Don’t Blow It: Texas Leaders Unite in Support of Thoughtful Regulation of Wind Energy Development

Statewide initiative reveals environmental, cultural and economic implications of wind energy encroachment to iconic landscapes

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS (January 24, 2018) – The Devils River Conservancy (DRC), is a community of people committed to treasuring, preserving and protecting the Devils River, the last wild and pristine river in Texas, its springs and the lands within its watershed in Val Verde County. Recently, 140,000 acres of land in the Devils River Basin and in close proximity to Laughlin Air Force Base, were purchased by foreign industrialists with plans for wind farm development. In response, the DRC has launched the “Don’t Blow It” campaign to advocate for thoughtful regulation of wind energy development.

For years, Texas has led the United States in wind-powered generation capacity. While the DRC recognizes the value and importance of renewable energy, it urges Texans to “Don’t Blow It” by placing renewable energy in locations that negatively impact the state’s few remaining unspoiled landscapes, ecologically and culturally significant areas, military operations, border security or the communities that depend on these assets.

“Wind energy infrastructure requires disturbance of a significant amount of land per megawatt generated; more than most other alternative energy sources,” said Ralph Duggins, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission chair. “Now is the time to shape the future for renewable energy development in Texas and protect iconic, wildscapes like the Val Verde County river basins for future generations. As our population continues to grow and wild places diminish, we need to develop by design and encourage the wind energy industry to utilize appropriate locations and save wild Texas.”

Texas leaders supporting the initiative acknowledge the permanent landscape scars and adverse affects wind energy infrastructure has on: The limited public parklands in Texas Laughlin Air Force Base Border security operations

“The Lower Pecos and Devils River country represents one of the last true bastions of wildness in our state. The region is home to an abundance of rare and unique species, spectacularly clear, and clean, spring-fed waters, and stunning vistas that have largely gone undisturbed for generations. Thanks to the longstanding stewardship of the area ranch families, private landowners, and conservation organizations, the area is without a doubt cherished by residents and visitors as one of Texas’ most special places,” said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) executive director. “For decades, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has proudly been a part of those efforts with its ownership of public lands like Seminole Canyon and the Devils River State Natural Area. Protecting the biological health and integrity of the lower Pecos and Devils River watersheds, as well as conserving the area’s wide-open spaces and dark skies, are fundamental to our work there, now and to come. Proposals to further intensively develop the area surrounding the Devil’s River run counter to many of the values that ranchers and conservationists, biologists and outdoor enthusiasts alike have labored long and hard to protect. The vision championed by landowners and groups like the Devils River Conservancy to protect and pass on the intrinsic character and wildness of the region is fully supported by TPWD.”

“Wind farms in Val Verde County pose an attendant threat to military training airspace, border security operations and public parklands,” said Skip Baker, Military Affairs Association president. “Responsible consideration of location must be considered in renewable energy development. Wind turbines create airspace hazards and compromise air traffic safety for Laughlin Air Force pilots at the largest training program in the U.S. by interfering with radio signals, potentially reducing their number of effective training days.”

Wind farms are heavily supported by government subsidies, paid by U.S. taxpayer dollars. In addition, the closer wind farm developments are to our borders, the greater threat they pose to the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to effectively secure our nation.

To learn more about Don’t Blow It and ways to support protection of the wild side of Texas, please visit,


ABOUT DEVILS RIVER CONSERVANCY The Devils River Conservancy, a 501 (c)3 organization committed to treasuring, preserving and protecting the Devils River, its springs and the lands within its water catchment area. The Devils River is a place many consider to be the last pristine river in Texas. Through education, research and advocacy, the DRC is on a mission to ensure the river’s clean, clear waters and springs will continue to flow according to their historical and natural regimes for future generations. To learn more about the Devils River Conservancy, visit To find out how you can help protect Val Verde County’s unique natural and scenic treasures from wind farm encroachment, visit

Study Links groundwater with surface water in the Devils River

Austin — September 18, 2017 — A study sponsored by Devils River Conservancy provides detailed models linking groundwater in a Texas aquifer to the surface flows in one of the state’s most pristine rivers. The study shows how karstic pathways of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer follow the same channels as the Devils River watershed, creating natural springs that sustain the river.


“Natural springs play the major role in sustaining flows in rivers located in a semi-arid climate that experiences extended dry periods,” said Dr. Green, lead hydrologist on the project. “This study clearly illustrates the linkage of groundwater flow with surface-water flow in the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer located within the Devils River watershed.”


The headwaters to the Devils River are located in Crockett, Schleicher and Sutton counties, semi-arid landscapes with limited development. The Devils River runs 93 miles southwest into Val Verde County and Lake Amistad near the border with Mexico in southwest Texas. As a key tributary of the Rio Grande, the river provides essential freshwater flows to South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.


The research team replicated hydraulics in the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer by coupling computer models of surface water and groundwater. The models were conceptualized and developed with a broad range of data sets, including precipitation, run-off, surface-water flow, and water extraction records. The models show, for the first time, the strong interaction between pumping groundwater and spring discharge in the river channels.


