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Seasons – April 2020

From the Plateau Land & Wildlife Management Team

Spring is upon us! And with it, a great Seasons and opportunity to begin considering the conservation of your property. Wildlife Management is a great tool to preserve and protect the native wildlife on your property. In this issue of Seasons, you’ll find articles about Wildlife Management as a tool for conservation, an overview on how Conservation Easements can protect financial incentives, a featured property ideal for conservation-minded landowners, and more! Because an investment in your land and the wildlife that lives on it, is an investment in your family legacy and the preservation of Texas lands.

Until next season and Seasons,

The Plateau Team

Table of Contents

Wildlife Management Tax Valuation: A Tool for Conservation
Wildlife Management Activity Reminder: Imported Red Fire Ant Control
Service Spotlight: Webinars
Conservation Easements: Creating Open Spaces While Protecting Financial Incentives
Plateau Land Group Featured Listing
News for Texas Landowners

 

Wildlife Management Tax Valuation: A Tool for Conservation

By Shane Kiefer, Director of Ecological Services, Certified Wildlife Biologist and Registered Property Tax Consultant

Texas has more privately owned, working land than any state – 142 million acres, according to Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute (NRI). That’s about 82% of the state dedicated to farms, ranches, and forests. These lands provide essential services for all Texans, from food and fiber, to clean water and air, and even outdoor recreation and a sense of pride.

The growing Texas population leads to increased demand and rising land prices, which creates an incentive for landowners to sell part or all of their property. Land fragmentation is a principal concern in conservation because it typically causes habitat fragmentation. But ownership lines on a map don’t have to mean hard lines on the land.

Since all that land is privately owned, incentives are essential to encourage conservation. There are cost-share programs at the state and federal level for implementing conservation practices, but the most important incentive program in Texas is the open-space tax valuation (commonly called ag exemption or wildlife exemption). Ag, timber, and wildlife exemptions are essential for many landowners, particularly traditional rural landowners and producers, to retain ownership of their land by making it possible to simply afford the tax burden. Rising prices are great when you are selling, but when you are paying the taxes, we’d all like our property to be worth a little less.

The tax incentive is so great that special valuations like wildlife management actively encourage conservation practices like rotational grazing, brush management, deer population control, wildlife-friendly hay production, and prescribed burning. Even better is that these special tax valuations still generate more tax revenue than they cost in government services (see an explanation of that here).

Now imagine you own 1,000 acres that your family has held onto for the last 40 years because you had favorable taxes under your ag exemption. Perhaps the cattle market is in the tank, or we’ve entered another decade-long drought like in the 1950s. Maybe you just don’t want to mess with livestock anymore. You do want to keep the land together for your family and your heritage. Wildlife management valuation is a tool that lets you accomplish these goals by keeping your taxes low while you practice conservation and active management to protect your piece of Texas.

What if that same property is just too valuable for you to resist selling, but you still care about the legacy of your land and how it is treated by future owners? Instead of selling off 50 to 20-acre estates to different folks that all treat their ranchette like a big yard, these new rural landowners can be incentivized to practice active wildlife management for the tax savings. This helps keep much of the habitat intact so even though the land is highly fragmented, the wildlife habitat and the essential services the land provides are still largely whole.

These are just a couple of ways that wildlife management works as an active tool for conservation. If you spend time on the NRI Texas Land Trends site, you’ll see how important it can be. While Texas has lost 2.2 million acres of working lands since 1997 (about ¼ acre for every new Texan in that time), over 5 million acres have been put under wildlife management in that same time. There’s no data to say how much of that would have been lost without the wildlife exemption, but that’s 5 million acres of private land that is required to be actively managed for wildlife. That’s a lot of habitat protected with a pretty powerful tool.

If you’re interested in converting to Wildlife Management, contact us at plateau@plateauwildlife.com or (512) 894-3479

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Wildlife Management Activity Reminder: Imported Red Fire Ant Control

By Kameron Bain, Landowner Account Manager

Warmer weather means spring is here – and so are the fire ants. As mounds start to appear on your property, it means an increase in ant activity, which is bad news for other insects and arthropods, ground-nesting birds, and small wildlife of all kinds.

