Green Space, Green Infrastructure, Good Water

As development continues to accelerate, open space plays a more important role in protection of our water supply.

As development continues to accelerate, open space plays an increasingly important role in protection of our water supply.

The following article on the critical role that open space plays in protecting our water supply was provided to Connemara by Mike Bastain, vice president with CH2M Hill, a global leader in full-service consulting, design, design-build, operations and program management.

By Mike Bastian

The growing population and consequent urbanization of North Texas makes it more difficult to preserve natural areas and open space close to where we live.  And, the loss of natural lands makes it more difficult to protect our drinking water supply that the growing population needs.

Only 7% of our drinking water in the North Texas comes from groundwater and over 90% comes from surface water supply reservoirs like Benbrook, Eagle Mountain, Lavon, Lewisville, Ray Hubbard and Ray Roberts, to name a few.  Moreover, we like to live near these lakes.  They provide recreation, great views, provide a premium to our home values and a boost to local economies.

It is reasonable to be concerned that pollution in storm water runoff from the urbanizing watersheds around reservoirs will degrade the quality of the water supply. However, we can do something about it.

Land conservation (green space) and green infrastructure (constructed green space) in watersheds can help protect water quality in our reservoirs.   Both approaches work in tandem.  Conserving land in a least disturbed vegetated condition along streams, ponds, and wetlands that drain to the reservoirs is a first step.  These buffer areas filter out pollution and slow down runoff so it does not scour stream channels and carry sediments into the reservoirs.

A second step is to build development with green infrastructure that allows storm water to soak into the ground and uses biological or physical processes to remove pollutants.  Rain gardens, vegetated filter strips, permeable pavement and green roofs all help reduce the peak storm water flows that carry these pollutants through creek channels. And, like the lakes, land conservation and green infrastructure can provide recreational space, great views, a premium to our home values, and a boost to the quality life in our communities.

It is a great feeling to be in a natural place and experience the beauty of nature around you.   There is intrinsic value in the conservation of natural lands.  As land uses in North Texas continue to change from rural to suburban and urban, natural areas will become more important in protecting the quality of our water supplies.  Everyone wants plenty of good drinking water, so let’s work together to help our neighbors understand the value of land conservation for protecting the quality of our water supplies.

 

Connemara receives challenge grant from Dixon Water Foundation

The Dixon Water Foundation promotes healthy watersheds through sustainable land management to ensure that present and future generations of Texans have the water resources they need.

The Dixon Water Foundation promotes healthy watersheds through sustainable land management to ensure that present and future generations of Texans have the water resources they need.

We are very excited to announce that one of our most loyal supporters, the Dixon Water Foundation, has announced a Challenge Grant that will match up to $25,000 in new funds raised by Connemara through the end of June.

Contributions to Connemara can be made at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/connemaraconservancy?code=connemaraconservancy.

Dixon-Water-FoundationThe challenge is in support of our efforts to help address land and water issues through conservation and education programs and kicks off our new capacity building campaign.

The Dixon Water Foundation was founded in 1994 by the late Roger Dixon and promotes healthy watersheds through sustainable land management to ensure that present and future generations of Texans have the water resources they need.

They recognize that land-use decisions being made today have a significant impact on water quality, not only now but also decades into the future.

Support of The Dixon Water Foundation helps ensure that we have the resources needed to work with landowners, developers and local governments on land conservation initiatives directly linked to protecting water quality and quantity throughout North Texas.

Robert Potts,  president of  The Dixon Water Foundation,  believes the need has never been greater for organizations such as Connemara.

“The Dixon Water Foundation is proud to support Connemara’s work because it is vital to maintaining and improving the quality of life for all North Texans,” Potts said in announcing the Challenge Grant.

North Texas is a great place to call home. It is recognized worldwide as a region that sustains its economic success and vitality because of its highly desirable communities, innovative people and varied natural assets. Yet we face a real threat to the quality of life that makes it so special. That threat is water, or a lack thereof.

The Dixon Water Foundation Grant coincides with the launch of Connemara’s “Forging Our Future for North Texas” three-year plan to improve the organization’s capacity in order to expand our pivotal role in land-use decisions and water quality matters that impact the Dallas-Fort Worth region of Texas.

You will be hearing more about this plan in the coming weeks, but its purpose is to enable us to address a concern that is top of mind and that many people are discussing, but not many people are solving. It’s going to take the partnership of the three sectors — private, public and nonprofit — to find the solutions that protect our quality of life here in North Texas, and all of Texas for that matter.

