First EVER Open Preserve Day at Billig Ranch - September 14, 2019

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Pines and Prairies Land Trust (PPLT) is hosting its first open preserve day at Billig Ranch, 208 Billig Lane, in Paige, Saturday, September 14th from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Gates will open shortly before 8 a.m. for those wanting to go on a birding hike led by local Master Naturalists, that have been recording birds on the preserve for the past three years. Bring your binoculars and bird guides! Around 9 a.m., we will have a walk and talk about feral hog control efforts PPLT has been employing over the past year, including a short hike to recent hog damage and one trapping station. You may go home with ideas of your own, if you too are experiencing damage to your land from these prolific non-natives. Around 10 a.m. will be another walk and talk about the native prairie restoration efforts at Billig that have been ongoing since 2016. PPLT has partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and US Fish and Wildlife under three different programs to support the restoration of over 250 acres at Billig. Hiking trails are also available if you’d prefer venturing on your own, as well as all the beautiful views you can stand. Gates will close at 1 p.m. We recommend you wear walking shoes, a hat, long sleeves and long pants, and bring water, sunscreen and bug repellent. Bring a picnic and chairs if you’d like to relax next to the pond!

 

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Billig Ranch was given to PPLT in 2008 by Erwin Billig, who wanted to forever preserve his land as a wildlife haven. PPLT has worked hard over the years to honor his legacy by combining sustainable agriculture practices with native habitat restoration. It is our goal at Billig Ranch to show the community that habitat protection and agriculture really can go hand in hand. Pines and Prairies Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to land protection. For more information on PPLT and Billig Ranch, please visit our website: www.pplt.org. For information on the field day or other questions, feel free to contact us at 512-308-1911 or nikki@pplt.org.

Stakeholder Notification/Public Notice

The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. Pines and Prairies Land Trust is pleased to announce it is applying for renewal of accreditation. A public comment period is now open.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs. The original application process in 2013 that Pines and Prairies Land Trust embarked on, spurred the organization into a maturation, with tools necessary to last in perpetuity as well as creating a more transparent and responsible organization. Renewal will allow PPLT to advance even further.

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how Pines and Prairies Land Trust complies with national quality standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards see http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/help-and-resources/indicator-practices.

 To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to info@landtrustaccreditation.org. Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Comments on Pines and Prairies Land Trust’s application will be most useful by April 1st.

3 Creeks Farm, Protected Forever

On June 16, 2017, PPLT officially closed on its 7th conservation easement (CE), purchased from Jon Beall and located in Littig, Texas (Elgin area), aptly named 3 Creeks Farm. This 315 acre property hosts a small organic farm (Guinea Hill Farm), prime farmland soils, wildlife habitat, cultural resources and stream bank habitat along Wilbarger, Willow and Dry Creeks. At one time, the property was owned by the first African-American post master. This CE increases the land held in perpetual protection by PPLT to over 2500 acres.

Pond at 3 Creeks Farm

Pond at 3 Creeks Farm

Funding for the purchase was obtained through the USDA Farm Bill's Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (now called the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program) and the Travis County Conservation Easement Bond Program, as well as the bargain sale of the easement from the landowner. 

CONSERVATION EASEMENT GOALS OR "CONSERVATION VALUES"

Of high priority in protecting this land (the "conservation values") is protecting portions of Wilbarger, Willow and Dry Creeks from stream bank erosion. Preserving this land will increase land protected through the Wilbarger Creek Conservation Alliance to almost 1000 contiguous acres protected in perpetuity with the resultant synergistic effects of landscape scale conservation. Other goals of the conservation easement include:

http://siglogroup.com/ourwork/wilbargercreekconservationalliance/

http://siglogroup.com/ourwork/wilbargercreekconservationalliance/

1. The mitigation of the force and quantity of surface flood waters into the previously mentioned creeks and provides a significant quantity of high quality storm seepage and ground water runoff to the Wilbarger Creek Alluvium, the Colorado River and Colorado River Alluvium. The Wilbarger Creek watershed is rated as a “high conservation priority” according to the Trust for Public Land’s Travis County Greenprint for Growth. The Colorado River provides water for thousands of central and southeast Texans, and wildlife populations, and the Colorado River Alluvium helps maintain baseflow and environmental flows in the Colorado River.

2. The protection of approximately 9,000 feet or 1.71 miles of double-sided creek frontage within its boundaries

3. Significant open space and scenic views, including agricultural ranch lands.

4. The protection of native Blackland Prairie in Central Texas. Most of the Blackland Prairie has been plowed leaving less than 1% of this Ecoregion intact. The Blackland Prairie is the most endangered Ecoregion in North America. This Ecoregion is designated as a high priority for protection in the State Land and Water Conservation Plan and State Wildlife Action Plan.

