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.
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:
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.
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.
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.