Preserving Hill Country Open Spaces NOW!

Resources. Networking. Action!

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2020

Wimberley Community Center


Smaller Hill Country communities are rapidly losing open spaces that help protect water resources, wildlife and Hill Country beauty. Public advocates, local officials, and developers will understand the future impacts of development and learn about the latest tools and resources for opens space and park creation. A special panel led by Hays County Commissioner Lon Shell, Hays County Precinct 3, will explore trailblazing county opportunities and strategies for economically successful residential developments that preserve natural resources and appeal to families seeking the best of the Hill Country experience. Will Hays County be the first in Texas to have a one water residential development?


Anyone wanting to learn new strategies for protecting open spaces, including county and local community leaders, advocacy groups and volunteers.


This event has been cancelled due to health and safety concerns with the COVID-19 virus. 


8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

Registration, Coffee and Breakfast Snacks, and Exhibits

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM


9:15 AM - 10:00 AM

KEYNOTE - Texas Land Trends: Changes in people, places, and perspectives

Dr. Roel Lopez, Director, Texas Natural Resources Institute Tx A&M
10:00 AM - 10:15 AM


10:15 AM - 12:00 AM


Ken Cearley, Regional Steward, Texas Agricultural Land Trust
Cliff Kaplan, Program Manager, Hill Country Alliance
Kelly Simon, Urban Wildlife Technical Guidance Program Texas Parks and Wildlife
Mark Steinbach, Executive Director, Texas Land Conservancy
MODERATOR: Carolyn Vogel, Texas Conservation Connection, LLC
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM

LUNCH and Conservation Conversation at Patsy Glenn Refuge

1:15 PM - 3:15 PM

GENERAL SESSION - Neighborhoods in Demand: Green, Sustainable and Profitable

Learn how Hays County can lead the state in true conservation development.
Lon Shell, Hays County Commissioner Precinct 3 and environmental, engineering, design, planning and development experts.
Caitlin Strickland, Development Services Director, Hays County
Steven Spears, FASLA, PLA, AICP, Principal – GroundWork Development Company, Consulting Landscape Architect and Urban Designer – Lionheart Places, LLC

Confirmed Speakers

Lon Shell

Hays County Commissioner, Precinct Three

Lon A. Shell is a local small business owner and the Hays County Commissioner for Precinct 3.  Prior to taking office as Commissioner in 2017, Lon served as Hays County’s Chief of Staff for seven years, where he worked closely with county leadership to coordinate major projects throughout the precinct, including disaster recovery in the wake of devastating flood events in recent years.

Lon has put his business background to work for Hays County, spearheading efforts to pass conservative budgets and adopt the county’s lowest tax rate in over 20 years. He also led the effort to develop and pass a tax freeze for senior citizens and improve countywide emergency communications.

Roel R. Lopez, Ph.D.

Director and Professor
Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute

Dr. Roel Lopez is Director of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute and Professor in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University.  He has over 20 years of natural resource and land management experience with academia, federal and state agencies, and private industry.  His research focuses on endangered and fragmented wildlife populations, sustainability of military lands, and rural land trends and demographics.

Kenneth A. (Ken) Cearley

President of Cornerstone Ranching Solutions®, LLC

Ken is President of Cornerstone Ranching Solutions®, LLC: A Family Ranch and Wildlife Consulting Team.  He is a retired Extension Wildlife Specialist, having worked with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.  He retired in 2014 after 21 years of service with the A&M System.  Based in Amarillo, and with extensive statewide experience, he most recently provided wildlife related land management educational programs for adults and youth in the High Plains and Trans-Pecos regions, emphasizing management for lesser prairie chickens (LPC), quail, pheasants, mule deer, whitetails, pronghorns, playas, feral hogs, and livestock predators.  He served on the LPC Interstate Working Group, and educated landowners on the CCAA, LPC Range-wide Conservation Plan, current status, etc.  Ken began work with the agencies in 1998, serving the western Edwards Plateau, Rolling Plains and Trans-Pecos regions as Wildlife Research Associate from 1998 to 2004.  He previously taught at Sul Ross State University, has worked for ranches in the Edwards Plateau and the Trans-Pecos, was a rancher and wildlife manager in Kendall, Kerr, and Bandera counties for 14 years, and was  involved previously in research projects related to management of predation on livestock, and deer and brush management interactions. He has been a Certified Wildlife Biologist® since 1989. His interests include all aspects of ranch operation, especially the incorporation of wildlife management into traditional ranching and farming activities.

Immediately post-retirement Ken worked for 5 years as Stewardship Director for Texas Agricultural Land Trust (TALT).  In that role he served as liaison with landowners with agricultural easements held by  TALT, conducted annual monitoring visits, wrote baseline reports for easements in process, provided outreach and educational activities, and contributed to conservation easement document development for species and wetlands mitigation banks.  His work included purchased conservation easements as well as those donated.

