Home 5 About HCA 5 History


The mission of the Hill Country Alliance is to bring together a diverse coalition of partners to preserve the open spaces, starry night skies, clean and abundant waters, and unique character of the Texas Hill Country.


The Hill Country Alliance is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to raise public awareness and build community support around the need to preserve the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas Hill Country.

2023 Annual Report

Click to view 2023 Annual Report

In 2023, the Hill Country Alliance hosted, convened, or presented at more than 160 events and connected with a digital audience of 20,300. HCA released an unprecedented number of new tools, reports, and guides in 2023 and reached broad audiences across Texas, with dozens of news stories and op-eds. We launched the Hill Country Leadership Institute – a brand new program focused on connecting local elected officials across the region with resources on everything from groundwater management to growth planning. Click here to view the most recent Hill Country Alliance Annual Report. 

Looking back over the years

Since 2004, the Hill Country Alliance has grown from a small group of concerned neighbors to a collaborative alliance of over 7,000 residents, scattered across 17 Hill Country counties. As our region continues to grow and develop, the Hill Country Alliance remains dedicated to working together to find long-term solutions for our most pressing challenges.


The First Meeting

We held our first meeting September 4, 2004. Texas Hill Country residents met to share ideas and learn from each other about development issues in their area. From that day, we decided to begin meeting monthly and to create a website. Through e-mail we drafted paper detailing our positions and began expanding our resources. We established three core goals: 1) To protect water quality and supply, 2) To preserve open space and 3) To promote responsible growth in the Hill Country.

Building Our Alliances

In the last quarter of 2004, we spent time getting to know organizations who shared our concerns about the effects of growth and development in the Hill Country. The following groups pledged support for our efforts: The Hamilton Pool Road Scenic Corridor Coalition, The Guardians of Lick Creek, Citizens in the Bee Creek Valley, Citizens for a Livable Bee Cave, Lakeway First, Save Barton Creek Association, Concerned Citizens of Spicewood, The Friendship Alliance, Citizens Assembly of Blanco County, La Tierra Property Owners Association, Public Citizen Texas Office, The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.


Establishing Our Organization

In 2005 we decided to form a non-profit corporation. We raised enough seed money to allow a contracted director to spend 6 months developing HCA into a well-organized, highly credible organization with a business plan and funding opportunities. HCA applied for and achieved its status as a 501c3, a non-profit organization recognized by the federal government, in December 2005.

Our Leadership

HCA’s first board of directors, led by Pam Reese as president, included: Rob Baxter, Don Bosse, Lee Carrell, Karen Ford, Pepper Morris, Nell Penridge, Damian Priour, Pat Sinnot and Ira Yates.

Encouraging Regional Planning

Participants in HCA became involved in many regional planning processes; The Regional Water Quality Plan, The Hamilton Pool Road Regional Plan, The Southwest Travis County Growth Dialog and the Lower Colorado River Authority NPS Stakeholders Group, Envision Central Texas and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). Through our alliance, they have been able to share ideas about the progress of regional planning in the Hill Country and help pave the way for future efforts.

Educating the Public

Through media attention, public speaking opportunities and community outreach, HCA began raising public awareness of the effects development has on the sensitive environment of the Texas Hill Country.

Our First Bond Initiative

In Travis County’s November 2005 bond election, HCA partnered with the Texas Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land and the Hill Country Conservancy to help the county pass an initiative that included more than $62 million for open space. An HCA Board Member served on the Travis County Bonds Citizens Advisory Committee. The bond package passed Nov. 8, 2005.

Building a New Database and Website

We created a database and integrated it with our website to help coordinate HCA efforts.

Providing Testimony

HCA has and will continue to regularly provide testimony at county commissioner’s courts, river authority board meetings, legislative hearings and any other opportunities to educate key decision makers about concerns in the Texas Hill Country.

Educational Events

Public Seminar – June 9, 2005 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center HCA hosted and co-sponsored seminars on transfer of development rights, responsible land use, open space bond elections and water quality rules, a key concept in the Regional Water Quality Plan. More than 100 individuals, including landowners, public officials, developers and others from the general public, attended our free June 9, 2005 program.

Participating in Advocacy

Throughout each legislative session we keep our members engaged and informed about bills that effect growth in the Texas Hill Country. During HCA’s first year attending the Texas Legislature, we provided testimony at several committee hearings and tuned in to ACT (the Alliance for Clean Texas, a coalition of grassroots lobbying groups). We also wrote a summary of legislation important to HCA and distributed it to our groups and individuals.

Promoting Conservation Development Standards

Promoting Conservation Development Standards HCA provided input for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center project; to produce a “primer” on conservation development in the Hill Country.


Our Leadership

Karen Ford served as president of HCA in 2006. Our other board members included: Lee Carrell, Colleen Gardner, Roy Mann, Pepper Morris, Nell Penridge, Damian Priour, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. We also created an Advisory Board in 2006, which included: Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Sky Lewey, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot and Raymond Slade. Creating our “Neighbor to Neighbor” publication as a collaborative project, HCA worked with a coalition of experts to produce an educational publication about the direct discharge permit application for Belterra in Hays County. We hand delivered the piece to the community and posted it on the HCA website for future reference.

Hosting Educational Events

In 2006 HCA hosted events on dark skies, groundwater districts, transportation plans and CAMPO. HCA also partnered with the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods to host a candidate debate for the Texas House District 47 seat.

Promoting the Travis County Greenprint

HCA participated as a stakeholder in the Trust for Public Land Greenprint for Travis County.

Collaborating for County Authority

HCA collaborated with county commissioners, landowners, The Texas Association of Counties, environmental groups and developers to collect information and write recommendations for increased county authority in the Hill Country. The resulting Issues and Actions Report on county tools to plan for growth was published online and distributed throughout the region.


HCA worked with EMG Marketing to develop a marketing package that includes a membership brochure, Web card and bumper sticker with the theme: Education-Conservation-Cooperation. A volunteer leader created a marketing plan to help articulate specific tasks to help HCA with our mission.

Creating an Economic Study

Through a partnership with the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, HCA began an economic study of the hill country region. The project moved forward, but not to the degree we had hoped.


Our Leadership

In 2007, Damian Priour served as president of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Roy Mann, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included; Bob Ayers, Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, David Langford, Sky Lewey, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Debra Trejo and Terry Tull.

Creating a Technical Advisory Committee

Raymond Slade recruited the “A-Team” of scientists and engineers in the Hill Country to offer advice and work with HCA on special projects.

Hosting Educational Events

HCA co-hosted a conservation development program in Hays County.

Mapping the Hill Country

HCA partnered with Texas State University to create interactive digital maps of the 17-county hill country region.

Legal Research

HCA partnered with citizen groups along the Colorado River corridor to conduct research on LCRA’s jurisdiction.


The HCA database of groups and individuals who support HCA grew from 400 to more than 1300 and communications reached more than 7,000 Hill Country residents.

Web site

We further enhanced our Web site in 2007. A proposal for a re-design is in the works to be considered for the 2008 budget, and timely Neighbor to Neighbor news and alerts on local and regional issues and events went out as needed.

More Collaborating for County Authority

HCA informed groups in the Hill Country region about HB 3447, a bill authored by Representative Patrick Rose to give counties in the Hill Country Priority Groundwater Management Area the authority to limit density, set guidelines to deal with incompatible land use and collect development impact fees to help counties pay for the services needed to keep up with growth.

Starting Our Photo Contest

HCA conducted our first Hill Country Photo Contest. We received more than 200 photos, and plan on continuing the contest annually.

Hill Country Calendar

HCA created, produced and sold an educational calendar using winning photo’s from the photo contest.

Hiring on a New Staff Member

We hired Pepper Morris to work on administrative duties, outreach, database maintenance and fundraising.


Our Leadership

Nell Penridge served as President of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, David Baker, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Sky Lewey, Damian Priour, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayers, Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Julie Koppenheffer, Jaynellen Ladd, David Langford, Michael Looney, Roy Mann, Milan Michalec, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Debra Trejo, Terry Tull.

Research and Support for County Authority

HCA has provided research and support for the Hill Country County Coalition, a group of Hill Country elected officials who are working together to define specific tools that are necessary to help counties keep up with and plan for the pace of growth we are experiencing in the region.

Our Partnership with UT

We have partnered with the UT Law School Environmental Clinic to provide legal research for the Hill Country Coalition. An extensive analysis was developed illustrating how Texas compares to other states regarding various county authority and planning issues.

