Since 1995, landowners in Texas have had the opportunity to claim a wildlife tax exemption, or wildlife valuation, on their property. Landowners have been provided this opportunity due in part to the ever-growing wildlife recreation industry in Texas, as well as the value the state sees in its native wildlife and habitat. Many property owners in Texas are now receiving more income from recreational and commercial enterprises such as ecotourism and deer management than from traditional agricultural enterprises. Farming and ranching values are dwarf by the economics of consumptive and non-consumption recreation. The wildlife management valuation provides an opportunity for Texas landowners to actively manage for native wildlife habitat on their land.
Although property owners can benefit from the wildlife exemption by receiving a wildlife valuation on their property, their annual taxes will not fall below an agricultural valuation. In short, their taxes will remain the same. In fact, a wildlife valuation is simply a subsection of the ag valuation. Taxes are same under an ag or wildlife valuation, but the land use practices can be quite different. This program helps large landowners interested in large scale wildlife and habitat management. However, small property owners can benefit from the wildlife exemption, as well. In Texas, most landowners with at least 20 or more acres will qualify the tax break by engaging in approved wildlife management activities.Often times, small property owners engaged in traditional farming or ranching practices are hindered in their ability to properly manage their resources due to the agricultural practice itself.
A common problem many small property owners face is the overstocking of livestock. This is usually the result of trying to maintain a minimum number of cattle for a viable livestock operation as set forth my the county appraisal district. The wildlife management use exemption provides a tax option for landowners interested in wildlife management to properly manage their habitat resources and keep their tax rate at unchanged.
The amount of land managed for wildlife in Texas has exploded in the past 25 years. For many farms and ranches in Texas, it’s a wildlife operation that allows the family to remain in agriculture. Prior to 1995, wildlife management was not considered an agricultural use of property. However, in 1995, Texas voters approved Proposition 11, allowing land with specific management practices for wildlife to be considered agricultural use. This amendment is outlined in the Texas Constitution, Section 1-d-1 or open space agricultural appraisal, Article VIII. The requirements for the 1-d-1 or open space agricultural appraisal can be found in the Texas Tax Code, Chapter 23, Subchapter D.