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History of Blanco County Conservation Initiative (BCCI)

OUR STORY

During the summer of 2022 a group of local citizens gathered in Blanco to talk about the county and some of the challenges the county faces and will face in the coming years. These local folks were interested in having a useful discussion about the fact that Blanco County is a beautiful, rural county in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, and is surrounded by development and landscape change. This grass-roots gathering led to the idea of hosting a community meeting in Blanco for all residents and citizens thinking about the future of the county and its resources.

 

The organizers of the community meeting expected around 75 attendees to join the conversation at the Gem of the Hills in Blanco. On September 15 of 2022, 180 people came to the Gem to hear what these grass-roots organizers had to say. Hill Country Alliance staff presented the State of the Hill Country Report with an emphasis on Blanco County, highlighting large areas of open space such as Bamberger Ranch Preserve. The State of the Hill Country Report illustrates the small population and large rural areas of Blanco County relative to neighboring Hill Country counties, as well as specific metrics on diminishing water resources for ranchers and other residents as well as fragmentation of large tracts of land. During the course of the evening, the local residents were treated to a presentation from the Comal County Conservation Alliance, about that successful grass-roots endeavor and its impact on conservation and natural resource protection in Comal County. There was a feeling of excitement in the room and a definite sense of strength in community among those who attended.

The local organizers of the meeting knew that they needed to ride the wave of enthusiasm and momentum that had begun at the community meeting. They organized a second meeting to serve as a listening session. The listening session idea stemmed from the fact that the first community meeting, although it was a smashing success, did not give participants a great deal of time to express their thoughts and feelings about the pressures facing Blanco County. In December of 2022 participants gathered at Johnson City High School to discuss specific concerns for the county and the future of the quality of life here. Participants were asked to write their primary concerns on sticky notes, which the facilitators then organized into overarching categories of concern. Major themes that surfaced repeatedly were concerns about water, night skies, fragmentation of family lands, and preservation of the history and rural character of Blanco County.  Participants at this meeting indicated they’d support the formation of a new non-profit organization to address these concerns. Hence, the Blanco County Conservation Initiative was born.

In the early months of 2023 an organizing committee gathered to submit documents and paperwork necessary to officially start a nonprofit. By June of 2023 we had achieved our official tax-exempt status from the IRS. By this time we had already hosted the first of many community gatherings, which included a visit from “The Wizard of the Night Sky.” This noteworthy performance compelled several participants to rethink their entire approach to outdoor lighting on their own properties. Since then BCCI has hosted additional fun and informative community gatherings focused on water resources management in Blanco County, research and protection of historical features of Blanco County, and useful information from the tax appraisal office about the wildlife valuation program that can benefit landowners that utilize good management principles. These community gatherings are an essential part of our nonprofit programming and provide an excellent way for citizens to learn about issues they care about as well as to discuss opportunities to collaborate on protecting natural resources in our beautiful county.

In addition to the community gatherings, BCCI has, through much community input and thoughtful consideration, developed a list of best practices for developments and projects in the county. These voluntary recommendations provide an opportunity for developers to utilize techniques that protect the natural resource base on which we all depend, while maximizing the beauty and character of the Hill Country that is highly desirable to those who want to live here.

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