch was given to Janey and me by my parents as a wedding present. We moved there shortly after getting out of the Army after World War II. We raised our three children there, and it is still ‘home.’”
The Friday Ranch, on the Nueces River, protects potential recharge to the aquifer throughout the property and significant recharge occurs through 35 miles of streambeds and their tributaries.
Both properties would have had potential for subdivision and residential development.
Wright Friday said his family, which has owned the ranch for more than 100 years, have had opportunities to sell the land to developers, and ultimately chose not to. “You have two choices at some point in time, whether you just sell the country or you try to protect it for generations to come,” Friday said. Keeping the land intact, he said, is “definitely good for San Antonio if they’re going to have the quantity and quality of pure water that we see in the Nueces and the Frio, and that is recharged into the aquifer through this land."
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.