New and experienced Texas landowners alike have a variety of organizations to collaborate with and tools at their disposal to become involved in the conservation of the state’s natural resources. Whether it’s land, water, or the wide array of flora and fauna that make their home in Texas, landowners can use the aggregated resources and tools that are featured in Texan by Nature’s Landowner Guide for Conservation and Land Management to engage in meaningful conservation efforts. With roughly 95% of land in Texas privately owned (Texas Land Trends), it is essential for landowners to participate in conservation stewardship and ensure our natural resources flourish for generations of Texans to come.
With 12 distinct eco-regions, the 172 million acres of Texas terrain offer a wide range of landscapes, from mountains in West Texas to coastal plains in East Texas. To best understand the conditions that shape your land like annual precipitation and soil type, you can reference this map to find out which ecoregion you are located in.
Once you have determined the ecoregion, there are a variety of land management strategies that can be used to restore and maintain the native ecosystems present on your land. Landscaping with native plants is a simple solution that provides habitat and food for native species; find which plants are native to your region here. A hands-off approach can also be an effective land management strategy to establish plant biodiversity – landowners can consider not mowing or mowing a small portion of land to allow a biodiverse range of plants to take root. A variety of plants can support a variety of animals, promoting a healthy ecosystem on your land.
Habitat Restoration Examples:
- Playa Restoration Guide – Playa Lakes Joint Venture
- EOG Resources’ Pollinator Habitat – Texan by Nature Business Member Project
- Sandia Springs Wetlands Project – Texan by Nature Certified
- 7 Oaks Ward Walker Ranch – Texan by Nature Certified
- Spread Oaks Ranch – Texan by Nature Certified
- John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
- Quail Ranch
- Lone Star Land Steward Awards
To protect these native ecosystems on your land, consider implementing a Conservation Easement. A Conservation Easement is a voluntary agreement between a private landowner and a government agency, land trust, or other conservation organization, to limit or restrict certain activities on private land in perpetuity. For example, there may be restrictions on subdividing or developing your property, while ensuring your right to continue ranching, farming, hunting, and otherwise maintaining the rural lifestyle. As a landowner, you can continue to live on the land, sell it, or pass it on to future generations, but the conservation easement will remain intact. Other easement agreements may focus on timber management, energy development, or other natural resources. An easement holder, such as a land trust, ensures that the easement is maintained by periodically checking that the easement provisions are upheld. More information on conservation easements can be found here.
Conservation Easement Resources:
- Conservation Easements Guide – Texas Land Trust Council
- Questions and Answers on Conservation Easements – Rensselaer Land Trust
- Facts (and Myths) about Conservation Easements – American Forest Foundation
Of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the United States, 7 are in Texas. While this presents an opportunity for economic growth, it also presents a challenge as the demand for water in the municipal, industrial, and agricultural sectors grows. Innovation that includes conservation, industry, landowners, and communities is a must to meet the challenge.
According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, irrigation and livestock together use about 78% of all groundwater, and agriculture uses about 33% of all surface water used in Texas. If you’re a landowner whose land is used for agriculture, one conservation measure you can take is investing in water efficiency. Water conservation happens on a large and small scale, from fixing dripping faucets to innovations in reclaimed and recycled water. Landowners can efficiently irrigate crops and maintain soil moisture by installing low-pressure sprinklers (i.e. drip irrigation) and lining irrigation canals with pipelines to prevent leaks. Landowners and the general public can conserve water by repairing leaks and investing in water-saving technologies like low-flow toilets.
- Best Management Practices for Agricultural Water Users – Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)
- Groundwater Conservation District Index – Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts
- Water Conservation in Texas: Opportunities and Challenges – Texas Agriculture Land Trust
- How’s My Waterway – Environmental Protection Agency
- Texas Water Dashboard – U.S. Geological Survey
PLANTS & WILDLIFE
Landowners can participate in various programs to promote and maintain plants and wildlife. Even small projects that focus on benefitting one plant or animal species can positively impact other plants and animals in the same ecosystem. These projects can also save you money through tax exemption.
Some landowners can purchase land that is already under a tax-exempt status, or you can apply for exemptions. With an agricultural or timber exemption certificate, landowners are exempt from tax on the purchase of items that are directly used to produce agricultural and timber products being grown commercially. Agricultural exemptions can also be converted to a wildlife exemption status, which lets you keep your property taxes low by performing activities aimed at helping native Texas wildlife rather than, or alongside, traditional agriculture uses.
In regions where the landscape evolved with naturally occurring wildfires, prescribed burns may benefit the plant and animal life on your land. Prescribed burns are controlled low-intensity fires that remove excess brush and clear space for seeds to take root. A prescribed burn should be performed only by trained professionals, such as Prescribed Burn Alliance of Texas or Texas A&M Forest Service. Read How Fire Makes a Forest to learn how the Texas Longleaf Team implements prescribed burns. Additionally, consult the NRCS Conservation Practice guide to learn about the uses and risks of prescribed burns.
Plants and Wildlife Resources
- Native Plants of North America Database – Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
- Landowner Assistance – Texas Longleaf Team
- Wildlife Exemption in Texas – Plateau Land & Wildlife Management
- Texas Wildlife Exemptions Explained – TexasLand
- Fire Information: Overview of Prescribed Burns – Texas A&M Forest Service
- Monarch Butterfly Landowner Guide – Texan by Nature
- Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project – San Antonio Zoo
As a Texas landowner, you can diversify your profit stream by claiming carbon credits through the conservation work you do on your land. When you claim these credits on a registry, private companies can purchase these credits from you through your registry to counterbalance their CO2 emissions from their operations. Your land can store carbon above ground as well as below ground through the root system and soil. Learn more about carbon credits and get involved in the right program for you through the resources below.
- Carbon Markets Fact Sheet – Texas A&M Forest Service
- Carbon Storage and Credits – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
- Determining if Soil Carbon Storage Markets are Right for You – Texas Agricultural Land Trust
- Emission Reduction Credit Program – Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
As a Texas landowner, you have the opportunity to strengthen your connection to natural resources and continue the forward momentum of conservation in the Lonestar State. Being a steward of the native species and ecosystems that make their homes on privately owned land is one way to preserve Texas’ rich natural history and preserve it for the future.
Additional Tools & Resources for Landowners:
- Map My Property – Texas A&M Forest Service
- Mapping with the Map My Property Tool – Tutorial on how to use the tool above
- Conservation Resources of Landowners – Audubon Texas
- New Landowners – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
- 5 Ways to Be a Successful Texas Land and Wildlife Steward – Texan by Nature
- Video: Resources for New Landowners in Texas – Texas A&M Wildlife and Fisheries Extension
Visit our Landowner Guide for Conservation and Land Management for the latest and email us at email@example.com if you have additional resources to add to the guide!
- Carbon Credits – A tradable permit that achieves measurable reductions in greenhouse emissions.
- Conservation – The act or process of conserving. The efficient management or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water.
- Sustainability – The process of maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.
- Ecoregion – An area where ecosystems are similar based on climate, landscapes, plants, and animals.
- Public-Private Partnership – In the conservation realm, this term typically refers to a government or non-profit entity such as Texas Parks and Wildlife or Texan by Nature partnering with private foundations, landowners, and/or businesses in pursuit of a conservation outcome.
- Return on Conservation – The return realized by investing in conservation encompassing positive financial, people, and natural resource impact.