Sisters of Charity of Incarnate Word Sign Conservation Easement to Protect San Antonio River Headwaters

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Last week, The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word closed their sesquicentennial ceremony by signing a conservation easement agreement to protect the San Antonio River headwaters.

The easement, signed in partnership with Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas, will preserve in perpetuity a 50-acre natural area surrounding the headwaters.

"Preserving the Earth's resources is foundational to Catholic social teaching, as most recently expressed through Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si," the Sisters said in a statement. "It is crucial to safeguarding our long-term future."

For centuries, the origin of the San Antonio River has remained hidden on the property where the University of Incarnate Word currently resides. The cold, clear water, also known as the Blue Hole, is the main spring that feeds San Antonio's iconic river.

The Sisters, who originally came to San Antonio to care for victims of a massive cholera epidemic, bought the property from Colonel George W. Brackenridge in 1897. Much of the original 280 acres was used to establish the university, but the Sisters set aside the last 53 acres to protect the green space surrounding the headwaters.

It was the vision of the Headwaters at Incarnate Word, the Sisters' Earth care ministry, to eventually establish a conservation easement that would protect the forested property and nature sanctuary. Upon celebrating 150 years of ministry, this vision became a reality on July 22.

"San Antonians desperately need more wild spaces to foster the understanding and experience that compel us to care for our water, air, land and wildlife," the Sisters' said in their statement.

The Headwaters Sanctuary protected in the easement includes not only the Blue Hole, but 1/3 mile of Olmos Creek and a spring-filled forest that provides a barrier from urban runoff into the river.

The Sanctuary is a natural habitat for fish, wildlife and plants and an urban oasis for resident birds and migratory songbirds, with a growing list of over 90 species documented in the Headwaters property.

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