View this email in your browser
Photo courtesy of Jacob Gonzalez

Highlights and Takeaways: The 2022 Hill Country Leadership Summit

Dear Hill Country Friends and Neighbors,

Fall marks the season for workshops, potlucks, conferences, and of course, HCA’s signature event- the Hill Country Leadership Summit. This year our theme was Our Shared Stories: Past, Present, and Future. We brought together more than 250 attendees – both online and in-person – eager to learn about conservation strategies, discuss complex natural resource challenges and solutions, and connect with community leaders across the Hill Country. 

We kicked things off with an inspiring panel on storytelling, bringing together Juan Martinez-Pineda from The Aspen Institute, Maria Rocha from the Indigenous Cultures Institute, Katy Baldock from Fin & Fur Films, and Vanessa Torres from The National Parks Service. They discussed the variety of perspectives each of us brings to conservation, ways to engage new and changing audiences in the outdoors, and the intrinsic ties between the natural world and culture. Rocha, an elder of the Miakan-Garza Band of the Coahuiltecan people, spoke to this connection.

“According to archaeologists, our story goes back at least 14,000 years, but according to our people it goes back to the very beginning.” Rocha shared more on “Napako,” the Coahuiltecan creation story, as well as the indigenous history behind the four great springs of Texas and reminded attendees that “We are all living on sacred lands - this Hill Country, the springs, all throughout Texas...we’re all now the stewards of that ancient story.”

The first panel on storytelling is recorded and publicly available at Additional recordings will be shared through the Hill Country Alliance YouTube Channel and website.

Keynote speaker David Buggs, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, spoke on “Different Shades of Green,” highlighting both the need to engage diverse audiences and to actively foster a sense of belonging in our state parks, environmental work, and conservation as a whole amid changing state demographics. Believe it or not, he got our whole audience singing—on more than one occasion!

“Don’t do anything for me without me,” Buggs stressed, to illustrate how crucial it is to seek out new partners from historically excluded communities and to fully engage with the diversity of Texas.

Celebrating Heart of the Hill Country Award Winners

We had the distinct honor of celebrating Carolyn Chipman Evans, CEO of the Cibolo Center for Conservation and David Baker, Founder & Executive Director of the Watershed Association and Art4Water with the Heart of the Hill Country Award. They have both spent decades working within their communities to preserve our region’s unique resources and to educate and inspire others to do the same. These beautiful awards were designed and crafted by Hill Country artist J.J. Priour using Cordova limestone and glass, and were presented by previous Heart of the Hill Country winners Christy Muse and Karen Ford.
The rest of the day was filled with learning and inspiration. We covered topics ranging from spring flow to night skies preservation and the challenges facing rural communities like Leakey, TX.
A panel on spring flows highlighted the state of springs in the Hill Country. From right to left: Vanessa Puig-Williams of the Environmental Defense Fund (and current Chair of the Hill Country Alliance Board of Directors), Dr. Robert Mace, Executive Director of The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Mitchell Sodek, General Manager of the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District.
The final session of the day featured a conversation with regional elected officials, moderated by Hill Country Alliance board member David Yeates. State Representative Erin Zwiener (Hays and Blanco Counties), Kendall County Commissioner Don Durden, and Kimble County Judge-elect Hal Rose sat together, discussing their views on issues that span the Hill Country – focusing on growth, its challenges, and tools available for community planning.

Thank you to all who joined us!

Click here to explore photos from the 2022 Hill Country Leadership Summit - Our Shared Stories: Past, Present, and Future, hosted at The Hall at Jester King Brewery. Photography courtesy of Jacob Gonzalez.

Spotlight: Resources from the Summit

We want the voices, stories, and perspectives of the Summit to continue to ripple outward and inspire your work in our region. Check out several videos below from Summit presenters and find ways to share their message with the wider world!
Napako - Our Journey
Learn more about the Coahuiltecan creation story described in the storytelling panel. This video was produced by The Indigenous Cultures Institute (ICI) and The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. Click here to learn more.
In addition to creating a phenomenal documentary, Fin & Fur Films produced a series of free educational video clips for use in schools and informal learning environments that combine TEKS and NGSS-aligned lessons with Texas conservation stories. Lessons and resources are available in English and Spanish. Click to explore.
Beneath the Surface and Above
Groundwater and surface water are deeply connected in Texas and need to be managed as one. Watch and share this video from Environmental Defense Fund which dives underground to show groundwater in action. Click to share.
It is events like the Summit that inspire, uplift, and encourage us in our work moving forward. If you weren’t able to join us this year, I hope you’ll make it in 2023. Thank you for all you do for the Hill Country.

Katherine Romans
Executive Director
Did you attend the 2022 Hill Country Leadership Summit? If so, we want to hear from you! Please click the link below to take a brief survey to inform future Leadership Summit planning efforts. 

Click here to submit feedback.
Forward to a Friend

Copyright © 2022 - All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 151675  |  Austin, TX 78715 |

Contact us at: 
(512) 894-2214  |

You have received this email through your subscription to Hill Country Alliance's email list.
Subscribe | Unsubscribe