With each issue, Trib+Water brings you an interview with experts on water-related issues. Here is this week’s subject.
Carrie Kasnicka is the executive director of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trib+Water: Tell me about the Guadalupe river and the work of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust
Carrie Kasnicka: Certainly. Our work is surrounded by the Guadalupe river, so that runs about 400 miles from the Hill Country all the way down to San Antonio Bay. The Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust is a local non-profit organization and we work within that watershed to protect that resource.
Trib+Water: What does protecting that resource involve?
Kasnicka: We conserve land for it’s natural, recreational, scenic, historical, or productive values. Typically we work with landowners through conservation easements—that’s a voluntary legal agreement between the landowner and the land trust, and it permanently limits the use of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Conservation values can be wildlife habitat, water quality, water quantity, conserving a working ranch, conserving an open landscape. So we work with landowners to basically protect the conservation values within the river basin.
Trib+Water:: What are the biggest challenges right now for Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust?
Kasnicka: If you even look statewide, you know Texas is quickly developing. We’re losing agricultural land faster than any other state. So I think one challenge that we have is just being able to combat all of the impacts of development. It’s a fantastic place to live and people are moving here faster than anywhere else but we also want to make sure we preserve what makes Texas Texas. What makes it beautiful, what makes it amazing. We want to make sure all that wildlife habitat and water quality remain high.
Trib+Water:: What are the benefits of a healthy water habitat and high water quality?
Kasnicka: Water quality breaks down to a couple of areas that are really important. One of them is certainly for ecological value. Being able to maintain those habitats that sustain so much diversity is important, and the other part is for our use. When it comes to water, people live near water, we need water for drinking, we need water for survival, so certainly water is important to absolutely everything that it touches.
Trib+Water:: What are the biggest projects underway at the River trust?
Kasnicka: There are two areas that we’re working on right now. This a really interesting time for us, knowing that we just closed our 18th easement, knowing that we’ve just celebrated our 15th anniversary. We can take a breath and see where we want to go from here, and that’s why I’m excited about being executive director at this time. It’s a really exciting time to see what we want to be able to do. Two areas that we want to look for is certainly always being able to protect the riparian areas of the river all the way from hill country to the bay. That will always remain a really important goal for us. The other project that I am excited about is Plum Creek Wetlands Preserve.
Trib+Water:: Can you tell me more about that?
Kasnicka: Plum Creek Wetlands Preserve is about a 265 acre mitigation property that is located around the Lockhart area. So it’s right off highway 130. And it was a mitigation property to mitigate the damages caused by the the creation of highway 130. So this property itself has fantastic conservation value. It’s a wetland mitigation site so it has amazing diversity of wetlands plants, pollinating plants, it’s a great stopover for migratory birds, it has a great forested habitat, Plum Creek runs right through it. It all remains within a floodplain. And that’s important for the community downriver from it because certainly it’s a very effective floodplain, and it’s also really important because it creates a habitat all throughout the year.
The area with that property has three goals, and one of them is to protect and enhance the wildlife habitat value. The other is for the trust to have education efforts on site, and the third goal is light, low-impact recreation that honors the easement agreement but also allows the public to be able to experience a great place. That’s a big project for us. We’re just hitting the ground running now, we’re working on a management plan, and we are really looking forward to developing very thoughtfully that property while also honoring the easement agreement that’s in place.
Trib+Water: What is the timeline for a project like this?
Kasnicka: The timeline is hard to determine. So as of the timeline to establish it as a mitigation site, to create an easement agreement, and to record an easement agreement with the county, that takes a few years. And we’ve accomplished that, it was actually recorded in 2015. So now we’re on to the next stage. I don’t think we have a timeline, a firm timeline now. We want to make sure we do it as appropriately as we can. That includes getting together partners, getting together like-minded organizations that want to help with the thoughtful development, being able to put a management plan together, and right now that’s the process that we’re in. We do hope to have public access there, it will be controlled and limited, but it will be a fantastic opportunity to learn about species in Texas and habitats in Texas.
Disclosure: Texas Water Journal Editor-in-Chief Todd Votteler, who assembles The Water Update for Trib+Water, is a former executive director of Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust.