A Conservation Guide for Texas LandownersLeave a Comment
New and experienced Texas landowners alike have a variety of 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 tools below that are featured in Texan by Nature’s Landowner Guide for Conservation and Land Management to engage in meaningful conservation efforts. With ~95% of land in Texas being 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 10 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 affect your land like annual precipitation and soil type, use this map to find out your land’s ecoregion.
Once landowners have determined the ecoregion their land is in, there are a variety of land management strategies that can be used to restore and maintain native ecosystems. 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 Resources:
- 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
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/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)
- Conservation Options for Landowners (Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust)
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 demand for water in the municipal, industrial, and agrarian 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 combined uses 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 of the simplest conservation measures 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 alike 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 (TALT)
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 actually save you money through tax exemption.
Some landowners 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 directly used to produce agricultural and timber products being grown commercially. Another type of agricultural exemption is a wildlife exemption, 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 (TCEQ)
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
- Conservation Resources of Landowners – Audubon Texas
- New Landowners – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
- 5 Ways to Be a Successful Texas Land and Wildlife Steward
- Video: Resources for New Landowners in Texas – Texas A&M Wildlife and Fisheries Extension
Examples of Texan-led Conservation Efforts on Private Lands:
- 7 Oaks Ward Walker Ranch
- Spread Oaks Ranch
- John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
- Quail Ranch
- Lone Star Land Steward Awards
- 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.
- Conservation Economics – The use of economics to understand the costs and benefits of sustaining natural ecosystems. Its purpose is to accomplish more widespread and lasting conservation by lowering its costs, revealing its benefits and fitting it within genuine economic development. NTE: This phrase is used in a variety of ways.
- Ecoregion – An area where ecosystems are similar based on climate, landscapes, plants, and animals.
- Environmentalist vs. Conservationist – Environmentalists believe the environment is to be saved, preserved, set aside, protected from human use vs. Conservationists who believe that natural resources are something we use for living and prospering, so we have to conserve and take care of these resources for the future.
- 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.
- 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.
Visit our Landowner Guide for Conservation and Land Management for the latest and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional resources to add to the guide.