Groundwater pumping in the upper watershed is limited to domestic livestock, a few irrigation wells, and the city of Sonora. Combined, those activities account for 3,000 to 7,000 acre-feet of annual pumping, starting in the 1960s. However, the water budget of the watershed is not well constrained due to unmetered wells and unreported pumping, according to the study.

Computer models were developed to test variable precipitation and recharge in the presence of different pumping scenarios and to simulate their effects on spring discharge in the upper portion of the river. The shifting of the headwaters downstream could be explained, Green said, by diminished spring discharge associated with the onset of pumping in the 1960s. The models indicate that this pumping led to “dewatering” Beaver Lake, a former perennial lake that is about 10 miles upstream from the current headwaters located at Pecan or Hudspeth Springs. Results from the study indicate that limited extraction of groundwater can impact a river in a semi-arid climate.


“The DRC is an honest broker in the long term protection of the Devils River,” said David Honeycutt, DRC founder. “The science produced from this model illustrates that there has been significant historical drawdown on the flows of The Devils River and that any commercial harvesting of groundwater for exportation in northern Val Verde County will have an adverse effect on the necessary environmental flows to maintain the unique fauna of this special and threatened river. This model allows us to prove that fact.”

“This study provides, for the first time, the means to evaluate the relationship between groundwater pumping and spring discharge in the semi-arid environment encountered in the Edwards Plateau,” said Green. “These tools allow for water managers to evaluate water-resource strategies when administering the stewardship of this valuable resource.”

Integrated Groundwater and Surface Water Flow Model Funding

News Release
Media Contact:, 512-482-4412

May 23, 2017

Meadows Foundation Grants $75,000 to Devils River Conservancy for an Integrated Groundwater- Surface Water Flow Model

AUSTIN — The Devils River Conservancy, a 501(c)3 organization created to protect what is considered the most ecologically intact Texas river, has been granted $75,000 by the Meadows Foundation to develop an Integrated Surface Water- Groundwater Flow Model for the Devils River basin in Val Verde County. The Devils is 100% dependent on groundwater that springs from the karst limestone formations of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer and is a major tributary to the Rio Grande. The research supported by this grant builds upon recent hydrologic studies and expands the understanding of the relationship between surface and groundwater. This model aims to aid the water management in the Devils River basin by providing an in-depth understanding of the hydrology and effects of groundwater pumping. “The Meadows Foundation is pleased to play a role to fill in this important research gap and to protect the Devils River for future generations of Texans,” said Mike McCoy, Senior Program Officer with The Meadows Foundation.

“Texas is blessed with both resources and economic growth, but is challenged with how to balance the two. This research is an important step towards unlocking what’s been termed the mysterious or occult nature of groundwater, and should aid the management of the resources and protection of the Devils“, stated Randy Nunns, president of the Devils River Conservancy.

TPWD Announces New Paddler Camp Sites on Iconic Devils River

Feb. 16, 2017

AUSTIN – The Devils River is one of the premier paddling and fishing destinations in Texas, drawing outdoor enthusiasts each year to enjoy the preserved natural beauty, excellent sport fishery, and native wildlife along its clear waters. But the river is not for the faint of heart.

“Due to the remote location of the Devils River, safe, reliable, and legal camp sites on the river are in short supply,” said Joe Joplin, Devils River State Natural Area superintendent. “The average paddler doesn’t make 15 miles in a day, and if they do, it’s not enjoyable.”

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), along with local partners, aims to change that. To help create safe conditions for the recreational use of the Devils River and help minimize trespassing issues, the TPWD River Access and Conservation Area Program (RACA) will open two paddle-up-only camp sites March 1.

According to Timothy Birdsong, Habitat Conservation Chief for TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division, the new pack-in, pack-out camp sites aren’t designed to add more paddlers to the river, but rather to provide safe and legal stopping points for the daily limit of TPWD permitted paddlers.

“The reaches of river between Baker’s Crossing, and the Del Norte and Dan A. Hughes Units of our Devils River State Natural Area are relatively long distances, so we strategically added these camp sites roughly mid-distance to create a more safe and enjoyable experience for paddlers,” Birdsong said.

TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith said by adding the two new paddle-up only campsites, the organization is setting the conditions to ensure permitted paddlers can explore the river safely and maintain the high standards of river stewardship that will preserve its unique beauty for generations to come.

“I’m proud of what the TPWD River Access Conservation Area Program and our Devils River State Natural Area have been able to do to address the desires and concerns of both local landowners and devoted Devils River paddlers,” Smith said. “This is a win-win deal for everyone who appreciates and respects this iconic Texas river.”

To help promote river use etiquette and river stewardship by paddlers, TPWD is partnering with the Devils River Conservancy (DRC), a nonprofit organization made up of landowners and conservationists whose mission is to preserve and protect the Devils River and the lands within its watershed. Through this partnership, both organizations will be collaborating on an educational video and Devils River Paddler Manual that will be distributed among local guides and vendors to prepare paddlers for overnight trips on the Devils River and help address issues encountered on the water.