Mapping the Hill Country

We completed an interactive GIS based website containing over 70 layers of GIS data for the 17 county region. This tool is offered free of charge to organizations throughout the region, county governments, landowners and the general public. HCA developed mapping capabilities to create custom maps illustrating watersheds, groundwater districts, development plats, springs, etc. A plethora of data is available.

Educational Events

We hosted and co-hosted numerous educational events including the Texas Water Issues Symposia Series put on by a partnership of Schreiner University, Texas Tech University, Texas Public Radio, and the Hill Country Alliance.

20 Year Scenario Presentation

We created the 20 Year Scenario Presentation; a look at what this region will likely become if trends continue in the same path, which will soon be accompanied by a State of the Hill Country report to be released the first quarter of 2009.

Hill Country Calendar

We conducted our 2nd annual Hill Country Photo Contest and published the 2009 Calendar which has quickly become a popular resource on Hill Country issues as well as a beautiful calendar to share.

New staff member

Shannon Chambers joined the HCA staff in November bringing new energy and her own passion for the Hill Country region.


Our Leadership

Ira Yates served as President of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, David Baker, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Sky Lewey, Damian Priour, Pam Reese, Nell Penridge, Milan Michalec, and Chris Hale. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayers, Bill Barker, Don Bosse, Dave Collins, Julie Dill, Bebe Fenstermaker, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Susan Hughes, Julie Koppenheffer, David Langford, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Debra Trejo, and Terry Tull.

Mapping the Hill Country

We launched our online mapping tool which brings HCA’s valuable data sets and GIS capabilities to the public. The Technical Advisory Committee completed groundwater and surface water vulnerability maps of the region, creating an extremely valuable tool for planners, developers and landowners to see what areas are more fragile than others and why.

2050 Vision Tools

HCA created alternative future maps of the 17 county Hill Country Alliance area contrasting the affects of status quo development as compared to quality growth development principles that incorporate water quality protection to the year 2050. The project was developed using readily available datasets that are standard across the study area to give an overview of two scenarios of how future development might occur within the study area.

Hill Country View

72 ninety second radio briefs titled “Hill Country View” were written and produced. Texas Public Radio out of Kerrville regularly aired these programs during the morning and evening commute.

Educational Programs and Partnerships

HCA continued the Texas Water Issues Symposium partnership with Texas Tech University, Schreiner University and Texas Public Radio. The series brings water resource issues to the people with expert panelists. We average 120 live attendees in addition to the wide radio audience and viewers of the website. HCA co-hosted a conservation development symposium at the Wildflower Center in the spring of 2009 with the Congress of New Urbanism.

Regional Outreach

HCA presented to numerous groups throughout the region including Chambers of Commerce, master naturalists, neighborhood activists, groundwater districts, UT LAMP, Lyons Clubs etc. We also exhibited at many events such as the Lavender Fest in Blanco, Roundup in Fredericksburg, Earth Day at Aquarina in San Marcos, and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Celebration in Wimberley.

New Website, More effective Newsletters

A new design was created in early 2009. The site has grown rich with content organized by issue. The Neighbor to Neighbor News expanded with an average of 3 newsletters a month. These succinct timely email newsletters highlight current news and events related to the HCA mission. The database of subscribers grew from 1732 in the end of 2008 to 2464.

Calendar/Photo Contest

The photo contest was expanded with over 400 entries. The third annual Calendar was redesigned and we printed a second series of Hill Country postcards, at no cost, to use for marketing and gifts.

County Authority research support and advocacy

HCA continued to assist the Hill Country County Coalition, a work group of county commissioners and judges as they convene meetings and build consensus about legislation to improve county planning tools in the Hill Country. We created resources to educate elected officials and citizens about HB 3265 to enhance county authority and delivered the “State of the Hill Country” resource packet to Hill Country legislators which included maps, the 2030 report, Regional Water Quality Protection Plan summary and Cost of Community Services studies.

Issue Development

As timely issues surface, HCA staff works with volunteers, advisors and the TAC to unite stakeholders for sustainable solutions to difficult issues such as transmission lines through scenic lands, direct discharge permits in fragile streams, the desired future conditions process mandated by the legislature, transportation planning.


Our Leadership

Carolyn Chipman-Evans serves as President of HCA. Other board members include: David Baker, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Sky Lewey, Milan Michalec, Bill Neiman, Nell Penridge, Dr. Leo Tynan, and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members include: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Dave Collins, Brian Davis, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Colleen Gardner, Susan Hughes, James Kimmel, David Langford, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Mike Mecke, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, Bob Petersen, Damian Priour, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Deborah Trejo, and Terry Tull.

Strategic Plan

Carolyn Chipman Evans and Advisory Board member Mike Morton lead HCA through a process that resulted in a concise, thoughtful, achievable strategic plan.

Hill Country County Coalition and the County Authority Issue

Four County to County sessions were held in 2010 resulting in more coordination between Hill Country county elected officials. In addition, representatives from HCCC travelled to Austin to give testimony before the House Interim Committee on County Affairs. HCA supplied resource materials and prepared written testimony for Chairman Coleman, which is evident in the Interim Report recommendations for expanded County tools including infrastructure fees and incompatible land-use buffers. After the November election, HCA visited newly elected officials to encourage participation.

County Focus Groups completed

HCA was successful conducting focus groups in 10 rural Hill Country counties. Each one was unique and gave us new insight about specific needs in different parts of the Hill Country region. The focus groups provided not only valuable feedback about issues and programs, but also introduced us to new leaders and created relationships with opinion leaders. More focus groups are being scheduled for 2011.

Hill Country View Radio Show

Twenty-six new shows were produced bring our total to 98 segments of the Hill Country View, a 90 second radio feature packed with information about caring for the natural resources and cultural heritage of the Hill Country. We expanded air time to include 3 radio stations. All of the segments are now accessible on the HCA website in the resource section as well as broken out by issue and posted on related issue pages. We also developed a marketing one-sheet for promoting the Hill Country View to new stations.


The website has again been re-designed and all of the content has been refreshed and updated. Issues have been re-organized. All new mapping resources have been added. We continue to receive praise that this is a comprehensive and always current valuable regional tool.

Texas Water Symposium

HCA served as the lead organization along with partners; Schreiner University, Texas Tech University and Texas Public Radio to host 4 educational programs about water resources in the Hill Country that were taped and aired on TPR. Topics included legislative action, energy/water nexus, river clean-up programs, conservation and planning. Each program is archived and available for listening.

Farm and Range Forum

HCA partnered with Texas Wildlife, AgriLife, Green Spaces Alliances and others to bring back the forum. This event was held in Fredericksburg. The focus of the forum is to bring together rural landowners with the urban conservationist, explore ways to keep rural landowners on the land and enlighten urban dwellers of the value of rural land stewards.

Rainwater Revival

HCA partnered with Hays County and served as the lead NGO to organize this first annual one day festival/educational event all about rainwater harvesting.

Conservation Development Symposium

HCA was invited as a new partner with APA and the City of San Antonio to co-host a Randall Arendt event at Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. The event drew about 150 participants representing public and private stakeholders to come together to learn about conservation development design.

National Conservation Initiative

We network with national leaders in large landscape conservation planning and mega-region infrastructure planning and were invited to participate in a national practitioner’s network of leaders in regional conservation, as the only representative from Texas.

Neighbor to Neighbor Newsletter

Newsletters are distributed 3- 4 times a month featuring the latest news, events and resources on all things related to growth, development, water, conservation and other issues in the Texas Hill Country.

Photo Contest and Calendar

Over 550 photographs were entered in the 4th annual photo contest. Another spectacular HCA Calendar was produced and delivered to leaders, elected officials and decision makers throughout the region.

HCA Endowment Created

An endowment fund was established at the Austin Community Foundation with an initial $45,000 investment.

Issue Outreach

HCA was a leader in the dissemination of information and a united voice for critical regional issues including; the construction of transmission lines to bring wind energy through the Hill Country (CREZ), the desired future conditions process for regional groundwater conservation districts (GMA 9 – DFC), Tri-County Groundwater Conservation District proposal by the TCEQ, multiple habitat conservation planning programs (HCP’s), Sunset Review of TCEQ and conservation initiatives.


Our Leadership

Sky Lewey served as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Milan Michalec, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Jim Dahlglish, Brian Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Mike Mecke, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Paul Sumrall, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, and Ken Whalen.

The HCA Network

The HCA network grew significantly in 2011 both in numbers and in diversity. HCA leadership has grown to include rural ranchers, the former President of The Wildlife Association, two County Elected officials, 3 mayor/former mayors from Hill Country towns, economic development professionals, landowners, rural Agri-life experts. The HCA database grew to more than 4,000 subscribers.


