Lorenz takes reins at Hill Country Land Trust
For the past 20 years, Jennifer Lorenz protected fresh water flows into estuary bays in Corpus Christi and saved thousands of acres of prairies, forested wetlands and bayou floodways in and around Houston.
Now she brings her expertise to Fredericksburg as the new, and first, full-time executive director for the Hill Country Land Trust.
With 25 years of nonprofit management, including the past 15 years as director of the Houston-based Bayou Land Conservancy, Lorenz brings a tenacious attitude, fundraising experience and a love of the land to her new position.
“I was raised in San Antonio, and graduated from UT Austin. When this position with the Hill Country Land Trust came open, I felt it would be great to get back to my roots and felt they could utilize my skills,” Lorenz said. “They have done a great job with an all-volunteer staff, but they now want to become a top regional resource for people who want to take care of their land in perpetuity.”
The land trust, in existence for 15 years, has 20 conservation easements (permanent land protection agreements with private landowners) in and around Gillespie County, comprising about 12,000 acres.
HCLT, a nationally accredited nonprofit land trust, works in cooperation with private landowners who want to see their land stay intact and keep development at bay.
Conservation easements are voluntary, legal agreements that ensure a property will forever be managed according to the landowner’s wishes. The terms of that agreement seek to defend the conservation values of the owner’s land while still providing some flexibility to future landowners, including descendants.
Lorenz said the Hill Country’s scenic beauty, hills and rivers make it the perfect place for this type of work, especially in the face of rapid development from the east.
“This is such a lovely place,” Lorenz said of the Hill Country. “But the pressures of housing and commercial development and transmission lines, will make a change in the water uses and the overall beauty of this area. We want to double the amount of acreage in our holdings within the next few years to stave off some of the encroachment.”
Viewshed and vision
One of the organization’s goals is to protect the viewshed around Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Several landowners in that area have already entered into agreements with HCLT.
HCLT hopes to convince other landowners in the area that it is not only to their benefit to protect their land, but it will help protect the viewshed enjoyment for the 300,000 annual visitors who climb to the top.
“No one wants to see a bunch of rooftops and electrical lines in that currently scenic landscape,” Lorenz said. “Conservation easements are the only way to protect the land for the landowners and the public benefit that others get by not having to look at construction.”
HCLT also works on the Dark Sky Initiative in hopes of the Hill Country remaining one of the few places in the country where the Milky Way can still be experienced.
HCLT is also becoming known for landowner education field trips and its conservation video series. Its latest videos are on prickly pear and ashe juniper management with their former board member and land management expert Steve Nelle as narrator.
Lorenz is optimistic about the work to be done.
“Gillespie County has the least amount of land protected (.9 percent, compared to four to seven percent in other neighboring counties) in the entire Hill Country and we’d like to work on that,” she said.
“There is still a rural feel here and there are still large land tracts held by families,” Lorenz said. “I know it’s a concern with federal and estate taxes that can accrue. We want to help these families keep their land as it is and within their family.”
HCLT also can work with owners of smaller- to mid-sized tracts that have significant wildlife value. “And we are not opposed to agricultural uses,” she said with a nod to the area’s ranching heritage.
HCLT receives no federal funding, Lorenz said.
She said her immediate goals are to get more volunteers, to take one or two public projects and start educational initiatives for younger residents. At her previous job, she ran a “No Child Left Inside” environmental education program and she’d like to work with area science teachers on ways they can help the water catchment areas in and around Fredericksburg.
But the organization’s biggest immediate need now is for a bigger office space. Currently she and her two employees shares a small house with the Native Plant Society of Texas’s local chapter at 320 West San Antonio Street.
“We are looking to the business owners in Fredericksburg who have some space that could accommodate three folks with three desks, and for a free or reduced rate so that we can spend more of our funding on protecting land,” she said.
For more information, visit the organization’s website at www.hillcountrylandtrust.org or visit the HCLT’s Facebook page.
Executive Director – Jennifer Lorenz
Conservation Easement Administrator – Ted Maas
Office Administrator – Kate Peake
Board of directors – Mike Krueger, president; Linda Campbell, vice president; Pam Mabry Bergman, secretary; Floyd Trefny, treasurer; Brad Bayliff, Scott Gardner, Bill Lindemann, Jill Nokes, Katherine Peake, Tim Riley, Katherine Romans, Kassi Scheffer and Romey Swanson.