Seasons – August 2022
From the Plateau Land & Wildlife Management Team
As our summer season comes to a close and we look forward to cooler weather (and hopefully some rain!) this fall, now is the time to ensure your property is on track to complete all necessary qualifying Wildlife Management activities, and that they are well documented.
In this issue of Seasons, we will highlight tips for Wildlife Management during drought cycles, management activities to complete before the end of 2022, wildlife management activity suggestions for predator control, webinars for landowners, upcoming events, news and articles for Texas landowners, and more.
As always, we hope you enjoy all that this season and Seasons has to offer! Stay safe, and stay cool out there friends!
Until next Seasons,
The Plateau Team
Table of Contents
It has to Rain Sometime.
Shane Kiefer, Chief Operating Officer, Certified Wildlife Biologist
John Steinbeck, East of Eden.
I wrote the first version of this article 16 years ago. At that time, the quote above seemed to me to perfectly capture the western attitude about rainfall and drought. Looking back from 2022, it seems nearly impossible to forget the dry years simply because the wet years have seemed so sparse, or perhaps the magnitude of the dry years has been so large they have taken up permanent residence in my mind.
Drought has always been a recurring feature in Texas, but a look at the US Drought Monitor Time Series (graphic below) gives me a different perspective on those 2006 concerns. Since that 2006 drought, Texas has seen “Severe” to “Exceptional” droughts in 2008, 2009, 2011-2015 (with brief reprieves in some areas), 2018, 2021, and 2022. The cycles appear similar, but the intensity of those dry periods is noticeably different. Exceptional Drought (the most severe category) barely makes an appearance until 2006. It has since recurred in all those years mentioned above. The worst of them all was 2011, when at one point almost 90% of the state was in Exceptional Drought. That 2006 drought was bad, but there are been 4 very similar periods since 2013.
What is Drought?
Drought is defined in several ways, but the simplest definition is a period when rainfall is less than 75% of the long-term average. There are other factors to consider, such as evaporation and soil moisture, which tell us more about how much water is available to plants and wildlife for growth. The US Drought Monitor uses a combination of several indicators including the Palmer Drought Severity Index, soil moisture models, USGS streamflow, and others to categorize drought in five levels – Abnormally Dry, Moderate Drought, Severe Drought, Extreme Drought, and Exceptional Drought. As of 8-2-2022, 97% of TX is in Moderate to Exceptional Drought, with over 60% in Severe Drought or worse. The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is expecting La Niña to continue through fall and early winter, meaning it is not likely to get better anytime soon.
As always, agricultural producers are having a hard time with all of this dry weather. Hay is a valuable commodity right now and with little natural forage to support livestock herds, bringing in supplemental feed is essential to keeping these animals alive. Light to moderate grazing can make some grasses more drought tolerant, but heavy grazing during and after a drought reduces grass production. Grasses need time to recover, too. Producers under a rotational or flash-grazing program should be seeing the benefits during these dry times. Ungrazed or infrequently grazed grasses develop deep root systems that allow access to water resources that heavily grazed plants cannot reach. Well-managed ranges fare better in a drought, but at some point grazing animals have to be removed for the long-term health of the land.
Wildlife Management during Drought
The flora and fauna of Texas are built to deal with drought and the general semi-arid conditions of the area. Native grasses and forbs fare much better than introduced pasture grasses and crops in dry times. Wildlife populations in good health and with good habitat will adjust to changing conditions though reproduction will likely be impacted. An ecologically based habitat management program serves to improve water cycling, mineral cycling, and energy flow and manipulate plant succession. These processes enhance vegetative quantity, quality and diversity. A greater diversity of all life forms, including microorganisms, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals may be achieved under sound management. The land’s long-term health is improved and conserved for future generations to utilize as a source of income, recreation, and for aesthetic enjoyment.
Managing for plant diversity is essential. A diverse habitat has a good mixture of various species of grasses, forbs (weeds), and browse (woody) plants. In a healthy plant community, many of the plants will be at various stages of growth, which adds another element of diversity. Vegetation benefits the water cycle by increasing water infiltration into the soil for both vegetation and aquifer recharge and reduces surface runoff. The diversity of vegetation increases the availability of food and cover for wildlife species. A greater diversity of range plants results in more food available for wildlife during different seasons of the year and different weather patterns. The volume and diversity of plants protects the soil from erosion. The decomposition of vegetation also helps restore needed minerals to the soil to sustain plant life. Selective brush management and periodic disturbances such as fire, soil disturbance, livestock grazing, mowing, and even drought can maintain a diverse plant community, simulating conditions under which plants and animals evolved within ecosystems in Texas. That said, there is a limit to what good stewardship can do without rain and many of these tools are best set aside during drought. Well managed lands will respond with abundance when the rains return.
