Protect the Land
Stop what you are doing and look down. Is there land underneath you? Maybe not if you are on a boat, but even then you will have to come back to dry land eventually! We all need a physical space. That "we" includes billions of people, but also billions more plants and animals. Many of those plants and animals are not in good shape. Habitat loss is a major threat to wildlife. If we expect to continue receiving resources and services from nature like clean water, clean air, and raw materials to make our goods, we need to protect land and habitat.
San Antonio, and the state of Texas, have a rich network of parks that encourage people of all ages to enjoy the outdoors, but there are many ways to protect land. Major efforts to protect and preserve land associated with the Edwards Aquifer are spread throughout San Antonio. One way everyday San Antonians are becoming sustainability leaders is through conservation easements.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Using fewer resources is a great way to protect nature. Using less is easy when you remember your three R's: reduce, then reuse, then recycle. Follow the three R's by asking "Do I need this or do I want this?" then say, "If I have to buy this, can it be reused and recycled later?"
Reducing is the best of the three R's. You might find that reducing is actually cheaper in the long term. Try using dish cloths and cloth napkins instead of paper towel and paper napkins, carry a reusable water bottle with you, absolutely always say no to plastic straws. If you cannot find a way to avoid buying something, always try to buy that product in a way that will allow you to use a piece of it later. This is the second R, reuse. When your old clothes are too worn out to be donated, try cutting them up for cleaning clothes or for washing the dog. You can reuse other things like rubber-bands and twisty ties that come in packaging, or plastic shopping bags and used ziploc bags to pick up dog waste. Finally, when you cannot reduce or reuse, always try to recycle.
A great example of the three R's can be shown using tomato sauce. The best way to get tomato sauce is to grow or buy local tomatoes and make your own (reduce). If you do not have the time or skills to make your own, buy tomato sauce in a glass jar, and use that glass jar to store leftovers, dried beans, beads, or pencils after the jar is cleaned (reuse). Finally, when the jar is no longer useful, properly recycle it according to your city's regulations (recycle).
protecting land through the Headwaters Sanctuary
Another preservation tool is a nature sanctuary. Headwaters at Incarnate Word is the nonprofit organization that protects the 53-acre Headwaters Sanctuary. The Headwaters Sanctuary is special because it is a place for wildlife, a place in history, and a place for people to reflect. There are many reasons to protect this land.
The Sanctuary is mostly riparian forest. This forest is used as habitat for many types of plants and animals. Protecting any and all native wildlife increases biodiversity. Biodiversity is what ensures there is wildlife left after an extreme natural event like a flood or drought. The riparian vegetation does many things. Root structures keep soil and river banks from eroding and being washed away. The vegetation slows and filters water before it enters the river or creek. Canopy, the layer of tree leaves and branches in the air, keeps the river from getting boiling hot during Texas summers. Plants provide food for animals and support a healthy food web.
The Sanctuary also protects part of the rich history of the city of San Antonio. The river and its headwaters have made living in this area possible for at least 12,000 years. After Spanish colonization, the water revered as sacred by indigenous people was channeled to provide irrigation for the missions. Now, the San Antonio River Walk connects the missions and brings prosperity to the San Antonio economy. Still sacred to this day, areas along the river like the Blue Hole remind us that without the river, there would be no city.
The Headwaters Sanctuary connects us to nature. Green spaces can improve mental and physical health. The Sanctuary is a quiet place near the city center. People can use the land to meditate, reflect on their day, or simply clear their minds as they walk the trails. Headwaters offers many offerings like nature walks, birding, workshops, films, lectures, and tours that teach the community about this hidden jewel.
The Headwaters Sanctuary helps us understand the complex relationships people have had with the San Antonio River, and between ourselves, for the past 12,000 years.It is important we protect areas like the Headwaters Sanctuary so we can continue to provide a home for plants and animals. The river, the surrounding land, and its inhabitants, provide us with services like water purification and nutrient cycling. To ensure we can continue to receive these services, we must protect the land. Use your three R's to decrease the amount of trash that ends up in the river. Learn more about protecting the Headwaters Sanctuary on our Support and Donate pages.
Landscape for nature
Did you know that you can help the environment and native animals without leaving your property? Gardening and landscaping can provide crucial resources for native wildlife, including the magnificent monarch butterfly. Instead of filling your yard with non-native, water-thirsty grass, try wildscaping. Many native and non-native plants are drought resistant, but only native plants provide the appropriate food and shelter native animals need. For more information on wildscaping, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
You can combat invasives across Texas through Texasinvasives.org. These are just a few of the MANY citizen science opportunities around the state and country.