The HCA website received re-design making it more streamlined and aesthetically pleasing. We continue to receive praise that this is a comprehensive and always current valuable regional tool.

GIS Mapping Tool

HCA completed a complete reconstruction of our GIS interactive mapping tool. The new format is user friendly for the general public and valuable to the water resource planning expert. Illustrations include hydrology, watersheds and topography in an interactive format. Vulnerability layers have been added to demonstrate areas where groundwater is more susceptible to degradation.

Development of Hill Country Groundwater Websites

Google Hill Country Groundwater and you will find one or several HCA pages. We have become the “go to” resource for groundwater news, data, maps and experts. HCA’s newsletters go out three to four times a month driving traffic to additional resources from HCA and also our many partnering organizations. In addition, HCA has developed extensive web resources for water conservation, rainwater harvesting, the drought, water quality, groundwater planning and watershed protection.

Hill Country Groundwater Primer

HCA created and distributed more than 28,000 Hill Country Groundwater four page color primer. This publication was distributed during spring 2011 GCD elections to educate voters. We also provided this resource to all Hill Country legislators and it was displayed in many of their Capitol offices. 23,000 pieces distributed as newspaper inserts in Hays, Kendall and Bandera Counties.

Photo Contest and Calendar

Over 400 photographs were entered in the 5th annual HCA Photo Contest. Another spectacular HCA Calendar was produced and delivered to leaders, elected officials and decision makers throughout the region.

Development of “I’m for the Hill Country” campaign

HCA has created a new campaign strategy coined “I’m for the Hill Country” to gain broader acceptance for the message of conservative groundwater planning, water conservation, public engagement in groundwater planning, and in general HCA positions relating to better planning for land use and water resource protection. The new “I’m for the Hill Country” logo has been placed on decals, the HCA website, HCA’s social media outlets and on all HCA outreach communications.

Hill Country County Coalition and the County Authority issue

Two more County to County sessions were held to convene County Judges and Commissioners. In addition, the initiation of the Hill Country County Caucus with Representative Jason Isaac resulted in the first ever legislative cause of all House and Senate members representing our 17 county region. The most recent session, of the coalition attracted 33 county elected officials representing 11 counties as well as Representative Isaac, Representative Miller, Senator Wentworth and staff from Hilderbran and Fraser’s offices.

County Focus Groups

HCA continued to conduct focus groups with the help of Peggy Sechrist who was hired as part-time outreach contractor. Peggy hosted focus in Gillespie, Kerr, Medina and Kendall counties. Each one was unique and gave us new insight about specific needs in different parts of the Hill Country region. We learned that our mission for educational outreach is considered to be most valuable and that rural landowners want HCA to strive to incentivize education and advocate for conservation practices. Scenic beauty, water policy, heritage ranch land protection, property taxes and development pressure continue to be most frequent issues raised. These focus groups also help HCA identify opinion leaders in the community and build trusting relationships.

Education and Collaboration during Groundwater Rights Legislation Debate

HCA was successful getting guest commentaries published in the Austin American Statesman and also the San Antonio Express News to urge caution with SB 332, what was known during the session as the “vested rights bill”. Our SB 332 resource page is very thorough and used frequently by the media and public. Though difficult to measure, we believe we had a strong impact on what resulted in a compromise.

Coordinating Regional Support for the Hays County DFC Protest

HCA brought David Baker of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association together with David Langford, former TWA CEO, rural landowner and Milan Michalec, local GCD director together to help provide understanding of why the DFC process needs further clarification and modification. A 30-ft drawdown will not sustain water supplies for future generations. This technical issue can be best summed up by saying we are currently pumping more than is being recharged. In addition, HCA created an informative resource page on this issue and a guest commentary was published in the Austin American Statesman in November of 2011.

Regional Water Catchment Watershed) Planning Assessment Project

Understanding that water planning must begin to follow natural watershed boundaries rather than political lines, HCA began building new resources and tools to help generate more collaboration between watershed planning projects and also to move these programs from reactive to proactive efforts. Currently most of these watershed programs are done as a result of a threatened or impaired water system. The Pedernales watershed was identified as a focus area collaboration.

Creation of the short film, “I’m for the Hill Country”

HCA created an 8 minute mini-documentary to build awareness about the major regional issues; water resource protection, land stewardship and conservation. This film has received high praise and is currently being requested by many entities for viewing.

Rainwater Harvesting Outreach

HCA hosted the second annual Rainwater Revival event in Dripping Springs. A new tour of homes was added giving participants a close-up look at rainwater harvesting in action. Plans are already underway to bring the event to Boerne on October 27th 2012.

PEC Night Skies Policy

Because of HCA’s influence, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative adopted the following policy in August 2011:

Area Lighting in the Texas Hill Country

WHEREAS, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (“the Cooperative”) recognizes the Texas Hill Country for its diverse ecosystems, ethics for land stewardship, rich cultural heritage, and breathtaking scenic beauty; and WHEREAS, the influx of people into the region over the years and accompanying light trespass from area lighting fixtures has been steadily on the rise, and these factors have impacted the natural environment and the quality of life of the people of this region; and WHEREAS, the Cooperative is committed to protecting the beauty of the night skies NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE COOPERATIVE, that the Cooperative shall promote outdoor lighting fixtures and practices that follow up-to-date guidelines for efficient, non-intrusive lighting and work with its partners to educate and encourage landowners, businesses, residential communities, and public entities to join in this commitment; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Chief Executive Officer or his designee is authorized to take such actions as needed to implement this resolution


Our Leadership

Sky Lewey served her second term as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Milan J. Michalec, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates.

Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Debbie Brient, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Cristi Clement, Bryan Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Liz Stool Friedman, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Commissioner Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Tom Mason, Stan Meador, Mike Mecke, Judge Garry Merritt, Myfe Moore, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Jill Nokes, Jake Patoski, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Michele Thompson, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, Bob Webster and Ken Whalen.

The HCA Network

Our database grew to 5300 supporters, friends and subscribers and increased and 490 Facebook and Twitter followers.
The significant amount of interest in participation on HCA issue based projects lead to the creation of Issue Teams. About one hundred volunteer leaders found their place on one or more of several teams including Water Policy, Night Sky, Land Conservation, Rainwater Harvesting, Land Stewardship, County Authority, Young Leaders (Team Future), Pedernales and Low Impact Development. These teams tackle timely issues; create educational events and resources; and provide comments on local, regional and state policy decisions.

Website and Newsletter

The HCA website continues to evolve, Google “Hill Country Groundwater” you will likely find one or several HCA pages. We have become the “go to” resource for groundwater news, data, maps and experts. HCA’s newsletters go out three to four times a month driving traffic to additional resources from HCA and also our many partnering organizations. In addition, HCA has developed extensive web resources for night sky protection, land conservation, rainwater harvesting, the drought, water quality, groundwater planning and watershed protection and low impact development strategies.


Our Rainwater Team hosted the 3th Annual “Rainwater Revival. In 2012 we moved to Boerne where we experienced a terrific turnout estimated at 900 attendees. The program was well received and enjoyed wonderful media coverage. Attendees were treated to educational sessions and exhibits all designed to make rainwater harvesting a more widely used water strategy in this region. We also raised funds to award another round of grants to area schools for rainwater harvesting and native landscaping projects. Four grants of $900 each were given to: Bandera High School, Dripping Springs Middle School, Hill Country Montessori and Utopia ISD.

Night Skies

Our Night Sky Team created an entire menu of programs aimed at reducing light pollution. We hosted a series of “Better Lights for Starry Nights” workshops, with participation by the McDonald Observatory, Texas Parks and Wildlife and local partners. The “Night Sky Coop” was launched, where landowners take a voluntary pledge to end light trespass from their land and a new chamber of commerce recognition program was created where businesses are acknowledged for being night sky friendly. We coordinated and funded the retrofitting of lights in the City of Junction, Kimble County, Texas Tech in Junction and the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with support from The Coypu Foundation.

Water Planning

Our Water Team grew to include more regional experts. They are coordinating involvement in all regional water planning processes including Groundwater Management Areas 7, 9 and 10, Regional Water Planning Groups J, K and L as well as the Environment Flows, Bay Basin planning groups. The team hired a part-time coordinator, Charlie Flatten, a graduate student at Texas State University

Pedernales Team

We created a team which includes representatives from TPWD, LCRA, all land trusts working along the river, Bamberger Ranch, Westcave, Travis County and others. The purpose is to share information and collaborate more effectively on many projects such as landowner workshops, mapping and watershed planning.

