Land transformations in the Bastrop County Colorado River Valley
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This study is an investigation of land transformations along the Colorado River in Bastrop County, Texas, and a presentation of planning suggestions to protect and improve the ecology of the river corridor. The rapid population growth experienced in central Texas over the last few decades has manifested itself in extensive land use changes. The Colorado River Valley in Bastrop County has experienced this development in some areas, although, as a whole, it has remained largely agricultural in nature, with more extensive changes occurring in adjacent Travis, Hays, and Williamson Counties to the west. As land values increase and the stock of undeveloped land dwindles, developers are turning their attention east to Bastrop County. This study primarily utilizes historic aerial maps to identify changes along the Colorado River corridor in Bastrop County. The choice of the river corridor as the extent of the study area was made because of the disproportionate importance of this land area for environmental systems services, the myriad contributions that the ecological community provides to humanity and agriculture. This study’s primary purpose is to create a baseline documentation of the corridor’s existing condition and a menu of recommendations to promote intelligent growth. The study pays special attention to the present and historic extent of the riparian forest (the forest that brackets the river), as this is the “natural” land use that existed prior to Anglo settlement. The study identifies specific instances and trends in land use, which, due to their degree and extent, are having adverse ecological and hydrological impacts. These include industrial, commercial, and residential development, as well as gravel mining and large infrastructure projects.