Ken earned an MS in Range Animal Science from Sul Ross State University in 1996 and a BS in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University in 1976. His studies concentrated on wildlife science, range science, soil science, farm animal physiology, animal reproduction, forest ecology, pasture management, wildlife diseases, and wildlife management techniques. He has an Artificial Insemination Certificate from Medina Valley A.I. School that he earned in 1984. Ken is a member of Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Society for Range Management, Texas Section Society for Range Management, Texas Wildlife Association, The Wildlife Society, and Texas Chapter The Wildlife Society. He is a Director and Region Chair for Texas Wildlife Association, Past President (2012) of the Texas Section Society for Range Management, former Secretary for Texas Chapter The Wildlife Society, and Past President of Texas Brigades youth wildlife leadership camps.

Ken was named the 2015 Sam Beasom Conservation Leader of the Year by the Texas Wildlife Association, won the 2013 Educator of the Year Award by  Texas Chapter The Wildlife Society, and with co-author Chuck Kowaleski was given the 2012 Outstanding Technical Publication Award by Texas Chapter The Wildlife Society for the AgriLife Extension publication After the Conservation Reserve Program: Land Management with Wildlife in Mind.

Cliff Kaplan

Program manager, Hill Country Alliance

Cliff first joined the Hill Country Alliance to coordinate a partnership between HCA and the University of Texas that resulted in the publication of a set of regional conservation strategies. At the completion of that project, Cliff joined the HCA staff to manage regional planning and HCA’s existing Night Skies program.

Before joining HCA, Cliff worked on invasive species management in the field with the Austin Parks Foundation and the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department. He also served on a working group of Austin’s Sustainable Food Policy Board.

Cliff moved to Austin in 2012 to study natural resource planning and environmental policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the University of Texas School of Architecture, Community and Regional Planning Department. He loves the region and working here because of the kind people, rich history, and beautiful environment, and because there is always something new to learn.

Kelly Conrad Simon

Urban Wildlife Biologist, Central Texas
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Texas Wildscapes was developed by Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1995 to assist Texans in creating landscapes that are both visually appealing and attractive to appropriate wildlife.  By providing the elements of habitat (food, shelter, and water) in their gardens, Texans can attract an exciting variety of birds, butterflies, frogs, and lizards and bring the beauty and vitality of nature home. This program is appropriate for any audience.

Kelly Conrad Simon has been with Texas Parks and Wildlife since 1995 and currently serves as the Urban Wildlife Biologist for the Central Texas area.  Her projects generally involve the topics of native planting and wildlife habitat, exotic invasive plants, native wildlife including songbirds and woodrats, and engaging urban students of all ages in the study of nature. Kelly has coordinated the Texas Wildscapes Backyard Wildlife Habitat program and the Texas Hummingbird Round-up with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and is the author of Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife.  Her MS degree was earned in 1995 at Emporia State University (Kansas) and her BA was earned in 1992 at Southwestern University (Georgetown, Texas).

Steven Spears, FASLA, PLA, AICP

Principal, GroundWork Development Company
Consulting Landscape Architect and Urban Designer, Lionheart Places, LLC

Steven Spears, FASLA, PLA, AICP is a landscape architect, community planner, facilitator, urban designer, and developer with over 20 years of professional experience from around the globe. Spears is an American Institute of Certified Planner (AICP) and a Professional Landscape Architect (PLA). In 2015, he was inducted into the American Society of Landscape Architects Council of Fellows (FASLA), one of the highest national distinctions in the history of the profession. Spears is a member of the American Planning Association, Urban Land Institute, and American Society of Landscape Architects. A firm believer in the quadruple bottom line of integrating economic sustainability, environmental sensitivity, community benefit and human sensory, Spears’ planning and design efforts have been recognized throughout the nation, such as Blue Hole Regional Park, Bagby Street and ASLA Green Streets. Spears has a rich portfolio in collaborating with both the public sector and private sector, specifically in placemaking, economic development and environmental sustainability. He provides in depth knowledge on both sides of the table and has built a reputation to lead and manage efforts from initial vision through final implementation.

Mark Steinbach

Executive Director, Texas Land Conservancy

Mark Steinbach has been the Executive Director of the Texas Land Conservancy since 2007. He previously worked at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, where he was a private lands wildlife biologist providing technical assistance to landowners in the Hill Country. He earned his bachelor’s in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and master’s in Rangeland Ecology and Management, both from Texas A&M University. His master’s research focused on Texas landowners and their knowledge of conservation policy and land management techniques. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Montana in Missoula from the College of Forestry and Conservation. His dissertation and post-doctoral work focused on land fragmentation in the Rocky Mountain region.

Carolyn Vogel


Ms. Vogel is a nationally and regionally recognized conservation practitioner. Ms. Vogel has thirty-nine years combined operational, management and organizational development experience in the public, non-profit and for-profit sectors in Texas. Graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in Parks and Recreation, Ms. Vogel enjoyed a 31-year career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. She established the Texas Land Trust Council and served as its founding Executive Director through 2007. Ms. Vogel is president of Texas Conservation Connection LLC and holds a real estate license with Ranch Connection LLC and works in conservation real estate, conservation easement education and organizational development while providing expert assistance and facilitation to conservation organizations, landowners and governments.

Ms. Vogel hails from and is a landowner near Stonewall, in Gillespie County, Texas where her extended family continues a farming-ranching operation established in the 1840s. Ms. Vogel currently offices and resides in Dripping Springs, Texas.