Issue Papers

We published a new series of Issue papers branded “I’m for the Hill Country.” The issue paper library was built to include: Hill Country Groundwater, Healthy Riparian Lands, Groundwater/Surface Water connection, working with Land Trusts and Conservation Easements, Native Landscaping, Lighting for Night Skies, Myths and Truths of Groundwater Conservation Districts, Population Growth and Rural County Land Development. These papers are designed to provide general information to the public and elected decision makers.

Conservation Finance Feasibility Study

We partnered with the Trust for Public Land and the Texas Land Trust council to create a Conservation Finance Feasibility Study for our fastest growing counties. This report inspires public funding initiatives to conserve more land. The report reveals that minimal public investments can yield significant funding for conservation easements (local purchase of development rights programs).

Photo Contest and Calendar

We continued our tradition of hosting a Hill Country photo contest and publishing our beautiful Hill Country Calendar.

“Hill Country View”

We built our radio program to now include over 150 “Hill Country View” segments which air on Texas Public Radio. And, we produced two movie shorts to compliment the Hill Country View.

Hill Country Summit

We gathered over 70 diverse regional thinkers and leaders to strategize about water policy, land conservation, watershed initiatives, night skies, county authority and figuring out new ways to involve our next generation. It was amazing to experience TPWD, Texas Wildlife Association, land trusts, landowners, scientists, elected officials, historians, activists working together to help HCA plan for the Hill Country’s future.

Development Plan

We completed a financial development plan in 2012 which includes strategies to strengthen the long term financial health of HCA and we accomplished the first strategy in that plan, to add a new development director. HCA welcomes Amanda Longtain to our team.

Preserved-Land Inventory

We began work on a unique preserved-land inventory metric in order to facilitate goal setting and measuring conservation results region-wide.


Our Leadership

Milan J. Michalec took the helm as served as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Sky Lewey, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates. We also added three new board members: Karen Huber, Sharlene Leurig and Garry Merritt.

Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Debbie Brient, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Cristi Clement, Bryan Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Liz Stool Friedman, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Commissioner Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Tom Mason, Stan Meador, Mike Mecke, Judge Garry Merritt, Myfe Moore, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Jill Nokes, Jake Patoski, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Michele Thompson, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, Bob Webster and Ken Whalen.

Water Supply:

The Water Team, led by Milan J. Michalec of the Cow Creek GCD, grew to include 27 water experts this year, and contracted with a dedicated water team coordinator. This team stays actively engaged in all water planning processes and current issues, with the coordinator attending and reporting on many of the key water planning meetings affecting the Hill Country region. The team submitted numerous position papers and comments regarding the State Water Plan, groundwater management, river basins and infrastructure decisions. A core goal of this team is to advocate for the long-term health of Hill Country springs through proper groundwater management. HCA collaborated with partner organizations, such as the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, to propose a regional Groundwater Conservation District concept to the TCEQ The proposed GCD would cross county lines and provide much-needed groundwater management in Western Travis, Northern Hays and Western Comal Counties. The team actively supported Bat Conservation International to prevent the development of sensitive lands near Bracken Cave. They also worked closely with the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District to promote conservative and holistic groundwater management of the Hill Country Trinity Aquifer. The Water Team co-produced two Texas Water Symposium programs—one focused on healthy springs and one examined the fine line between protecting private property rights and effectively protecting our shared water supply. Members of the Regional Water Quality Protection Planning Group were re-convened with facilitation and support from HCA for the “Next Wave” to give involved jurisdictions the opportunity to share successes and challenges since the program was completed in 2005. The Team collaborated with and supported the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District in the publication of Water: Yours, Mine and Ours, a public resource about Hill Country hydrology, stewardship and conservation. Water Team members also contributed to the writing of issue papers and web content for wide distribution on key issues, including: Groundwater/Surface Water Integration, Hill Country Groundwater Supply, GCD Myths and Truths, Healthy Riparian Areas, Population Growth, Native Landscaping, The Day Case–what it does and doesn’t do, and County Tools for Reasonable Development Rules.

The Pedernales and Healthy Water Catchment Areas:

HCA convened our “Pedernales Team” to allow partners such as land trusts, landowners, LCRA, TPWD, and others a chance to compare notes and collaborate on projects throughout the basin. Through a partnership with TPWD, a new staff position was created and Katherine Romans, HCA Project Manager, was hired in October. Katherine isexpanding HCA’s landowner outreach and healthy watershed program. A review and assessment of all conservation plans, maps and programs on the Pedernales basin has been assembled to help identify the most needed tools to advance conservation practices. So far, HCA has partnered in four land stewardship educational events in the basin. Through illustrations, such as maps and educational materials, HCA is delivering the message that where once we saw “watersheds” we now can see “water catchments;” natural boundaries to capture, cleanse and store our water supply. These are more logical boundaries for managing water resources than the political jurisdictional boundaries we use today such as county lines.

Land Conservation:

One way all of the Hill Country Land Trusts collaborate is through the HCA Land Conservation Team, chaired by Carolyn Chipman Evans of the Cibolo Conservancy and Carolyn Vogel of Conservation Connection. They have assembled data to create an “All Conserved Lands” inventory including public lands, parks, and easements. Only 3.6 percent of our 17 county/11 million acre region is currently held in permanent conservation. The inventory map they created will provide a way to measure success as the conservation movement grows in the Hill Country. We finalized a Conservation Finance Feasibility Study with the Trust for Public Land and the Texas Land Trust Council. The study area includes our seven highest growth counties and demonstrates how public referendums can help fund land conservation. We regularly distribute our issue paper “Working with Land Trusts” to educate the public about easements and what land trusts do. A new version of the paper is now being vetted to better illustrate exactly where each land trust works and highlighting their unique area of conservation interest.We worked particularly closely with the Hill Country Land Trust on outreach events such as the Round-up and Green Energy Fair, Lavender Fest, various landownergatherings, and numerous Night Sky events.

Protecting the Night Sky:

Our Night Sky Team, led by Bill Neiman of Native American Seed, is the largest issue team, with 31 regional leaders engaged in regular communication about reducing light pollution in the Hill Country. The Team hosted 13 Night Sky educational programs throughout our 17 counties, and with substantial media attention, the attendance reached more than 100 citizens at some of the events. Around two thousand copies of the second edition Night Sky issue paper have been distributed.In Junction, HCA support resulted in more than 101 city lights being retrofitted to more night-sky-friendly fixtures. The result is clearly visible as one drives through the town at night.Our Night Sky Co-op, a volunteer pledge to eliminate sky glow from businesses, ranches and homes, sits at 150 members, and growing.

Rainwater Harvest:

The fourth annual Rainwater Revival was a huge success in Boerne with 550 attendees, ten educational seminars, and about fifty exhibits. This signature event is designed to encourage rainwater harvesting as viable water supply solution for the Texas Hill Country and is led by HCA board member Karen Ford. With funds from the 2012 art barrel auction, HCA provided $1,000 grants to three Hill Country schools for rainwater and rain garden projects. The Rainwater Team consists of 17 experts and advocates who are active in legislative and rule-making processes to make rainwater harvesting more accessible and feasible for homeowners and developers.

Outreach and Education:

HCA hosted two “Interpretive Guide” training classes, graduating 24 students with newly honed skills of speaking from the heart, dynamic storytelling, and ways to more effectively connect with audiences about the importance of protecting Hill Country resources.Four new video products were developed that feature land stewardship for water, working with groundwater conservation districts, rainwater harvesting, and the why and how of native plant landscapes. All are available on the HCA YouTube channel, with more than 3,000 views so far. Additional maps have been added to our resource library and are available for sharing. Throughout the year HCA distributed 19 press releases to our list of Hill Country media partners promoting timely issues and events. We met our electronic media goals to expand our database to 6,000 supporters and friends and 1,000 individuals in our social media network. Our popular, annual photo contest produced another spectacular HCA Calendar for 2014, which our board members and staff hand-deliver to all Texas legislators and Hill Country county officials during an HCA day at the Capitol in December. The robust HCA website consistently provides current news and information about regional issues and events and serves as a resource library for all to share. Our Neighbor to Neighbor newsletter is distributed to our 6,000-strong friends list about three times a month in an email format that is visually pleasing and easy to read.

