Diverse Partners Protect Hamilton Pool Road Corridor
(Dripping Springs, TX) – On Monday, July 30th, Travis County and the Puryear family celebrated the closing of a real estate deal on their 423-acre historic ranch. Unlike most real estate deals, however, this one allows them to stay on the land, where their family has lived for 138 years. The Puryears worked with Hill Country Conservancy to create a conservation easement that keeps the land from being developed in perpetuity. The project was funded through a combination of Travis County bonds and grants from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“Today, we celebrate the conservation of beautiful Hill Country land, and the partnerships with local landowners and land trusts that made it possible. Between our Conservation Easement Program and the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, Travis County has now partnered in the preservation of more than 30,000 acres of exemplary Hill Country in the west and Blackland Prairie in the east,” said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. “And our work is not done. Expect to see additional strategic investments to preserve the hills and streams of Travis County.  Families like mine that have lived here for generations know what it is to love this land and fear its disappearance. With these partnerships, we ensure that future generations and newcomers will have the chance to love and protect the unique splendor of this land, too.”
Puryear Ranch was the third property conserved with Travis County bond funding this year along the scenic Hamilton Pool Road corridor. The first two, the 738-acre Peacock Ranch and the 396-acre Los Madrones Ranch, were funded using the last of the 2011 bonds. In 2017, voters approved an additional $16.6 million in funding for conservation easements, and Puryear Ranch was the first project to be completed with that new funding. Together, all three ranches comprise more than 1,500 acres.
“This is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, and the only way to balance that rapid development and support its health and resilience is by conserving its ecologically critical areas,” added Laura Huffman, Texas Director of the Nature Conservancy. “These three transactions safeguard some of the last extensive open space in the area and make an enduring investment that will benefit this region for generations to come.”
“Sensitive water, wildlife and scenic resources in the Hamilton Pool corridor are now permanently protected thanks to these private landowners, working in partnership with land trusts and government agencies such as Travis County,” added Frank Davis, Director of Land Conservation for Hill Country Conservancy. “Current and future generations of Texans will forever cherish their legacy of private stewardship and love for the land.”
The Hamilton Pool Road corridor has seen dramatic changes in recent years as development has increased. Conserving these properties helps protect water resources, scenic views, important wildlife habitat, and the region’s agricultural heritage. These common interests have brought together a diverse group of partners including private landowners, nonprofit land trusts, and government agencies to preserve part of the natural landscape as the County’s population grows.
“Julie and I wanted to protect this ranch that has been in my family for 50 years,” added Mike Murphy of Los Madrones Ranch. “With the conservation easement we can continue operations, and the ranch can still be passed onto heirs or sold. But now we know that the property will remain as unspoiled open, natural space for generations to come.”
Landowners interested in learning more about the bond-funded Travis County Conservation Easement Program can contact Johanna Arendt at Johanna.arendt@traviscountytx.gov.
Puryear Ranch has been owned by the Puryear family since 1880. In recent years, they have seen the area around Hamilton Pool Road transformed by development and have felt the financial pressure to sell. They decided instead to enter into a partnership with Hill Country Conservancy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Travis County to complete a conservation easement on their 423-acre historic ranch. The family retained the right to build up to five homes on the property. Otherwise it will be used for livestock grazing, wildlife management, hunting, fishing, and other recreation. Rocky Creek, which runs through Puryear Ranch, is a major contributor to Barton Creek, which is vital to the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs Pool.
Los Madrones Ranchcomprises 396 acres of limestone bluffs, open pastures, and diverse woodlands. The ranch has been in the Murphy family for the last 50 years, and was home to a cow/calf business until 1996 when members of the family sold half of their 800-acre ranch. In 2000, owner Mike Murphy converted the land from ranching to wildlife conservation. More than 70 species of birds have been observed there over the past decade, and at least seven pairs of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler nest on the property each spring. Los Madrones Ranch also contains a large portion of Bee Creek, an important tributary of the Colorado River.
Texas Land Conservancy (TLC) started working with Mike Murphy and his wife Julie de Wette in 2012 to apply for Travis County’s bond-funded Conservation Easement Program. Once their application was approved in 2013, TLC applied for matching funds from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. This funding was approved in 2016, and the conservation easement was finalized in late February 2018, ensuring the land would be conserved in perpetuity.
Peacock Ranch: With funding made available from the Travis County Conservation Easement Program, The Nature Conservancy recently worked with a local landowner to put a conservation easement on 738 acres of the Peacock Ranch along Hamilton Pool Road. The landowner bought the ranch specifically with the goal of conserving its scenic views and natural springs, which flow into Bee Creek and Lake Austin. The easement continues a long legacy of collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, Travis County, and other area land trusts to protect lands and waters in southwest Travis County, including nearby Reimers Ranch Park, Shield Ranch, and the Conservancy’s Barton Creek Habitat Preserve.