5. The protection of over 20 acres of prime farmland soils.

Guinea Hill Farm seedlings and owner, Sharon Crow

6. Biological diversity of the many native plant communities and wildlife communities
that rely on the habitat and water and food sources found in the Wilbarger Creek
corridor and watershed. All four major native Blackland Prairie plant communities
are rare and most have conservation rankings of G1 (Critically Imperiled) or G2
(Imperiled). The Blackland Prairie region is also an important stopover habitat for
migrant songbirds and wintering raptors, and many of these species are declining.

7. Protecting cultural resources.

8. Public recreation and outdoor education that will address park and recreation inequities identified in the Travis County Master Parks Plan.

HISTORIC USE

The fact that three creeks come together on this property would have provided valuable access to water during prehistoric times, attracting human habitation for hundreds or even thousands of years. Portions of the property had been farmed for over 100 years. 

The Town of Littig was founded in 1883 along the Houston and Texas Central Railway, on land donated by Jackson Morrow, former slave and first African-American post master in Texas. Although Littig declined in the mid-20th Century, it remains an important Travis County Freedmen’s Town. 3 Creeks Farm was part of a larger parcel of land owned by Mr. Morrow, who used it for farming. His niece, Johnny Adams, inherited the land from him and sold it to the Bealls in 1998, when she was approximately 93 years old.

100+ year old, hand dug pond

100+ year old, hand dug pond

Also located on this acreage is a 100+ year old pond dug by manual labor with mules and a scoop bucket. Cattle were removed from the Farm over 30 years ago. One parcel was row cropped with cotton, sorghum and corn in the mid-1980s and was also hayed and leased for cattle. 3 Creeks Farm and an adjacent ranch were once part of the Thrasher Ranch.

Development pressure is quite evident on large parcels in the area. These amenities, along with the area’s proximity to Austin, Manor and Elgin, are attracting people seeking ranchette-sized parcels to build and live on and businesses to develop. The new Formula One racetrack was located in this area, taking over 1000 acres of agriculture land out of production. The construction of toll roads also brings with it fast growing development. And while there are good aspects of growth, protecting connected corridors of open space means water quality and quantity, view sheds, wildlife habitat and our own health and happiness are also protected.

While this project took several years to complete, it was well worth the time and effort all parties involved spent on it. PPLT would like to offer extra special thanks to Jon Beall and Becky Jolin for never giving up and having land protection always their top priority.

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Pines and Prairies Land Trust to receive support from the National Park Service

Pines and Prairies Land Trust to receive support from the National Park Service

The National Park Service (NPS) announced today that Pines and Prairies Land Trust (PPLT) has been selected to receive assistance from the NPS Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program. NPS staff will provide technical guidance to Pines and Prairies in order to improve the trail system at PPLT’s Colorado River Refuge. The assistance will include an assessment of current trails, a review of PPLT’s volunteer programs, and coaching for PPLT staff and partners. The project is one of four new projects accepted by the NPS in Texas this year. 

The NPS Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program helps communities design trails and parks, conserve and improve access to open space, protect special places, and create recreational opportunities through locally led partnerships.

Pines and Prairies Land Trust protects natural and cultural resources through education and the preservation of open space in the Central Texas counties of Bastrop, Caldwell, Fayette, Lee and Eastern Travis County. PPLT holds conservation easements and owns property in the five county region it serves. Besides direct land conservation, PPLT also hosts nature lessons, workshops and participates in conferences, local environmental events, and provides speakers for civic and business groups.

The NPS is proud to support the visions of community organizations and help improve access to open space in and around central Texas. We believe in public and private partners working together to align state, federal, and local resources that achieve long-term enhancements to quality of life.  

Nationwide Impact

In the last 20 years, the NPS has assisted thousands of communities – from rural Alaska to downtown New York City – with more than 5,000 projects. These community partnerships have helped conserve more than 1,000 miles of river corridor, develop nearly 1,800 miles of trail, and protect more than 50,000 acres of park land, wildlife habitat, and natural areas every year.

Key project contact:

Melanie Pavlas, Executive Director

Email: melanie@pplt.org

phone: (512) 308-1911

For more information on the NPS Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program, please visit http://www.nps.gov/rtca, join the conversation at http://www.facebook.com/RTCANPS, or watch a video about our work in communities at www.nps.gov/orgs/rtca/multimedia.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 413 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local natural and historic areas and to create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.