The HCA Leadership Summit:

More than 100 HCA leaders gathered north of Fredericksburg at our second annual Summit to learn and share ideas about the work we do at HCA. This year’s featured keynote speaker was Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. Other speakers included TWA President Greg Simons; new HCA board members Garry Merritt and Sharlene Leurig; writer/historian Scott Zesch; and a preview of the filmed water story of the San Marcos River, Yakona. This Summit has turned out to be one of HCA’s most successful and gratifying collaborative events where our leaders can find inspiration in the works and passions of other like-minded Hill Country citizens. HCA made great strides in carrying out our mission in 2013.


Our Leadership

Milan J. Michalec, served his second term as President of HCA. Other board members included: Garry Merritt (Vice President), Sharlene Leurig (Treasurer), Karen Huber (Secretary), David Baker, Pete Dwyer, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Sky Lewey, Leo Tynan, Bill Neiman, Sarah Schlesinger, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates.

Team Highlights

Teams making things happen! HCA’s issue teams, comprised entirely of volunteers from around the Hill Country, are what drives the mission of the organization. Here are some of the highlights of the work of those teams in 2014.

Water Team

More than 30 water science and policy experts and enthusiasts guide the HCA water program and create a consistent united voice.

This year the Water Team focused on:

  • Supporting Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs)
  • Advocating for conservation priorities in state water planning and SWIFT
  • Educating the public about groundwater and surface water interaction and water quality concerns in our rivers and aquifers, including two Texas Water Symposiums in 2014 with more than 200 attendees

Pedernales Team

More than 22 conservation organizations, landowners and agencies working towards common goals and a healthy Pedernales system. All water catchments, large and small, are valuable
natural systems for capturing, cleansing and storing our water supply.

The Pedernales team focused on:

  • Sharing research to better understand the condition of the river
  • Generating community outreach efforts, educational events and resources
  • Providing landowner services for stewardship and conservation

Rainwater Harvesting Team

More than 15 experts and advocates networked to advance rainwater as an important, viable, affordable water supply for the Texas Hill Country region.

This year the Rainwater Harvesting Team:

  • Produced the fifth annual Rainwater Revival event in Dripping Springs that drew more than 750 attendees
  • Vetted and released the new Rainwater Harvest issue paper

Night Sky Team

More than 40 Night Sky enthusiasts are actively encouraging a Hill Country where the stars shine bright. Community leaders, elected officials, economic development professionals, astronomers and landowners all agree that protecting
the night sky is a Hill Country priority.

Working together this team:

  • Hosted five Night Sky educational programs that were attended by more than 200 citizens and grew the Night Sky coop to 203 members
  • Received recognition for the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with an “IDA Dark Sky” designation complimenting a similar designation for the City of Dripping Springs.
  • Supported Fredericksburg as it adopted its first outdoor lighting ordinance

Land Conservation Team

More than 20 individuals including representatives from 10 land trusts coordinate to develop metrics, goals and educational resources for land conservation.

In 2014 this team:

  • Collaborated to create the “All Conserved Lands” inventory for the Hill Country region where only four percent of the land is currently in permanent conservation
  • Created educational resources about conservation easements and working with land trusts
  • Promoted conservation funding strategies from local and state public sources as well as from private foundations

Land Practices

A collective analysis of vegetative management, riparian function and brush control strategies.

This team, new in 2014, prioritized:

  • Working with state agencies in ensuring responsible practices in state-funded brush control
  • Vetting and releasing a “Common Landowner Myths and Misperceptions” issue paper

In addition to our issue teams, our Technical Advisory Team, comprised of engineers, hydrologists, geologists and other experts, provide ongoing technical review of HCA’s work.


Our Leadership

Dr. Leo Tynan served his first term as the President of HCA. Other board members included Garry Merritt (Vice President), Karen Huber (Secretary), Sharlene Leurig (Treasurer), Pete Dwyer, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Matt Lara, Sky Lewey, Milan Michalec (immediate past president), Bill Neiman, Sarah Schlessinger, and Ira Yates.

Team Highlights

Our issue teams continue to drive the work of HCA! These volunteer-based teams represent a wide variety of interests and expertise from around the Hill Country.

Water Team

The HCA water team is composed of more than 30 water and science experts that are actively engaged in the management of our groundwater and surface water resources. In 2015, this team:

  • Created several educational issue papers including Special Purpose Districts MUDs, WCIDs, & Hill Country Water Supply and Hill Country Water: Myths and Realities. Using TWDB data, we created and distributed a Municipal Gallons per Capita per Day chart;
  • Compiled a short Hill Country Alliance Legislative Priorities paper for use and distribution in the 2015 legislative session;
  • Hosted a Water Neutral planning event in partnership with the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment for our regional water supply leadership;
  • Delivered HCA’s Water 101 educational lecture to hundreds of people in numerous interest groups;
  • Hosted three Texas Water Symposium events in San Antonio, Kerrville, and Fredericksburg with Hill Country wide broadcasts by Texas Public Radio, and;
  • Provided well-vetted written comments on Regional Water Plan drafts, Desired Future Conditions and interim legislative charges.

Pedernales Team

The Pedernales program of landowner outreach and engagement made great progress in 2015. We believe that only through greater regional awareness of natural boundaries such as watersheds can we have a true appreciation of our shared natural resources. In 2015 the Pedernales Team completed the following activities:

  • Initiated a regular email newsletter for Pedernales residents;
  • Joined with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) to house a four-part series of Soil for Water workshops;
  • Conducted an aerial survey to assess the level of infestation of invasive Arundo donax in the Pedernales;
  • Hosted a series of 4 riparian workshops with riparian management experts in the basin;
  • Initiated a pilot project for Arundo treatment in the creeks of Fredericksburg, and;
  • Worked with the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment to conduct a hydro-blitz census of every publicly-accessible stream and river crossing in the basin.

Rainwater Harvesting Team

We believe that rainwater harvesting may be one of the greatest tools we have to ensure the long-term sustainability of our ground and surface water resources. In 2015 our Rainwater Harvesting Team continued advocating for the use of this often overlooked resource by:

  • Hosting our 7th Annual Rainwater Revival, which brought together 41 vendors and over 500 attendees to advance rainwater harvesting as a Hill Country water supply strategy, and;
  • Providing rainwater collection grants to six area schools, totaling $6,000 in awards.

Night Sky Team

The Night Sky team is composed of more than 40 Night Sky enthusiasts and has grown in size and activity in 2015. In the past year this team:

  • Hosted 10 Night Sky education programs and meetings to reach a total audience of more than 300;
  • Created a standardized HCA Dark Sky presentation that can be given at community meetings;
  • Successfully supported the passage of a dark sky lighting ordinance in Mason, and;
  • Initiated the process for the creation of a Dark Sky Reserve connecting Llano, Mason and Fredericksburg with Enchanted Rock at the center.

Land Conservation Team

The permanent protection of fragile lands is an important strategy for HCA, and the real work is being done by the members of our land conservation team. In 2015, our Land Conservation Team:

  • Co-hosted a Conservation Easement Workshop with the Hill Country Land Trust and 10 other organization and agency partners in October of 2015. The event was a huge success, with more than 70 attendees and a number of landowners interested in follow up information.
  • Expanded, updated and re-released HCA’s Conservation Easements issue paper;
  • Maintained the Hill Country all protected lands database, with the most up-to-date inventory of protected land in the Hill Country.

Outreach and Education:

HCA hosted or presented at more than 70 community meetings and events, reaching well over 3,500 residents and stakeholders. We convened 155 regional leaders for our Annual Leadership Summit in Fredericksburg at the end of September, our largest Summit ever.

The HCA website was completely redone in a new WordPress format in 2015. A vast amount of data, historical documents and current resources needed to be organized and migrated to this new format. We are tracking about 7500 page hits per month. Sixteen timely media releases were distributed in 2015. Topics range from the promotion of our Texas Water Symposium programs, the release of the Blanco River Flood film we produced in the fall, the Rainwater Revival program, photo contest and calendar program and special commentaries by HCA leaders. HCA maintains a list of more than 250 media contacts and works closely with local news sources.

A total of 54 newsletters and program announcements were distributed via email in 2015. The HCA Neighbor to Neighbor Newsletter has become widely relied upon for current issue news and upcoming events related to our mission. The distribution count for this newsletter varies as the HCA database is constantly being cared for. We have a total of 8220 supporters in the SALSA database. After a recent survey, we estimate that another 3,000 – 5,000 newsletters are forwarded on throughout the region. An archive of all newsletters can be viewed on our website: http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/1891/blastContent.jsp

Research and Reports

We seized a golden opportunity in 2015 when the University of Texas, School of Architecture invited us to serve a client to the Hill Country Planning Studio taught by Robert Yaro. This project resulted in a powerful set of recommendations for HCA programming moving into the next 10 years. HCA provided ongoing support, background data, and connections to regional partners and leaders. The studio explored options to better manage conservation resources in the Texas Hill Country in the face of unplanned suburban and exurban sprawl. They examined case studies, listened to regional experts, brought in national expertise and advisors and poured over local data and GIS analysis.