“The Devils River is a precious and delicate resource; it cannot sustain unmanaged human pressure without degradation,” the DRC said in a statement provided to TPWD. “The Devils River Conservancy is happy to partner with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in engaging landowners in the active management of recreation on the Devils River.”

“We hope that the implementation of the designated campsites will decrease the overall impact of human pressure on the river while honoring the private property rights of its land stewards,” the statement continued. “Moving forward, this partnership aims to cultivate the ‘leave no trace’ ethos for the protection for this wild and beloved Texas River for generations to come."

These new paddle-up-only camp sites are the newest additions to TPWD’s statewide network of 19 River Access and Conservation Areas, which offer improved angler and paddler access to more than 100 miles of Texas rivers. The program is funded through federal grants provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and through philanthropy efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.

A Devils River Access Permit (DRAP) is required for all trips on the Devils River that access the two units of the Devils River State Natural Area or these two new paddle-up-only camp sites. Visit the Devils River State Natural Area website for reservations, maps, permits and other information.

‘Save the Devils’ Rallies Diverse Crowd in Austin

A diverse group of Texans, all with a keen interest in land and water conservation, gathered in Austin February 25 to learn more about the Devils River—the threats it is facing and the future of its flows.

A standing-room-only crowd listened to Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), who spoke eloquently of the rich biological diversity of the Devils River basin with its spring-fed clear waters that cut through deep limestone canyons and wooded riparian corridors.

Carter Smith addressing a crowd of Devils River supporters at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue.

Carter Smith addressing a crowd of Devils River supporters at Lamberts Downtown Barbecue.

This 94-mile river, located in a rough-hewn landscape of southwest Texas, originates in Sutton County, flows through Val Verde County, and empties in to Amistad Reservoir. The Devils is considered by many as the most pristine, pure river in Texas, and Mr. Smith lauded the Devils River Conservancy (DRC) as a group working to keep it that way.

The purpose of the conservation community gathering was an awareness and fund raising event for the DRC, a non-profit organization formed in 2011 by Devils River basin landowners. Eight board members direct the work of the DRC primarily in the areas of science, advocacy, and education. 

“The DRC is here to stay; our singular mission is to protect and preserve the Devils River and its stream flows and habitat for future generations of Texans,” explained DRC board president, David Honeycutt. “This is the most important conservation story in Texas for our generation, and we have one chance to get it right.”

Attendees at the Austin event came from all parts of the state and represented a broad, diverse group eager to support the DRC mission to treasure, preserve, and protect the Devils River and the lands within its watershed. Four former heads of The Nature Conservancy-Texas chapter were in attendance, as well as other landholders along the Devils, biologists, hydrologists, ranchers, attorneys, real estate professionals, fellow non-profit organizations, and some very generous donors.

A conservation ethic was palatable in the room as images of the Devils River flashed across the screen. The theme of the evening was, “It’s not easy to save a river,” but when all was said and done, it appeared that might be possible after all.

Proposal to Ship Valve Verde Groundwater to San Antonio Ignites Binational Opposition

Water users throughout the semi-desert region stretching along the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo are uniting in staunch opposition to a plan to pump and export more than 16 BILLION gallons of groundwater a year from the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer for use in San Antonio.

The plan—being promoted by the V.V. Water Company, Beeville—aims to cash in on water demand facing the San Antonio Water System and other west Texas cities without accounting for the severe impact to both ground- and surface water resources in Val Verde County and the water users who live there: irrigated agriculture, municipal suppliers, local industrial, mining, livestock, and rural domestic users; and wildlife species.

As much as 37 percent of the flow in the lower Rio Grande/Rio Bravo comes from the limestone karst of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer. Lower groundwater levels resulting from such excessive pumping would diminish freshwater springs that feed the Devils River and other water bodies that in turn flow into the international Amistad Reservoir and the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo and their tributaries on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.

Despite the very real risks, the impacts of such large scale pumping have not been adequately evaluated. Nor have the international implications to the shared water resources of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo been assessed.

On January 8, the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority affirmed a resolution “specifically oppos[ing] the exportation of groundwater from Dimmit and Val Verde Counties . . . until such time as the environmental, social and economic impacts to the RGRWA and the Rio Grande Basin and its tributaries are better understood.”

On January 13, the Asociación Ganadera Local de Acuña (an association of ranchers and cattle raisers in northern Coahuila, Mexico) wrote the San Antonio Water System (View Letter of Protest PDF) advising that its members “join with our neighbors in Val Verde County and downriver in opposing these water marketing and export ventures that will adversely affect our water supplies. We will work with our neighbors, through Mexico's agreements with the United States, to protect our shared water resources and the ecological benefits that the water provides to all of the people in this region.”

These latest protests augment an already escalating criticism from diverse interests, including the Devils River Conservancy, City of Del Rio, City of Laredo, Uvalde County, Rio Grande Regional Water Planning Group, Southwest Water Alliance, numerous Catholic and other faith-based organizations, and many citizens from both sides of the border.

Fact sheet on the issue.