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Family passes up selling property for millions and does something amazing instead: ‘It’s a breathtaking act of generosity’

The area surrounding the donated land will be inundated with 24,000 new houses in the next 10 years.

The area surrounding the donated land will be inundated with 24,000 new houses in the next 10 years.

Photo Credit: Hill Country Conservancy

An outdoor paradise worth $25 million will remain wild thanks to a generous Texas family.

The anonymous family gifted the Hill Country Conservancy 1,205 acres near Jarrell “to use for conservation, research, educational outreach, and public recreation,” the Austin American-Statesman reported in August. The area is called the Pecan Springs Karst Preserve.

“It’s a breathtaking act of generosity,” conservancy CEO Kathy Miller said.

The Statesman reported the karst paradise is home to six caves, the headwaters for three tributaries of Salado Creek, a wetland, and three endangered or threatened species — the tricolored bat, Salado salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.

Its limestone caves and sinkholes filter rainwater on its way to the Edwards Aquifer, according to the conservancy. Bald eagles nested on the land in spring.

The donation is all the more important considering the lack of protected land in Williamson County. The Statesman reported that figure stands at 27,620 acres. Despite being nearly half as small, neighboring Hays County has 39,660 protected acres. Travis County, which includes Austin, has protected 95,040 acres.

The area surrounding the donated land will be inundated with 24,000 new houses in the next 10 years, according to the Statesman.

“Development in this area is accelerating, and the rapid growth really heightens the urgency of conservation through public and private means,” Miller said. “We hope that by opening this preserve to the public we can build community awareness of the incredible natural resources in this area and the value of proactively conserving land to protect those resources.”

The conservancy was founded in 1999 and landed its first easement in 2004. It now manages more than 14,000 acres of protected land.

The Texas Tribune reported in May that Texas ranks 35th nationwide in state park acreage per capita and “needs to add 1.4 million acres of state parks by 2030 to meet the needs of its residents.”

Such greenspaces help conserve natural ecosystems, sustain clear air and water, and support people and wildlife. They provide environmental, aesthetic, and recreational benefits and also improve property values and bring in revenue for municipalities.

On Nov. 7, Williamson County voters approved a $59 million bond referendum for parks and recreational improvements.

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