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Permanent Conservation of Historic Manor Ranchland Announced

In the first partnership of its kind in Central Texas, non-profit and agencies work together to complete the first permanent land conservation project in the Manor area

Hill Country Conservancy (HCC), along with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Travis County, purchased a permanent conservation of the 285-acre Brockenbrough Ranch, a historic property in Eastern Travis County in the Wilbarger Creek Watershed. Located near Manor, Texas, the Brockenbrough Ranch has been used for agricultural purposes for the last 160 years.

"After years of hard work from many parties, we are proud that this historic piece of our community is conserved forever," said Executive Director George Cofer. "When a project of this nature is completed, not only does it move our mission forward, but it is a great example of what can happen when a landowner recognizes the value of conservation in a rapidly developing environment."

This project is particularly important as it is the first ever conservation partnership between HCC, NRCS, and Travis County. Funding from Heritage Title Company of Austin, Mike and Pam Reese, the Shield-Ayres Foundation, and the Still Water Foundation made this project possible. NRCS' Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) provided $1 million to assist in purchasing the permanent easement. After more than three years of working with landowner and rancher Anne Brockenbrough, this land will be preserved in perpetuity.

"This partnership is a great example of what can happen for environmental protection when multiple parties work together," Commissioner Ron Davis said. "The completion of this project will help spur further protection of important farm and ranching lands. I'm excited to continue working together for this imperative cause."

The conservation of the Brockenbrough Ranch is a critically important piece of the "green infrastructure" that will balance the ever-growing development pressures of SH 130 and the increasing population growth around Manor, Elgin, the FM 969 corridor, and surrounding areas. Preserving this historic working ranch ensures that the high-quality wildlife habitat and scenic views will be preserved for the community to enjoy. Brockenbrough Ranch also provides a significant quantity of high quality water to the Colorado River via Wilbarger Creek, which runs through the property.

"This is a great accomplishment made possible by the hard work of all parties involved," said Salvador Salinas, NRCS Texas State Conservationist. "When a conservation project of this magnitude in a rapidly developing area comes to fruition, it benefits the entire community in many ways. NRCS is proud to be a part of successfully preserving this historic working ranch in Eastern Travis County."

"We have been pleased to work with Hill Country Conservancy and NRCS to conserve these sensitive lands," commented Judge Sam Biscoe. "This is the first large-scale conservation project in the Manor area. The preservation of these working ranch lands, rich habitat, and water quality will certainly encourage additional projects of its kind."

Given the success of this first conservation initiative in the area and the many community benefits, efforts are already underway to conserve neighboring properties. Anne Brockenbrough and several other landowners and stakeholders recently formed the Wilbarger Creek Conservation Alliance with the goal of conserving the agricultural heritage, clean water, and native wildlife on thousands of acres in the Wilbarger Creek corridor. The Alliance is quickly developing a network of landowners, elected officials, and other citizens who are interested in preserving the rural character of the area. The NRCS, Travis County, Native Prairies Association of Texas, and the Austin-Bastrop River Corridor Partnership, among others, have expressed their commitment to conservation of the Wilbarger Creek watershed.

"I see it as my job to help other ranchers find the right tools to hang onto their land before it's too late," said rancher Anne Brockenbrough. "I look around and see old ranches threatened by development and I realize we must act quickly. Thanks to Hill Country Conservancy and our other partners, there are now tools we can use to protect the land and its heritage to benefit the community now, and for future generations."

Properties that have been preserved through HCC and their partners using the NRCS' Farm and Ranch Land Lands Protection Program (FRPP) include the Ragland Ranch, Ragsdale Ranch, Dahlstrom Ranch, and Phase III on the Storm Ranch, all in Hays County; and Brockenbrough Ranch in Travis County.

horses bluebonnets

Scenic views such as this one will be one of the many benefits of preserving 285-acres of the Brockenbrough Ranch, a 160 year old ranch in Manor, in a permanent easement.

Texas NRCS has protected 5,600 acres through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) since the program started in 2003, many of which have been in partnership with Hill Country Conservancy, and city, county, state, and private partners, in Hays and Travis County.

Photos and story courtesy of Hill Country Conservancy