In Texas, most rural land is evaluated for tax purposes as agricultural. The agricultural evaluation (1-d-1 open-space) is commonly referred to as an agricultural tax exemption. This is not a true exemption because landowners of land classified as agricultural still pay a tax, but the tax is at a reduced rate.
Under the agricultural evaluation, land can be categorized as agricultural or wildlife. The agricultural evaluation is considered to be for mostly traditional agricultural practices such as livestock grazing, haying or cropping. The wildlife evaluation is used when land is primarily managed for wildlife. To qualify for the evaluation, a wildlife management plan must be submitted.
Unfortunately, many landowners interested in just managing for wildlife or allowing their property to rest from traditional agricultural practices think their only option for maintaining the reduced tax rate is to maintain the traditional agricultural evaluation. This is not the case. These landowners can convert to the wildlife tax evaluation, and the property will be taxed at the same rate.
For example, landowners owning properties dominated by native rangeland that are overgrazed or excessively hayed may convert to the wildlife evaluation. Repeated overgrazing and excessive haying can damage the plant community and soil, causing the property to decline in forage and wildlife quality and quantity. These declines can reduce grazing and recreational lease values as well as resale values. In many cases, the landowner relies on a local farmer or rancher to manage the agricultural operations that the landowner may know very little about. Landowners can convert to wildlife evaluation and still enjoy income from periodic use of traditional agricultural practices.
In many cases, the landowner is already implementing practices that would qualify in a wildlife management plan. These practices include infrared camera surveys, installing nest boxes and wildlife feeders, managing brush, controlling feral hogs, planting native grasses and forbs, building a pond, and reducing grazing or haying on an area.
For a wildlife management plan to qualify, the plan must include three of seven practices developed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD):
There are many situations where a landowner can easily convert to a wildlife evaluation. Many landowners are already doing the required practices; the practices just need to be documented and reported. For more information on this wildlife tax evaluation go to tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/private/agricultural_land.
Step 1 Complete the Application for 1-d-1 (Open-Space) Agricultural Use Appraisal, Form 50-129. Form 50-129 must be submitted to your chief tax appraiser's office by May 1 of the year you are applying for the agricultural appraisal. The form notifies the appraisal district that the land use of a property is changing. Step 2 Prepare a wildlife management plan, 1-D-1 Open Space Agricultural Valuation Wildlife Management Plan for the Year(s), to submit to the appraisal district office. For a review of the requirements of the open space evaluation, read Guidelines for Qualification of Agricultural Land in Wildlife Management Use. Depending on where the land is located, landowners may be able to get assistance from TPWD, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, as well as numerous private consultants.
When consulting with a landowner who wants to convert to the wildlife evaluation, I typically recommend they cut eastern red cedars to reduce brush encroachment (habitat control), pile the eastern red cedars up to provide cover for songbirds and other small animals (supplemental shelter) and continue to fill wildlife feeders (supplemental food). Periodically, I also recommend adding a survey technique, such as infrared cameras or bird feeder surveys, to the plan or as a substitute for the wildlife feeder.