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 introduce new strategies for successful residential development that preserve natural resources and appeal to families seeking the best of the Hill Country experience.


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


Your registration is underwritten by the Jacob & Terese Hershey Foundation. Registration is limited, so sign up now to join us. 


7:30 AM - 9:00 AM

Registration, continental breakfast and exhibits

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM


Andrew Sansom, Ph.D., Founder, Professor of Practice, Department of Geography, Texas State University
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 - 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
Lori Olson, Executive Director, Texas Land Trust Council
11:30 AM - 1:00 PM


1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

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

Learn in depth about new models that can transform residential developers into local conservation heroes.
Lon Shell, Hays County Commissioner Precinct 3 and environmental, engineering, design, planning and development experts.
3:15 PM - 4:00 PM

OPTIONAL - Finish the day with a guided tour of the iconic Blue Hole Regional Park

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.

Blair Calvert Fitzsimons

Regional Steward, Texas Agricultural Land Trust

Ken Cearley ’s life has been shaped by a love for the land and a desire to help those who steward it. “As a child, I fell in love with the land,” says Ken. “My entire career has focused on our rural heritage and helping landowners sustain their agricultural operations.”

After graduating from Texas A&M University with a BS in Wildlife Science, he worked in the Texas Hill Country as a ranch and wildlife manager, then as a rancher, raising his family on the land. Eventually, he returned to school, earning a MS in Range Animal Science from Sul Ross State University, leading to a career that included university-level teaching at Sul Ross and outreach through Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, in West Central Texas the Trans-Pecos and the High Plains.

Ken is a leader in the Texas Wildlife Association, in the Texas Chapter -The Wildlife Society, Past President of the Texas Section of the Society for Range Management, and Past President of Texas Brigades (a collection of youth wildlife leadership camps). He was drawn to TALT because the organization, through conservation easements, gives landowners a practical tool that allows them to pass their land to the next generation while helping stem the tide of land fragmentation that threatens agricultural lands and open space in Texas. As a former rancher and ranch manager, Ken understands the challenges that landowners face.

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).

Lori Olson

Place 1, Wimberley ISD

A native Texan, Lori has lived in Wimberley since 2006 and has served as a trustee since 2015. She served two years as board secretary and continues in her second year as the district’s representative to the TASB Delegate Assembly, developing the shared legislative agenda for all Texas school boards. Lori also served on the district Facilities and Strategic Planning Committees. She and her husband have two daughters in junior high who have attended WISD since Pre-K. Lori has enjoyed supporting their teachers over the years as class mom and volunteer, with gratitude for the wonderful WISD teachers and administrators who give so much to students and also appreciation for the many parents and students she has met over the years whose diversity strengthen the Wimberley community.

During the past 20 years, Lori has worked for various land and water conservation organizations across the country, including in Hays and surrounding counties. Since 2011, she has served as the Executive Director of the Texas Land Trust Council, a statewide association of 30 non-profit organizations, including the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, preserving Texas’ most precious lands and waters. She is actively managing a diverse coalition of organizations, undertaking land conservation advocacy and outreach.

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.