Those of you with water on your property should be seeing the benefit in terms of attracting wildlife. All animal trails lead to water during times like this. If you don’t have a reliable, natural source of water, rainwater catchment systems can provide essential support to the wildlife on your property. Here’s hoping that the rains will return sooner than expected and when they do, maybe the sight of that cistern will remind you that dry times will always come again, but with planning and good land stewardship, those times are a little easier to weather.
*The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.
Wildlife Management Activities: Midyear Check-In
by PLW Staff
As we ease into the second half of the year, we want to make sure you are on track to finish your qualifying Wildlife Management activities and that they are well documented. Midyear is the best time to take a look at your plan status and make sure you aren’t playing catch up, or surprised by an Annual Report request from your Appraisal District at the closing of 2022. Here are some suggested activities & timely services to perform after midyear.
– Biologist Site Visit– Spend a couple of hours with a Plateau Biologist on your land, and find out what you might be missing.
– Annual Report – Plateau can review, compile and submit documentation of your Wildlife Management activities to the Appraisal District to ensure you are in compliance.
– Annual Service Agreement – We can fulfill a few, some, or all of your wildlife management activities required each year. Service agreements are fully customizable and unique to each property and its owners.
If you need assistance with your activities, Plateau provides products and services suited to the last half of the year. Give us a call at (512) 894-3479 or send us an email for more information.
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Activity Reminder: Predator Control
Predators Play an Important Role in Maintaining a Healthy Wildlife Habitat
Within healthy habitats, native predators provide an essential function to complex ecological systems. Removal of key predators can have unintended, negative consequences. Predators play a contributory role in balancing prey density, which can contribute to improved species diversity and reduced habitat pressure.
A familiar example is witnessed within the Texas Hill Country. As wolves and screw worms (among others) were eradicated in the second half of the 20th century, white-tailed deer populations began to sky-rocket to the point of becoming grossly over-abundant. This artificially high density has resulted in landscape-scale habitat degradation from excessive use of preferred food resources (including trees, shrubs, vines, and forbs) by deer.
Predator Populations Can Also Become Out of Balance
Artificially high or even moderate densities of opportunistic predators can place significant pressures on naturally low-density or recovering wildlife populations. Where the underlying goal of a land manager is to increase or stabilize target wildlife populations, predator management can serve as an important activity contributing to the measurable success of a Wildlife Management plan. Our other management actions are sometimes the cause of this imbalance, such as feeding high volumes of corn that attract and support abundant raccoon and feral hog populations.
How does predator control fit in my Wildlife Management plan?
Within any wildlife management plan, predator control should be justified as a complementary practice to help mitigate detrimental effects that could compromise broader wildlife and habitat management goals.
Predators come in many forms, but the most commonly managed species on private lands in Texas include Native Predators like coyotes; bobcats; raccoons; skunks; cowbirds; and rat snakes. Additionally, Non-Native Predators include feral hogs; imported red fire ants; starlings; and house sparrows can also be managed.
Concerning non-native predators, presence/infestation alone justifies control efforts. Non-native species prey both directly and indirectly on native wildlife resulting in an unnatural pressure to which native wildlife have not had an opportunity to adapt. Native predators present a more complex need for justification.
Top 3 Questions for Landowners Considering Predator Control
Land managers need to answer three important questions to justify reducing predator densities as part of a wildlife management plan:
- Do the predators I intend to control directly or indirectly prey on my target species?
- Do predators occur in a density that can result in a measurable negative impact on my target species? (This impact can be cumulative with environmental factors such as drought and other disturbances.) As an example: if I have a deer overpopulation problem, coyote predation on deer fawns may help me achieve my management goals.
- Am I willing to engage in control of sufficient intensity and duration to make a real impact? Native predator control can require years of sustained, intensive effort to have a measurable impact and populations often bounce back quickly once control stops.
What qualifies as predator control?