Under this plan, we will focus our efforts on:

  • protecting natural resources, especially water quality, to safeguard the future of our community;
  • educating decision-makers about the importance of land use decisions to the future of our community and economy;
  • improving health and quality of life by providing the public with opportunities to be outside;
  • stewardship of conserved land in perpetuity.

Again, to support these efforts (and double your contribution, thanks to the Dixon Water Foundation) please visit https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/connemaraconservancy?code=connemaraconservancy.

 

 

2014 was a year of growth and accomplishment

Connemara added more than 700 acres of easement land in 2014.

Connemara added more than 700 acres of easement land in 2014.

Before we get too far into 2015, let’s take a look back at some of the many accomplishments from 2014. Among the highlights:

  • We added 700 acres of conservation easement lands and 368 acres of fee lands through a donation to be completed within the next six months.
  • We added 16 acres of open space and native prairie lands to Connemara’s inventory of conserved lands, continuing our long-standing partnership with the Town of Flower Mound, Texas.
  • We added 1,772 new acres to our conservation prospect list.
  • We provided field trips to Connemara’s easement lands and presentation on CEs at state-wide Native Prairies Association of Texas symposium.
  • We presented information on conservation easements at the regional Cross Timbers Landowner Workshop in Decatur, Texas.
Connemara hosted several workshops on conservation in 2014.

Connemara hosted several workshops on conservation in 2014.

  • We hosted a land use workshop for regional municipalities, community leaders and landowners
  • Improved volunteer opportunities in Connemara’s Meadow Preserve including the establishment of a volunteer day with combined churches of Allen, a volunteer day with ADP and a Earth Day project with Experian.
  • We continued to work with local Boy Scout Troops by providing opportunities for Eagle candidates to complete their Eagle projects in the Meadow.  Eight projects were completed, which is the most Eagle projects completed in one year.
  • We recruited students from Collin College for the first time, in both the Spring and Fall semesters, to provide volunteer hours at the Meadow as part of their educational requirements.
Connemara hosted Allen'a annual EartFest celebration for the third year in a row.

Connemara hosted Allen’a annual EarthFest celebration for the third year in a row.

  • We hosted the City of Allen’s EarthFest for the third year in a row.
  • We presented the annual Into the Meadow farm-to-table dinner which sold out for the fifth year in a row.
  • We participated in EarthDay Texas for the fourth year in a row.
  • We assisted the Land Trust Alliance and the Texas Land Trust Council in an advocacy initiative supporting the land conservation tax incentive.

Looking back, 2014 was certainly one of growth and accomplishment for Connemara, but none of it would have been possible without our many supporters and forward-thinking landowners.

Thank you to everyone who made 2014 such a great year, we look forward to your continued support for an even more successful 2015.

Sandra Greenway

 

 

Senate saves 2014 tax incentives for conservation

The Senate recently passed a last-minute measure that allows for tax deductions in 2014 to benefit conservation.

The provisions are:

  • Anyone that donates a conservation easement in 2014 may deduct 50% of their AGI per year for the year of donation and an additional 15 years, until they have deducted the full value of their donation.  Qualified farmers, ranchers and forestland owners may deduct 100% of their AGI.
  • S corporations may deduct the fair market value of their charitable contributions and are not limited to deducting no more than their basis in their S corporation stock.
  • Donors who are older than 70 1/2 may donate up to $100,000 to charity out of their IRA without paying taxes or penalties on the withdrawal.

The political landscape has shifted when it comes to tax incentives because of bipartisan fighting over tax cuts vs. spending.  Land conservation advocates are concerned that the current political climate threatens the industry’s capacity to work with smaller ranchers and landowners who need the conservation incentives to make their work affordable.

That’s a big deal for Texas where there is so much AG land that provides food for the country.  At least conservation groups have  this year to finish projects that are in the works.

 

Celebrate 2015 with a Connemara calendar

ConnemaraCalendarMockUp550Celebrate every season of 2015 while supporting Connemara.

With a $25 contribution, we’ll ship you our first Connemara calendar featuring scenic photography from the more than 5,000 acres of open space protected by Connemara and other North Texas landscapes.

We have a limited supply of calendars available, so order yours today.

Click here to make your donation and receive your calendar.

Calendars ordered by Dec. 22 will arrive in time for Christmas.

 

Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn needs to hear from you!

Perhaps more than in any other state, Texas prides itself on the private ownership of land.  This isn’t a state where the federal government will be coming in with a grand plan for a large National Park.

If we want to continue enjoying wide open spaces, however, and if we want our cash-strapped ranchers and farmers to be able to keep producing the food we eat, then something must happen to make sure that land conservation remains a reality here at home.

