USDA Forest Service awards first community forest conservation program grant in Texas

SAN MARCOS, Texas — Through the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, the USDA Forest Service awarded the first grant to a project in Texas. The funds will benefit a community forest project on Sink Creek in the city of San Marcos, Hays County, Texas.

San Marcos was named the fastest-growing city in the United States in 2015 for the third year in a row. Though the city has undergone substantial development, local residents and representatives have held natural resource conservation as a major priority alongside safe accommodation for the growing community.

The Sink Creek Project will permanently protect 102.17 acres of sustainably managed forestland and offer the San Marcos community the numerous health, environmental and economic benefits that forested areas provide. 

“The city targeted this property for conservation so it can serve as a buffer from development in a particularly sensitive area,” said City of San Marcos Urban Forester Kelly Eby. “By awarding these funds to the City, the U.S. Forest Service is joining our efforts to achieve strategic environmental planning.” 

The protection of the land safeguards the Sink Creek watershed and the headwaters of the San Marcos River, considered to be the heart of the community. The project will also contribute to the city’s goal of connecting all of its greenspaces together. 

“San Marcos is beautifully situated and this project not only preserves some of that ecologically important landscape, but will eventually provide public access for residents and visitors,” said Gretchen Riley, Texas A&M Forest Service Forest Legacy Coordinator. 

The Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program allows communities to acquire and conserve forests that provide public access and recreational opportunities, protect vital water supplies and wildlife habitat, serve as demonstration sites for private forest landowners and provide economic benefits from timber and non-timber products.

Texas Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program grants are available to communities, nonprofits and tribes for the acquisition of lands at least five acres in size and 75% forested that provide community benefits and public access.

The program provides community benefits through sustainable forest management, while protecting environmentally important areas threatened by development. 

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