Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is Shield Ranch a Nature Preserve?
A: No. Shield Ranch is a privately-owned family ranch, with permanent protections and stewardship goals to protect and enhance wildlife habitats, water quality, and other environmental features of the property. We also provide nature immersion and education programs through the Shield Ranch Foundation.
Q: Is Shield Ranch open to the public?
A: We are not a public park; however, groups do regularly visit the Ranch by prior arrangement for hikes, birding, and nature education. Visitors include youth groups, school field trips, scouts, master naturalists and others.
Q: Will Shield Ranch ever be developed?
A: Mostly not. The vast majority of the Ranch is protected in perpetuity with conservation easements which prohibit significant development. In some areas, using development rights retained under the easements, we will be adding facilities to include shelters, restrooms and pavilions to enhance program opportunities. There are also a few areas of the ranch that are not encumbered with a conservation easement; however, there are no plans at this time to develop those areas.
Q: Do the conservation easements mean that the Ranch belongs to the Nature Conservancy and the City of Austin?
A: No. The conservation easements are legal agreements that limit development rights on the Ranch and insure that the Ranch will be preserved in keeping with the family’s conservation values. The Nature Conservancy and the City of Austin hold and monitor these easements. They are our partners in conservation and they keep a watchful eye on our activities to make sure we follow these agreements. The Ranch is still a private ranch, owned by the Shield-Ayres-Bowen family.
Q: What is a conservation easement?
A: A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a “holder” of the conservation easement, under which a landowner voluntarily restricts certain uses of the property in order to protect its natural, or cultural features, or its value as productive agricultural land. Easements can be donated (there may be tax benefits to the landowner from a donation) or a landowner is sometimes compensated for an easement. The City of Austin and Travis County both have programs funded by public bond money to incentivize private land conservation. If you’d like more information, you may download the Texas Land Trust Council’s Guide for Texas Landowners. More about Shield Ranch conservation easements here.
Q: Does the Ranch allow hunting?
A: We allow hunting as part of our land stewardship program, we manage the deer population to improve the quality of habitat for deer and other wildlife species. Our hunting lease is currently full.
Q: Why don’t you remove more of the cedar from Shield Ranch?
A: We actually do remove Ashe juniper, known locally as “cedar,” on portions of the Ranch each year as part of our habitat management plan. Removal of Ashe juniper on the Ranch is strategic. In many areas, juniper is deliberately retained to provide wildlife habitat, including nesting habitat for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.
Q: What is the difference between the Shield Ranch Foundation and the Shield-Ayres Foundation?
A: The Shield Ranch Foundation is a nonprofit (501c3) private operating foundation organized by the owners of Shield Ranch to share the Ranch in ways that educate, inspire and transform. The Shield Ranch Foundation operates El Ranchito and hosts other programs on the Ranch.
The Shield-Ayres Foundation is a philanthropic grant making foundation created by the Ayres Family in 1977. The Shield-Ayres Foundation strengthens organizations that effectively meet the basic human needs of the most vulnerable members of our community, provide access to educational opportunities and the arts, advocate for social justice, and promote land and water conservation.