The face of Rural Texas is changing. The size of private farms and ranches has decreased dramatically over the past few decades. Today, 80 percent of Texas’ private land holdings are less than 500 acres.
Many of these properties are now owned by absentee landowners or are being subdivided for mobile home parks, high dollar “ranchettes”, rural housing and industrial developments. Congestion in the cities and metroplexes has increased “urban sprawl.” With a strong economy and increased resources, many people are leaving the urban environment to commute to the country for a taste of country life. Land use on these properties is also changing.
Today, many landowners are shifting away from traditional agriculture operations and land uses such as ranching or farming, either for economic reasons or changes in land-use interests. Managing land and habitat for wildlife is gaining in popularity, whether for trophy white-tailed deer, songbirds, or everything in between.
Recent changes in the property tax laws of Texas have also helped increase interest in wildlife and habitat management. Now, wildlife management as a primary land use can be used to maintain agricultural tax valuation on properties with an existing agricultural tax valuation.
Proposition 11 was passed in 1995 to amend Article VIII, Section 1-d-1 of the Texas Constitution permitting agricultural appraisal for land used to manage wildlife. Landowners and wildlife have both benefited from this change.
However, wildlife and habitat management on these smaller properties can be challenging. Can you really manage habitat for white-tailed deer on 20 acres? No, but there are things landowners can do to benefit wildlife on almost any size property, especially with a little creative thinking.