In 2015 we also partnered with David Baker and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association to create the Hill Country Network Research Project. By connecting Tim Larson with Patrick Bixler and Ashley Lovell, we were able to pull the essential pieces together to initiate this much needed regional assessment. The project was fully funded by a Mitchell Foundation grant to the WVWA. Through a series of interviews and social network analysis surveys, the project seeks to paint a clearer picture of the ways that organizations are working towards strategic coordination and alignment opportunities. The results of this study will be used to explore options for strengthening the network of organizations working on land and water issues in Central Texas to enhance their collective ability to scale the impact of their efforts.”

HCA partnered with Texas State University to create a series of GIS based maps of the Pedernales River basin. In addition, we partnered with an Austin Community College GIS class to answer a series of geospatial research questions. The results of that work are on our website.

Blanco River Recovery Film

After significant tragic loss was experienced along the Blanco River following flooding events in 2015, HCA raised funds and expertise to create educational video resources to help deepen community awareness of healthy recovery techniques and riparian stewardship moving forward to lessen destruction when future flooding events occur.


Our Leadership

Dr. Leo Tynan served the second year of his term as the President of HCA. Other board members included Garry Merritt (Vice President), Sarah Schlessinger (Secretary), Chris Hale (Treasurer), Pete Dwyer, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Matt Lara, Sky Lewey, Bill Neiman, Sarah Schlessinger, and Ira Yates. We added two new board members in 2016, Emily Warren and Francine Romero. Both Emily and Francine bring a deep knowledge and level of understanding of the issues facing the Texas Hill Country.

In addition, 2016 saw the successful transition to new leadership in the Executive Director chair for HCA. After more than 10 years as the founding Executive Director, Christy Muse moved on to take a position at the Shield Ranch. Following a nation-wide search for a replacement, Katherine Romans, formerly HCA’s Landowner Outreach Program Manager, was named by the board as the new ED. Katherine brings more than a decade of nonprofit and legislative experience to the organization, and a renewed focus on the strategic alliances that will move the needle on land, water, community and night sky conservation in the Hill Country.

HCA also added Cliff Kaplan to the staff in 2016. Cliff manages HCA’s night sky and rural and regional planning programs. Cliff holds master’s degrees from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the University of Texas School of Architecture’s Community and Regional Planning Department.

Team Highlights

Our issue teams continue to drive the work of HCA! These volunteer-based teams represent a wide variety of interests and expertise from around the Hill Country. We focus on issues facing the Water, Land, Communities and Night Skies of the Texas Hill Country. We vet issue papers, plan events, plan our advocacy strategies and build grassroots awareness of key threats to Hill Country resources with the help of our volunteer issue teams.

Water Team

The HCA Water Team is composed of more than 30 water and science experts that are actively engaged in the planning and management of our groundwater and surface water resources. In 2016, this team:

  • Delivered HCA’s Water 101 educational lecture to hundreds of people in numerous interest groups across the Hill Country;
  • Hosted four Texas Water Symposium events at university settings in Junction, San Antonio, San Marcos, and Kerrville that were broadcast Hill Country wide by Texas Public Radio;
  • Created an information clearinghouse webpage dedicated to the San Antonio Water System’s Vista Ridge Pipeline;
  • Provided vetted written comments and verbal testimony on Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Waste Water Discharge and Reuse rules, various Texas Water Development Board and Regional Water Plan rules, Hays County Commissioner’s Court, and interim legislative charges;
  • Participated in the Texas Water Conservation Association’s Legislative Groundwater Bill Writing Committee, blocking legislation proposals that would have undermined responsible groundwater management; and,
  • HCA Water Policy Manager Charlie Flatten was elected to serve as a voting member of the Region L Planning Group (Guadalupe, Blanco, San Antonio, and Nueces River basins down to the Gulf) and was chosen to serve as an alternate voting member on the Region K Planning Group (Lower Colorado, Pedernales, Llano, and San Saba River basins).

Pedernales Team

Our work in the Pedernales focused on stream restoration near the upper reaches of the Basin. HCA collaborated with local partners, the City of Fredericksburg, The Nature Conservancy and TPWD to kick off a Healthy Creeks Initiative to combat invasive species in two significant tributaries. In 2016, we:

  • Hosted 4 riparian workshops and Creekside Happy hours;
  • Led a direct-mail campaign to raise awareness of the issue of invasive Arundo donax in the basin;
  • Partnered with TPWD to survey more than 70 properties, treating more than 13 acres of invasive vegetation along 20 miles of creek;
  • Facilitated 3 baseline biomonitoring site evaluations, and;
  • Brought the Wild and Scenic Film Festival to the Hill Country to raise awareness of the Healthy Creeks Partnership.

Rainwater Harvesting Team

Our Rainwater Team continues to work hard to remind Hill Country businesses and residents that rainwater harvesting is one of the oldest and most reliable alternative sources of water in the State. In 2016, we:

  • Gave out $1,500 dollars in a Rainwater Harvesting Grant to a Hill Country School;
  • Raised more than $4,000 for Rainwater Harvesting Grants in 2017, and;
  • Convened more than 500 for the 8th annual Rainwater Revival in Dripping Springs, and supported the work of our regional and state-wide rainwater professionals.

Night Sky Team

The Night Sky Team grew to more than 60 members in 2016, as night sky preservation efforts took off in the western Hill Country and continued to grow around the region. We hosted four Night Sky team meetings and supported grass-roots organizing in Uvalde, Utopia, at Garner State Park and around the Hill Country. We conducted outreach to industrial facilities in Spicewood and spoke at neighborhood gatherings. In 2016, the Night Sky team:

  • Successfully supported the passage of a dark sky lighting ordinance in the City of Llano;
  • Worked with County officials to adopt Night Sky Resolutions in Bandera, Blanco, Real, and Uvalde Counties, as well as the Cities of Leakey and Camp Wood;
  • Refreshed the Night Sky Friendly Business recognition program and launched it in Leakey;
  • Formed a Texas Night Sky Coalition to pursue county authority to manage light pollution in Hill Country counties, and;
  • Supported the installation of Sky Quality Meters in South Llano River State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area.

Land Conservation Team

The permanent conservation of critical habitats, open spaces, and undeveloped parcels is an important tool in the long-term conservation of the Hill Country. In 2016, our Land Conservation Team:

  • Convened a Conservation Easement workshop on April 8th in Kerrville, which drew in more than 60 landowners from the western Hill Country,
  • Convened a strategy meeting of Hill Country-focused land trusts to discuss funding opportunities on a regional scale;
  • Updated the Hill Country All Conserved Lands Map for 2016 conservation acreages;
  • Participated in outreach events in Oatmeal and Enchanted Rock, and;
  • Engaged with the Trust for Public Land to discuss funding initiatives and bonding opportunities in Hill Country counties.

Rural Communities

Recognizing that many of the Hill Country’s rural towns are confronted by similar issues because of the region’s growth and our shared natural resources, HCA launched a Rural Planning and Development workshop series to build the capacity of rural communities to address the issues that they most commonly confront. At the first of these quarterly workshops, held in Blanco, 20 local leaders from around the Hill Country worked together to identify the common challenges they face. The following workshop, held in Bandera, addressed one challenge that the group had identified: Implementing existing plans. Subsequent workshops will address other issues identified at the initial meeting.

Research and Reports

In early 2016, the University of Texas School of Architecture released its complete report “Towards a Regional Plan for the Texas Hill Country.” The report enjoyed an enthusiastic reception and kicked off a conversation about the need for regional planning that lasted throughout the year. The Hill Country Alliance identified two major ideas from the report as priorities for our long-term efforts: a Hill Country metrics project, and the creation of an urban-rural partnership to share expertise and resources across traditional boundaries. HCA began work on laying the groundwork for both ideas in 2016.

In addition, 2016 saw the completion of an analysis of the conservation groups working on land and water conservation in the Hill Country. The report on the Hill Country Conservation Network identified the Hill Country Alliance as a major ‘hub’ organization within the wider network, and spurred conversations around formalizing the collaboration between existing conservation groups. HCA is taking a leadership role in a recently formed steering committee, which came together in the fall of 2016 to jointly apply to several significant grants and partner on a number of outreach events.

