Wildlife Tax Valuation Basics
by Ruben Cantu and Greg Simons
Wildlife Consultants, Inc.
Thanks to 1-d-1 valuation — including wildlife tax valuation — open space land in Texas can be taxed at its production value instead of its market value.
This is good news for many landowners who purchased their land for recreational purposes instead of agriculture. Now landowners can focus their conservation efforts on improving wildlife habitat without sacrificing the tax benefit of the special valuation. In addition to making taxes manageable, the wildlife valuation gives you additional flexibility, especially when it comes to grazing. Properly managed grazing can be a powerful tool for enhancing wildlife habitat to increase species diversity.
Wildlife Tax Valuation Basics
Under agriculture valuation, the Central Appraisal District in each county sets minimum grazing intensity standards that must be met to maintain the special valuation. Under wildlife valuation, there are no grazing standards, so landowners don’t have to have any livestock at all, or if you choose to have livestock, you may adjust the stocking rate and grazing rotation to achieve your individual goals. This is particularly helpful on small properties where the county stocking standards are often too high for the vegetation and available acreage, resulting in obvious habitat damage.
Moving land from agricultural valuation to wildlife valuation is fairly straight forward. With that said, the ultimate decision and implementation rests with the CAD in each county; therefore, it’s important to check with your local office as you begin the process to make sure you have a clear understanding of that office’s expectations and interpretations.
There are minimum acreage requirements to qualify for wildlife valuation. Be sure to ask CAD personnel about the minimum acreage requirements for your ecological region to ensure your land is eligible.
Only properties that are currently being appraised as agricultural lands or timber lands may convert to wildlife valuation. If your land is already appraised at agricultural value, then you must request a 1-d-1 Open Space Appraisal Application from the local CAD and complete a Wildlife Habitat Management Plan form, which must accompany the application.
While wildlife habitat management plans will vary from property to property to meet a landowner’s individual needs, the form on which they are submitted will be the same. Landowners (or their agency or consulting biologists) should complete the Wildlife Habitat Management Plan form developed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and available on its website (www.tpwd.texas.gov). The application and the planning form must be turned into the local CAD by April 30 of each year.
Wildlife Tax Valuation Qualification
To qualify for wildlife valuation, landowners must choose and implement three of the seven specific management practices listed on the form. The practices include:
- habitat control;
- erosion control;
- predator control;
- providing supplemental water supplies;
- providing supplemental food supplies;
- providing shelters; and
- making census counts to determine population.
These practices were identified by TPWD as ways to “to propagate a sustained breeding, migrating or wintering population of indigenous wild animals for human use, including food, medicine or recreation.” Wild animals can run the gamut of species from non-game such as songbirds and small mammals like rabbits and squirrels to game birds such as quail and turkey to big game animals such as white-tailed deer.
On small tracts, managing for nongame species often is the most practical and most effective simply because smaller animals have smaller home ranges. On larger tracts, nongame species benefit from the management practices enacted for larger game species. In other words, every species benefits from improved habitat.
Wildlife Valuation Considerations
Generally, when the CAD considers a request to convert an agricultural valuation to a wildlife valuation, personnel check to see if the land in question meets the primary criterion by answering the following:
- Is the land already appraised for agricultural or timber use?
- Does the wildlife management plan state the landowner’s goals, name the native species that are being managed and identify the specific wildlife management practices to be implemented?
- Was the property’s acreage reduced during the past year? If so, does it now meet the minimum acreage requirements?
Once your land is approved, your job is to carry out the activities prescribed by your wildlife management plan. Periodically, a representative from the CAD will visit your property to verify that you are making a good faith effort to fulfill the wildlife/habitat management plan.
Wildlife management, like most agricultural endeavors, has no guarantee of success. The law very clearly requires effort, not success. With that said, it is always a good idea to have a record of expenses and photos of you implementing the various practices to offer as proof of your efforts.
[lightbox title=”LightboxTitle” url=”PageURL” width=”900″ height=”500″]My property does not currently qualify for an agricultural or timber valuation. How can I get one?
If your property is not currently under agricultural or timber valuations, you must first request a 1-d-1 valuation from the CAD. Under normal circumstances, it takes seven years to qualify for a 1-d-1 agricultural valuation. (The land may be fallow or unused for two of the seven years.) The primary requirement is that the landowner must have been actively conducting an approved agricultural operation for five years before applying for the agricultural valuation.[/lightbox]