Imported red fire ants are an invasive species from South America first coming to this country in the 1930’s. Not only are they a nuisance to humans, but they also impact wildlife including deer, quail, and other ground nesting birds. Fire ants prey on and compete with other insects for the same food sources. Beyond direct predation on larger wildlife, the reduction in essential insects and other arthropods that nesting birds and small mammals need creates a ripple effect in the ecosystem as a whole, resulting in a shortage of food up the chain and a reduction in species diversity.

Plateau recommends treating imported red fire ants in the spring through early summer and again in the fall. Spring treatments reduce ant numbers when wildlife are most vulnerable to predation, while fall treatments help reduce the number of mounds that appear the following spring. Now is a great time for your first treatment of the year.

Treatment Methods:

If at all possible, spot treat individual mounds with bait-style insecticides like Extinguish Plus or Amdro Pro that require the ants to ingest it. This reduces impacts to non-target ants and other insects. Contact insecticides like those containing pyrethrins can be effective when spot-treating as well, but will kill other insects that they contact. Organic treatments using spinosad and citrus oils are also available if you prefer to avoid synthetic insecticides.

If you have more than 20 fire ant mounds per acre, then you might consider broadcasting baits following the label directions. Keep in mind that this technique will likely impact native ants more than individual mound treatments.

Be sure to note the date of any treatments, take some example photos of treated mounds, and note the area you treated on a map to help ensure you covered the acreage required in your wildlife management plan.

A good program is both highly effective in treating fire ants and will benefit native wildlife as well. Always follow label directions before applying, and if you have grazing livestock on your property or cut hay, be sure to check for any restrictions on your chosen product.

Plateau’s Imported Red Fire Ant Treatment and Control uses GPS technology and aerial imagery to accurately locate treatment areas and eliminate fire ants with an effective, compliance-ready dual action insecticide treatment. To schedule a IRFA treatment for your property, contact us at plateau@plateauwildlife.com or (512) 894-3479

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Service Spotlight: Webinars

Whether you are already in Wildlife Management or just getting started, we have a webinar for you!

Plateau will present 2 webinars, one in April and the other in May, for landowners either interested in Wildlife Management or just getting getting started on their Wildlife Management activities. Join us on:

April 15, 2020, from 12-1PM for an Introduction to Wildlife Management
A basic introduction to the Wildlife Management property tax valuation. This webinar covers the law & requirements, activities, plans, record keeping and answers questions you may have about making the switch to wildlife management from traditional ag or timber.
REGISTER

May 7, 2020, from 12-1PM for a webinar on Starting Your Wildlife Management Activities
A review of the seven wildlife management activity categories and how to get started. This webinar details how to begin implementing your wildlife management activities, provides examples of common practices, and discusses Plateau’s wildlife products and services that count towards your activities.
REGISTER

You can find our schedule and on-demand webinars on our event directory. For more information, contact us at plateau@plateauwildlife.com or (512) 894-3479

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Conservation Easements: Creating Open Spaces While Protecting Financial Incentives

By Kathryn Tancig, Braun & Gresham Attorney and Counselor

How does a landowner protect their land, one of their most valuable assets, while protecting their financial interests? A conservation easement may be the answer.

Sale of Development Rights

Landowners can monetize their development rights by selling a conservation easement to local, state, or federal agencies or organizations.

Landowners whose properties are located in priority conservation areas, as determined by government agencies tasked with protecting or preserving water quality, endangered species habitat, or open spaces, can market their easement rights to various agencies and funding programs. Once a conservation easement deal is made, the landowner will receive the sales proceeds from the purchasing entity at closing.

Conservation easement purchases typically involve cash payments in an amount substantiated by an appraisal process. If funding is only available for a portion of the full fair market value of the conservation easement, the remaining easement value left unpaid is often considered a charitable contribution or tax deductible under the federal tax code.

As local communities continue to pass bond measures and prioritize open space budgets, more of these sales will be possible. Braun & Gresham tracks these funding sources for landowners, so please give us a call at (512) 894-5426 or send us an email if you are interested.