Outreach and Education

HCA reached more than 5,775 people through events we hosted, co-sponsored, or spoke at over the course of the year. We launched the first annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival in the Hill Country, bringing together partners across three watersheds – the Llano, the Pedernales, and the San Marcos – to celebrate Hill Country Rivers. We spoke at a number of landowner gatherings and expanded our annual Leadership Summit to more than 160 attendees. In January, we hosted a Candidate Forum for the Texas State Senate District 24. In April, we hosted the Kent Butler Summit in Wimberley for an audience of more than 150. We printed our 10th Annual Hill Country calendar—an excellent outreach tool and beloved reminder of all that we are working to protect in the Hill Country.

HCA also reaches stakeholders in the Hill Country through print media. We are fortunate to have very strong media partners throughout the region, and our work is regularly shared in print, radio, and TV news media. In 2016 HCA published 19 press releases. We put out 23 “Neighbor to Neighbor” newsletters, and a total of 50 email blasts to our full subscriber list. We have an average monthly reach of 20,000 with our social media posts.   We created 20 new Hill Country View Radio segments covering a broad array of issues.


Director’s Note

2017 was another fantastic year of growth and accomplishment for the Hill Country Alliance (HCA). With the addition of Daniel Oppenheimer as our Land Program Manager, HCA grew to 4 full-time and 2 part-time staff. With Daniel’s background in riparian restoration on the Nueces River in the Hill Country and the Dolores River in Western Colorado, we have already bolstered our efforts to bring technical expertise and resources to landowners in the Pedernales River basin and beyond.

Over the past 12 years, HCA has come to be recognized as the go-to source for news, events and information about what’s happening in our region. We are bringing our partners together to develop shared goals and metrics for understanding change in our region. We are seeing huge successes across the region, measured in terms of numbers of acres conserved and stewarded, public engaged, water conserved, and communities acting to guide their future development. These successes, when considered cumulatively, will shape the Hill Country we hand on to future generations.

We are visionary, nimble, and responsive to the ever-changing landscape of the Hill Country. We finalized a new Strategic Plan in 2017 that will carry us into the next decade. With two years under my belt as executive director, I am confident that we are making great strides toward a regional vision that will yield long-term rewards for this place and its people.

I firmly believe that we could not do this work without the passion, enthusiasm, support, and guidance of our core partners. Thank you for being a part of the Hill Country Alliance family.

I’m for the Hill Country,

Katherine Romans, Executive Director


In 2017 HCA published 28 press releases that were picked up in publications across the region. We distributed 19 “Neighbor to Neighbor” newsletters and a total of 43 email blasts to subscribers, with a total of 40,000 views. Our website attracted over 100,000 page views and we maintained an average monthly reach of 35,000 through social media posts.  We created 30 Hill Country View Radio segments covering a broad array of issues, and four Texas Water Symposium events were aired in full on Texas Public Radio. We published our 10th Hill Country Calendar and expanded our Rainwater Revival as the newly rebranded Hill Country Living Festival, reaching more than 1,300 attendees.

Water Program

The HCA Water Program is dedicated to the protection of water resources through our leadership in the regulatory, educational, scientific, and planning processes of the Hill Country. Highlights of the water program in 2017 included:

  • HCA shaped several key pieces of legislation during the 85th legislative session. We supported and informed the passage of legislation to create a SW Travis County Groundwater Conservation District.
  • We partnered with the Guadalupe River Association on the Upper Guadalupe River Basin Literature Review, compiling existing research, monitoring and science.
  • We presented HCA’s Water 101, Hydro-Geology 101, Conservation 101 lecture series to more than 200 people across the Hill Country.
  • We expanded the Rainwater Revival to the newly branded Hill Country Living Festival, reaching more than 1,300 with 75 exhibitors including tiny homes, rainwater harvesting professionals, local vendors and green building experts.
  • We maintained our active role as a voting member of the Region L planning area, participant member of Regions J and K, and active member of GMAs 7, 9, and 10, where we work to shape conservation-focused water management policies.

Land Program

HCA’s Land Program was infused with new leadership with the hire of Daniel Oppenheimer. We continue to focus both on permanent land conservation, as well as sound land stewardship practices to ensure healthy, functioning river basins in our region. Highlights of the 2017 Land Program include:

  • Collaborating with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the City of Fredericksburg, and The Nature Conservancy, HCA worked with 92 landowners to survey and control 6 acres of Arundo donax, a non-native, invasive plant, along the Pedernales River Basin and key tributaries.
  • In the Pedernales, Llano, Blanco and Medina River basins, HCA connected with over 750 people through stewardship workshops, river cleanup and planting projects, a film festival, and riparian training series.
  • We catalyzed the creation of two new landowner networks, the Headwaters Alliance and the Riparian Recovery network, both focused on healthy creeks and rivers.
  • Working with Hill Country land trust partners, HCA convened two successful conservation easement workshops—one in Kerrville, the other in Boerne—that engaged over 125 landowners.
  • We championed the successful passage of the largest public investment in land conservation in Travis County’s history, with $15 million for conservation easements in the county.

Night Skies Program

As the song goes, “The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” HCA’s Night Skies Program is working to maintain our views of the night skies for future generations, even as rapid growth and development threatens to mar that view. With the leadership of Cliff Kaplan, we are seeing more communities each year recognizing the value of outdoor lighting education, and taking steps to protect their view of the stars. Highlights of our grassroots outreach efforts in 2017 included:

  • We assisted local leaders in Johnson City in the adoption of an Outdoor Lighting Ordinance, as well as Boerne and Wimberley in updates to their ordinances.
  • We provided the infrastructure to launch a Night Sky Friendly Business Recognition Program in Wimberley.
  • HCA co-hosted the first Hill Country Dark Sky Conference, which helped grow interest in and understanding of dark sky issues in 17 Hill Country communities.
  • With our guidance, LBJ State and National Parks, Lost Maples State Natural Area, Wild Basin, and Reimers Ranch County Park are working on International Dark Sky Park designations.

Community Program

The Community Program at HCA launched with the recognition that our towns, rural communities, and urbanizing areas are just as important to the intrinsic character of this region as the lands, waters, and night skies. HCA seeks opportunities to support community leaders, build capacity among our partners, and lay the framework for successfully planning for our region’s growth in the coming years. Highlights of our Community Program in 2017 included:

  • We hosted two Rural Planning and Development workshops, both successful in helping community leaders learn from one another and connect to state or national resources.
  • We convened elected officials from the I-35 corridor to discuss the creation of a Hill Country Endowment.
  • We provided organizational support to an emerging alliance of landowners in Comal County, interested in advocating for more thoughtful land conservation.
  • We worked with partners in Junction to propose innovative water infrastructure concepts to their water planning process.


In all of our work, HCA strives to bring in partners, build bridges across traditional divides, and devise innovative solutions that leverage existing resources. In 2017 we actively participated in the launch of the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network (Network), a new effort to bring some of the more than 150 groups, agencies, and organizations working on land and water conservation in the Hill Country, into a more collaborative method of partnering. HCA serves on the steering committee of that effort, and was part of a successful grant application to the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program, securing $5.1 million for land conservation and stewardship in the northern Hill Country. HCA also served as the fiscal agent for a strategic planning process which will finish in 2018 with action plans, shared goals, and a mission statement for the Network participants to coalesce behind.

HCA Staff

Katherine Romans, Executive Director
Charlie Flatten, Water Program Manager
Cliff Kaplan, Night Sky & Community Program Manager
Daniel Oppenheimer, Land Program Manager
Sheila Holt, Office Manager
Shannon Chambers, Online Communications Manager

HCA Board

Garry Merritt, President, Real + Travis Counties
Matt Lara, Vice President, Travis County
Sarah Schlessinger, Secretary, Travis County
Emily Warren, Treasurer, Travis County
Pete Dwyer, Travis County
Kathleen Tobin Krueger, Comal + Bandera Counties
Sharlene Leuirg, Travis County
Sky Lewey, Uvalde County
Bill Neiman, Kimble County
Vanessa Puig Williams, Travis County
Francine Romero, Bexar County
Richard Smith, Kerr County
Dr. Leo Tynan, Gillespie County
Ira Yates (Emeritus), Travis County


Director’s Note – 2018 Annual Report

The Hill Country Alliance family is growing! In 2018 we added a new board member, staff, subscribers, and partner organizations, and on a personal level, my family grew with the birth of our first child in July. Bringing Callie with me to landowner gatherings and potlucks has made HCA’s work that much more personal for me. It is for children like her, and her future kids, that we are doing this important work.