Proper trapping, active hunting, and harvest-on-site efforts are appropriate activities associated with controlling most predators. Another predator management technique involves monitoring and treating imported red fire ant (IRFA) infestation. Although IRFA and cowbird control are the only predator management activities with specific minimum intensities to qualify, a good faith effort should be made and documented when performing any predator control activity.
What DOES NOT qualify as predator control?
- Controlling small varmints when the defined target species is deer
- Controlling raccoons because they consume deer feed
- Killing non-predatory animals like porcupines
- Undocumented trapping efforts
- Undocumented hunting efforts
What is Plateau’s predator control solution?
Imported Red Fire Ant Treatment (IRFA): Armed with the right equipment and knowledge, our field technicians have the tools to fight back against this invasive pest. We spot treat whenever possible to reduce the amount of bait and limit impacts to native ants. Unlike treating fire ants on your own or hiring just anyone to throw bait on your fire ant mounds, Plateau will track and log where we treat the fire ants on your property, making this a favorite compliance activity for landowners in wildlife management valuation. Plateau recommends treating in late spring / early summer and again in the fall, so now is a great time for you to schedule a fall treatment.
Remote Camera Surveys: Monitoring predator populations is just as important as controlling them. Inferences can be made as to the relative abundance of predators on your property, but camera survey data is a more useful tool in determining when trapping/hunting efforts should be intensified or relaxed. They can also justify controlling a species that is otherwise an important member of a natural ecosystem. With this service, a Plateau professional will establish two or more baited infrared game camera stations for 10-14 days, and provide a detailed analysis of the captured pictures.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Predator Control can benefit your land and Wildlife Management goals or would like to schedule an IRFA treatment or Camera Survey, contact us at [email protected] or (512) 894-3479.
Plateau Land & Wildlife: Fall Management Series: Coming Soon
You’re invited to our FREE Wildlife Management webinar series this fall!
Whether you’re already a Plateau customer or someone that wants to learn more about Wildlife Management, everyone is invited to join us for our FREE 2022 Wildlife Management Fall Webinar Series. Connect with experts and other Texas landowners in Wildlife Management and learn all about:
Wildlife Management Exemption, Wildlife Management 101, Qualifying Wildlife Activities, Property Taxes, Wildlife Management Plans, Annual Reports, County Requirements, Texas Regional Topics, Open Questions & Answers and more! Stay tuned for registration opportunities!
Recording of Hays County Roads & Infrastructure
Learn about road and infrastructure improvements planned for Hays County in Braun & Gresham‘s recorded webinar. Attorneys Patrick L. Reznik and Carly Barton share the Hays County Master Transportation Plan, highlight a handful of key projects happening in the county, explain what this means for impacted property owners and real estate values, and what to do if you are facing condemnation…
View Webinar at: https://youtu.be/sGckx1x5bPg?t=1
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Catch Us On the Road!
- August 12 – Woodlands and Wildlife Post Oak Savannah Workshop
Milam County, Texas
- August 23 – Hays County Master Naturalists Walk and Learn Event
- August 28 – August 31 – TAAO Conference
- September 12 – Owning Your Piece of Texas
- September 16 – Bay Area Builders Association Fishing Tournament
Stay tuned to learn about additional upcoming events!