Our quality of life depends on it!

The enhanced tax incentive for land conservation is the predominant tool we have in Texas to conserve land.  We need your help to make sure it doesn’t go away.

You CAN help, and you can do it today.

The U.S. Senate leadership will soon be considering a bill that protects the charitable giving incentives that mean so much to all non-profits and makes the easement incentive for land conservation a permanent part of the tax code.   It passed in the U.S. House of Representatives with bi-partisan support!

Now is the time for Senator John Cornyn to know that this matters to you.  Only during the post-election “lame duck” session of Congress can this happen.  We only have until December 31st.

Please Contact Senator Cornyn today!  

Your message can be short and simple: “Senator Cornyn, land conservation matters to me as a resident of the great state of Texas.  Please vote “yes” in support of the easement incentive for land conservation.”

There are several ways you can make your voice heard:

Email Your Support Here:

http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ContactForm

Call his North Texas office: 972-239-1310

Call his Washington, DC office : 202-224-2934

For more information about the tax incentive and other conservation issues, contact the Land Trust Alliance at www.lta.org.

 

New report highlights alarming loss of land in North Texas

Rooftops2 copySocial investing in land conservation via Connemara is an investment in our region’s economy, drinking water and quality of life for the sake of ourselves and those who will live after us.

The third edition of Texas Land Trends provides information to public and private decision-makers with timely information to support the conservation of Texas working lands. It is published by the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources every five years, following the availability of the USDA NASS Census of Agriculture data.  This year it includes an interactive website that illustrates where Texas is losing land at an alarming rate.

Would you be surprised to hear that every county that borders Tarrant County and Dallas County lost significant amounts of land due to rapid growth?  Frisco ranked 2nd as the city in Texas to lose the most to development.

The bottom line is this:  no land = no food, no quality drinking water, no quality of life in North Texas.  Connemara is here to protect those basic needs of daily survival by working with landowners on smart land use options right here in North Texas.  It’s not a matter of “will development happen.”  It’s a matter of how it’s done.

Visit www.txlandtrends.org to read more about the dramatic loss of land and its impact on all of us.

 

Another local government doing development right

OpenspaceA few weeks ago we highlighted a couple of forward thinking cities that are making protection of open space a part of their development strategy. Now we’d like to recognize another.

The Town of Prosper has received three major grants that will translate into additional park space as the region plans for the development heading north.

Under the Collin County Parks and Open Space Strategic Plan, the county sets aside funding for parkland acquisition projects that meet certain criteria. Cities and towns apply for these funds by proposing to use the funds for specific parks, trails and open spaces that will be used for the common good.

Prosper requested funding for the acquisition of more than 18 acres of land adjacent to the as-yet-undeveloped Cockrell Park on the Town’s northeast side.

Local officials recognized  the value of increasing the existing park by more than twice its current size and, as a result, the county agreed to award $450,000 toward the purchase of the land. Since the grant represents a little less than half the total cost of the tract, bond funds and other sources will make up the difference.

According to Hulon Webb, Prosper’s Executive Director of Development and Community Services, “The land is virtually pristine. There is a running creek within the acreage and it remains essentially in its natural state. There is still some wildlife residing in it and native plants flourish throughout the space.”

Plans for the parkland are still being developed, but a connection to Cockrell Park as well as a trail leading to Whitley Place are already envisioned.

Hopefully other communities will take Prosper’s lead in recognizing the importance of protecting open space in the face of development so their citizens can enjoy a better quality of life.

 

 

Perot Museum to feature documentary on green burial

awillforwoods_300

“What if our last act could be a gift to the planet?” That’s the subject of a new documentary on green burial called A Will for the Woods to be featured Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Perot Museum in Dallas. In addition, the Texas Parks and Wildlife will be on hand to discuss conservation burial and their activities with the Green Burial Council.

Amy Martin, a  columnist for DFW GreenSource offers a thoughtful preview of the movie and you can read her commentary by clicking here.

For more details on the screening, click here.

 

 

 

 

Richardson project is example of “everyone wins!”

The recent decision by the City of Richardson to double the size of the Spring Creek Nature Area in order to protect a valuable ecosystem and preserve a site with a rich history dating back to the early pioneers is an example of how local governments, developers and conservation organizations such as Connemara can all work together to meet the needs of a growing community.

Instead of building thousands of multifamily units on the property as planned, the developer is selling the land to the city in exchange for the right to develop the units on land near a light-rail station. Everyone wins!

Click here to read the story, including Connemara Conservation Director R.J. Taylor’s comments on the project.

Site last updated October 18, 2020 @ 4:01 pm