Recent reports suggest that our Central Texas family may be growing more quickly than we could have even imagined. An average of 55,000 new residents arrive in the Austin area per year, and from July 2016-July 2017 San Antonio added more residents than any other city in the country. Those new residents are drawn to Central Texas by the strong economy, the quality of life, and the beauty of our region—all of which is underpinned by our natural resources.

We cannot assume that those resources will be here forever, unless we act to protect them. In 2018 we saw permit applications to dump more than 2 billion gallons of treated wastewater per year into Hill Country creeks and streams, a proposed 42-inch oil and gas pipeline that will cut straight across the Hill Country, 20 new or expanding rock quarries or sand and gravel mines, and several major groundwater export projects that would permanently impact the Hill Country as we know it.

At the same time, HCA reached more Hill Country residents and decision makers in 2018 than any other year. We hosted our most successful Kent Butler Summit ever, bringing together elected officials and engineers from up and down the I-35 corridor to talk about growth and our water resources. We worked across the Blanco, Pedernales, Sandy Creek and Guadalupe Basins to host restoration workshops and raise awareness in riparian health. We kicked off a State of the Hill Country metrics report that will launch in 2019 to document change in conservation indicators over time. We supported the launch of new night sky friendly business recognition programs in Blanco and Mason, and we hosted Texas Water Symposia to tackle the emerging issue of wastewater discharge and its impact on Hill Country creeks. None of this work would have been possible without the support of folks like you.

So I hope you consider helping the Hill Country Alliance grow our family further. Please share this report with someone who might not know about us yet. Use it as a conversation starter with a coworker or the landowner nextdoor. Consider a donation to HCA so that we can continue to shape the conservation of our region. It’s time to grow the tent—and bring greater awareness to the critical importance of the work we’re doing, for the Hill Country.

Thank you for being a part of the Hill Country Alliance family,

Katherine Romans – Executive Director


Director’s Note – 2019 Annual Report

As 2020 finds us grappling with unsettling times, it is all the more important to reflect on and celebrate our accomplishments, as well as look ahead with resolve and creativity for how we continue to build our alliance in the face of a global pandemic.

For the Hill Country Alliance (HCA), 2019 was the year that conservation in the Texas Hill Country reached a national stage.

  • HCA and our partners in the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network won recognition from the Water Funder Initiative. We were selected as one of five campaigns nationwide to receive a challenge grant to support our work advancing water resilience in our region. This would not have been possible without the leadership of our Network partners and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
  • The US Water Alliance’s One Water Conference came to Austin in September, in no small part due to the incredible work being done by our regional partners to advance One Water solutions that thoughtfully use all forms of this precious resource—from AC condensation to rainwater. HCA had the chance to work with Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, the Headwaters at the Comal, and others to take water professionals from around the country into the Hill Country, and show them the work that is happening to ensure our springs, rivers, and groundwater resources are here for future generations.
  • Working with 19 partners, including the Hill Country Conservancy and the Llano River Watershed Alliance, we garnered federal funding through the US Department of Agriculture to support private landowner stewardship and conservation. In the pilot year, partners obligated $497,000 towards-nine innovative stewardship projects that will benefit 10,810 acres and multiple river basins.

At our 2019 Leadership Summit, we honored two incredible Hill Country champions with our first ever Heart of the Hill Country award. Through her work with the Nueces River Authority, Sky Lewey has done more to advance awareness of riparian stewardship than perhaps any other person in the state. Christy Muse, founding executive director of HCA and long-time champion of place-based community making in our region, continues to demonstrate what it means to effectively convene and advocate for responsible growth.

We will continue to rely on the wisdom of long-time partners as we also expand our alliance to address significant challenges. In 2019, we saw: new aggregate operations proposed for some of our most sensitive areas; direct discharge permits to pump treated waste water into gems such as Commissioners Creek; and, of course, the Permian Highway Pipeline, a 42-inch natural gas pipeline routed across the Hill Country.

At HCA, we firmly believe that by bringing folks together, across fences and the urban-rural divide, we can champion a better path forward, one that ensures that our lands, waters, night skies and communities are healthy and here for future generations.

In spite of the many challenges facing our region, state, and nation, I have optimism for maintaining the momentum we have built as an Alliance of incredibly passionate, dedicated individuals and organizations championing a bright future for the Hill Country. HCA celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, and continues to grow and evolve as an organization and a movement. Let’s focus on creating a region that is resilient in the face of challenges, united in the face of adversity, and unwavering in our commitment to this region, its people, and its most special places.

I’m for the Hill Country,

Katherine Romans – Executive Director


Director’s Note – 2022 Annual Report

Thanks to you and your support, 2022 was HCA’s biggest single year of impact for the Hill Country. Our efforts led to more than $30 million new dollars to support landowners interested in conservation and stewardship of their land. We reached broad audiences across Texas, with dozens of news stories and op-eds. We saw new protections for our night skies in San Antonio and Kerrville and kicked off a brand-new grassroots water gathering to convene residents and organizations championing the responsible management of our water resources.

From my first day on the job with HCA ten years ago it was clear – the work of preserving and protecting the Hill Country simply can’t be done by any one group or individual. Landowners, businesses, elected officials, scientists and nonprofits all play a critical role in protecting the long-term future of our lands, waters, communities and night skies.  

In that vein, 2022 was a year to strengthen collaboration across the region. HCA led the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network in the rollout of the first ever State of the Hill Country Report, documenting growth trends, conservation achievements, and areas for focus. We grew our role with the Texas Living Waters Project advancing water conservation. We led the Camp Bullis Sentinel Landscape Partnership – a first-of-its-kind effort in Texas to protect land health with an eye toward military readiness. We also expanded the Texans for Responsible Aggregate Mining Coalition, working statewide to address the impacts of aggregate operations on local communities. When we work together, we can make real change in our region.  

As I write this letter, 2023 is already well under way. One of the projects I’m most excited about this year is the first ever Hill Country Leadership Institute. With a goal of bringing elected officials from across our 17 counties together to discuss growth and conservation issues, share ideas, and learn from one another, I feel confident that this new project will be the next big thing for HCA – and for the conservation movement in Central Texas.

If you’ve supported our work or spent time with us out in the Hill Country this year – thank you! We simply couldn’t achieve all the successes we’ve had without the support of partners, donors, and dedicated champions working across the Hill Country. I hope you’ll reach out, come to an HCA event, or drop us a note to let us know what’s happening in your corner of the Hill Country.  

I’m for the Hill Country,

Katherine Romans – Executive Director


Director’s Note – 2023 Annual Report

As I sit down to write another annual report letter, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride and gratitude. 2023 marked my 10th year with the Hill Country Alliance. In that time, we have doubled our staff, been a part of generating tens of millions of new dollars of investment in conservation and stewardship across our region, and supported the grassroots efforts that are changing the future of the Hill Country as we know it.  

HCA released an unprecedented number of new tools, reports, and guides in 2023. If you have not had a chance to learn about land stewardship techniques in upland areas, please visit our new Hillside Stewardship guide under our land conservation and stewardship page on the website. If you are an elected official or resident of a rural community, check out our new Leading by Example Guidebook—an introduction to some of the conservation-focused policies that cities and towns can implement to protect natural resources. Worried about groundwater supplies and spring flow? Check out our primer titled Tools for Managing Groundwater in the Texas Hill Country– a new overview of how some of our most precious water supplies are planned for and protected.  

While the grips of extreme drought have maintained their hold on the Hill Country, there were numerous bright spots in 2023. We were so impressed by the phenomenal success of the first-ever Hill Country Leadership Institute. Our inaugural cohort of 14 elected officials brought enthusiasm, passion, curiosity, and determination to 10 in-person meetings, and are forming the initial bonds of a broader coalition of community leaders ready to tackle the biggest challenges our region faces.   

The Leadership Institute program, and all the work of the Hill Country Alliance, would not be possible without your support. Our heartfelt thanks go out to all who attended events, spoke at the Capitol, submitted comments to agency permitting processes, and championed the Hill Country in ways big and small. It is through your dedication that we continue to make strides in safeguarding this cherished region. 

As we turn the calendar to 2024, we are looking ahead. HCA will begin celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, as we mark the original living room conversations that eventually led to the launch of HCA as we know it. The theme of our year will be centered on deepening our roots, growing our impact, and ensuring our future. I hope you will join us in that work. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the Texas Hill Country, leaving a legacy of beauty, vibrancy, and natural wonders for generations to come. 

I’m for the Hill Country,

Katherine Romans – Executive Director