News for Texas Landowners
Article by Forrest Wilder for Texas Monthly
This spring, many Texas homeowners had an extreme case of sticker shock when they received their appraisal notices. For example, the median market value for homes in Travis County soared from $411,658 in 2021 to $632,208 in 2022, a record 54 percent jump. For weeks, the talk of the home-owning bourgeoisie was property taxes, property taxes, property taxes. What was to be done? Real estate professionals, journalists, and elected officials encouraged homeowners to file protests by the mid-May deadline. And a record number of Texans did so. Protests in Travis County (Austin) are up 20 percent over last year. In nearby Williamson County (Leander, Round Rock), 25 percent. In Collin (Frisco, McKinney, Plano), 24 percent. In Bexar County (San Antonio), 15 percent. The hearings began in May and continued into July. Tax bills go out in the fall…
Article by By Randy Wallace for Fox26Houston
EAST BERNARD, Texas – “It’s something every property owner in the state of Texas and in the country can end up experiencing. They can get that knock on the door,” said attorney Alejandra Galvan. When government or big business want your property, they’ve got the law on their side. It’s called eminent domain. “It’s just the uncertainty when you get notice from a pipeline company that they want to exercise the power of eminent domain. It’s different than somebody off the street asking to buy your property,” said Terry Hlavinka…
Article by Gilmer Mirror
TEMPLE, Texas, July 25, 2022 — While the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) accepts easement applications on a continuous basis, applications for the 2023 fiscal year Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) funding consideration must be submitted to NRCS by November 4, 2022. Any applications that are received after November 4, 2022, will be considered in future funding opportunities. Application package information may be found on the Texas NRCS Easement Program webpage…
News Release for Texas Parks and Wildlife
Article by Travis Bubenik for Marfa Public Radio
A Texas-based advocacy group urged state officials this week to consider new protections for mountain lions, arguing that the animals’ populations have dropped to dangerously low levels that put their future at risk. The group Texans for Mountain Lions filed a petition Monday asking the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to consider a variety of proposals that would move the state toward managing the animals more like deer, antelope or other “game animals.” While experts warn that such actions are urgently needed, they say it may already be too late to fully recover the animal’s populations in some parts of the state, namely in South Texas. “There have been surveys in South Texas just over the last few years, and they’re turning up very few pictures of mountain lions at all,” he said. “We really have no idea if it’s already too late for the South [Texas] population to continue on its own.”
Article by Tahera Rahman for KXAN
TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — “I’ve been a country girl all except six years of my life,” said Betty Zimmerhanzel. That’s why she and her husband bought a 75-acre property in Taylor for their family back in the ’70s. “I like it, because it’s peace and quiet most of the time, you know, and you have neighbors, but you’re not sitting on each other’s shoulders all the time,” she said. Her grandchildren also enjoy the land. But it’s now part of the proposed route for the Matterhorn Express natural gas pipeline…
Article by KSAT
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department combined forces with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Nature Conservancy to safeguard Honey Creek Spring Ranch in Comal County from future development. Honey Creek Spring Ranch, which has been owned and operated the Moore family for more than 150 years, has been regarded as an area of ecological importance.
This is not the first time land in this area has received a conservation easement. In 1981, the Nature Conservancy acquired 1,825 acres in Comal Country…
Video by KXAN
LIBERTY HILL, Texas (KXAN) – The air was thick as the sun was setting. The temperature had dropped just a little by Monday evening, but it didn’t do much to help with the sweltering heat.
It didn’t faze the more than 70 homeowners, who live along or near County Road 284 in Williamson County, and who had gathered to talk to KXAN investigators. Wilco Aggregates, a rock-crushing company, recently filed an application with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for an air quality permit…
Article by JACOB VAUGHN for The Dallas Observer
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to lend the Texas kangaroo rat a hand. They’re proposing measures to help sustain the Texas-native rodent species, which is seeing a decline in numbers because of multiple factors, including habitat loss. According to the federal wildlife agency, the Texas kangaroo rat is a nocturnal rodent with long back feet, a long tail and external cheek pouches. Their name refers to the fact that they’re adapted for two-footed (bipedal) hopping like a kangaroo…
Article by Lauren Guzy for the Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post
Filmmaker John Brown’s latest project was born out of concern and curiosity, and driven by the stories of Hill Country residents. “Battle for the Heart of Texas” is a documentary following property owners’ fight against eminent domain and the Kinder Morgan Permian Highway Pipeline that stretches from the Permian Basin to Katy. Brown said the inde-pendent film convays the importance of the Hill Country environment and water affected by the pipeline, but the film’s mission was to highlight the disruption of Texas property rights…
Article by Alainna Wurfel for Texas Monthly
There’s a reliable rhythm to growing things here in Texas: the wildflowers bloom before the tomatoes, the peppers before the figs. And just as predictable as a bluebonnet sighting in April or a completely crisp garden bed in July, something happens in between: perfect little fawns begin to find their footing in backyards across the state. It can be thrilling to behold, unless you’re a Texas gardener. This year, half a dozen deer took up residence at our backyard salad bar, the adults grazing on our sunflower and melon seedlings while their offspring snoozed and pranced nearby. Our vegetable plants were gone long before the heat had a chance to destroy them. “Whatever sorts of wildlife you like to see, you can attract to your wildscape,” Simon says. “They all require different types of foods, water-feature design, and shelter, and they might need different types of food at different times of the year.” So you’ll want to do your research first…
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