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Water conservation gains backers

By Kelley Shannon , San Angelo Standard Times

1381 days ago   Article ID# 1219231
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Nature Conservancy

SAN ANGELO, TEXAS (San Angelo Standard Times) - A Texas ballot proposal to allow a property tax incentive for good water stewardship on rural land is getting a bipartisan political push and backing from big-city business interests.

The Nature Conservancy of Texas is leading the effort to pass the proposed constitutional amendment known as Proposition 8 on the November ballot.

"The drought and wildfire conditions are actually causing people to get more interested in this," said Laura Huffman, executive director of the Nature Conservancy of Texas. "People are craving practical solutions to complex problems."

The Nature Conservancy and lawmakers who sponsored the proposal announced this past week the political action committee Clean, Reliable Water for Texas was formed to help build voter support.

Initial funding of $100,000 for the political committee is coming from officials at Mary Kay, the Dallas area cosmetics empire, Huffman said.

Mary Kay, a company known for its pink theme and army of female sales consultants, takes part in environmental programs as part of its "pink going green" initiative.

The company did not immediately comment on its donation to the Prop. 8 effort.

Meanwhile, the Greater Houston Partnership business organization recently voted to back Prop. 8, citing the city's reliance on surface water sources.

If voters approve the proposition Nov. 8, landowners would be able to get a property appraisal classification similar to those allowed under state law for farmers and ranchers and for landowners who protect wildlife.

Often that property valuation is lower than the market value and results in a lower tax bill.

The land would have to be in use with an agriculture exemption to get the water stewardship designation.

Private landowners would have to do things like control erosion; manage habitat to benefit water quality or conservation; help restore native aquatic and riverbank plant and animal species; and control invasive aquatic plants and animals.

Certain land in incorporated cities and other developed properties are not eligible.

State officials will set more rules for implementing the water exemption if voters approve it.

Prop. 8 is a good start toward meeting a major water conservation goal in the state's water plan, Huffman said, suggesting the law could become a model for other states.

Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, along with Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, proposed the constitutional amendment and its accompanying legislation.

"This measure was approved unanimously by the Legislature and has the support of farmers, ranchers, landowners, taxpayers' organizations and conservation groups," Watson said.

The Sierra Club and the Texas Wildlife Association also support the proposed amendment. The Texas Farm Bureau has not taken a stand on Prop. 8.

The newly formed political committee will help those working to pass Prop. 8 publicize it through advertising and community forums, Huffman said.

While there is no obvious opposition, Huffman said supporters don't want to take any chances on the ballot language being confusing to Texans when they go to the polls.

"Very few people vote in these kinds of elections, and we want people to understand," she said.

Copyright 2015 San Angelo Standard Times   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1381 days ago   Article ID# 1219231

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