Income Tax Deductions

When a donated conservation easement qualifies for federal income tax benefits, landowners can deduct 50% or more of their adjusted gross income in the tax year the easement deed was conveyed and recorded in the public records.

Landowners who wish to conserve their property may choose to finalize their conservation easement transaction during a year in which they know they will have a significant income event. If the conservation easement value or available deduction exceeds the annual limit, any unused easement value can be carried forward and deducted against future income for a period of up to 15 years.

When a landowner commits to protect their land from future development, conservation easement deductions can be used to unlock the value of that landowner’s development rights.

Estate Planning Tool with Tax Benefits

Selling or donating a conservation easement also reduces the basis or value of the land for estate tax purposes. Landowners with estate tax concerns can protect their heirs and reduce their taxable estates by restricting large land assets with conservation easements.

Landowners retain all underlying ownership and access rights, which can be conveyed to future generations or buyers. Because a conservation easement severs or separates the development rights from the rest of the ownership rights that come with the land, the value associated with these development rights is transferred to the receiving entity and removed from the taxable estate.

For example, if you wanted to gift a ranch or land asset to your children, but the full value of your estate would generate costly tax liabilities for them upon your passing, part of your estate plan could include the conveyance of a conservation easement during your lifetime, which would protect your heirs and reduce the value of your taxable estate by reducing the basis of the land.

For more information on Conservation Easements, please contact attorney Kathryn Tancig at (512) 894-5426 or ktancig@braungresham.com

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Plateau Land Group Featured Listing

Divine & Diverse Ranch
464 Acres, $2,041,600
Devine, Medina County, TX

 

 

 

This beautifully diverse ranch stretches from the fertile creek bottom and pastures to the top of the rocky hills with views for miles. With a multitude of wildlife and a barn and utilities in place, hunters, ranchers, and ATV enthusiasts alike will find endless opportunities and entertainment just 45 minutes from San Antonio.

View this listing here

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News for Texas Landowners

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Resource by Texas Alliance for America’s Fish & Wildlife

Our natural world provides innumerable benefits to human health and economic prosperity. As wildlife and their habitats disappear, these benefits are compromised. Nationwide, experts have identified more than 12,000 Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including over 1,300 here in Texas. The majority of these are at-risk fish and wildlife — like the Texas horned lizard, Pronghorn, and American bumblebee.

Unfortunately, America lacks a dedicated funding stream to conserve vulnerable fish and wildlife. We are in danger of losing the ecological benefits of these species and the tremendous economic value of healthy ecosystems. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, H.R.3742, offers an incredible opportunity to protect these species and their habitats throughout the country.

Read more

 

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department – An Important Update for Our Visitors

Our thoughts are with you and our entire Texas family during this uncertain time. Texas State Parks are doing our best to provide a healthy way for you to get outdoors. Our dedicated teams across the state are working diligently to keep these special places open and safe during this difficult time.

Most state parks remain open. However, we have made some changes to help protect the health and well-being of our visitors, volunteers and staff. One big change: starting April 1 you must purchase all day-use and camping permits online before your visit.

As you know, this situation continues to evolve. More changes (including park closures) may happen suddenly. Be sure to check the Texas State Parks Alert Map or contact the park for updates before you head out.

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No Flights Canceled for Birds or Butterflies

Article by Stephanie Johnson with My Canyon Lake

South Central Texas and the Texas Hill Country are in the central flyway for migratory birds flying north for spring and summer breeding, according to Bexar Audubon Society (BAS) in San Antonio, which is officially the local National Audubon Society (NAS) chapter for Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina, Bandera and Wilson counties.

“While the world’s thoughts this Spring turn to social isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, colorful warblers, bright red tanagers, orange orioles, and other avian gems will still be migrating through and can be enjoyed locally, even in your own backyard and neighborhood parks,” said Lora Reynolds, BAS’ editor.

“The next few weeks will be exciting for birders as the migratory species fly through,” said Patsy Inglet, BAS president. “We can expect migrant activity to continue until about mid-May…

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AUTHOR: Plateau Wildlife
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