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Seasons - Winter 2012

Dear friends of Plateau,

Texas Ag Exemption

Director of Sales, Tim Milligan

Today it’s officially winter! And although it doesn’t really feel like it here in central Texas, with our 80-degree days and sunny forecasts, we’re all feeling in the holiday spirit at Plateau. This time of year is full of joy, relaxation, celebration, and above all, having a good time. As you can see from this Season’s banner, the Plateau team is fully embracing this attitude during the 2012 holiday season. We’re happy to celebrate another year in review because we have quite a bit to be grateful for.

For one, we work at one of the best companies in the world. As Wildlife Management Services Technician, Eric Lee puts it in our Get to Know Plateau feature, working for Plateau is a dream come true: “Almost on a daily basis, I’m allowed to hike some of the most beautiful places in Texas and actively study wildlife biology, ornithology, and geography, and make a living doing so.” You, and hundreds of other loyal, Plateau clients make this possible.

The holiday season is also a time for evaluation of our successes and failures- a time of looking back, and forward too. Here at Plateau, we encourage you to include your land and wildlife management in this review process and to share with us your challenges and successes of 2012.

So, as you tie your final ribbons on gifts, and your thoughts on another year coming to a close, be sure to add Plateau to your list of those things you did right this year- because an investment in the enjoyment of your land, and the heritage of land ownership is something that will be around for many more years to come.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

Until next season and Seasons,

Tim Milligan
Director of Sales
Plateau Land & Wildlife Management
(512) 894-3479
tmilligan@plateauwildlife.com

 

Table of Contents

Mission Mentions
Winter Wildlife Management Activities Checklist
Support and Recognition for Texas’ Rural Heritage through Texas Department of Agriculture Programs
December Activity Highlight: Wintering and Resident Bird Surveys (WRBS)
Winter Wildlife Management Seminars: Starting January 2013
Texas Frogs: An Appreciation for Nature’s Less Cuddly, Cute Creatures
PLUS: Your Full-Service Rangeland and Construction Company
Get to Know Plateau
Texas Land Trust Council’s 2013 Land Conservation Conference – Mark Your Calendars & Register Now!

 

Mission Mentions

By Craig Bowen, Account Manager

In this new series, Mission Mentions, I want to recognize our outstanding employees. Over the years, I’ve had a number of clients share stories with me about how our team has gone above and beyond for them, and so I thought I’d use Seasons as a platform to share a few of these stories with you. The fact is, I truly believe our team overachieves 99% of the time, which is what makes our company successful.

Our mission statement, which many of you may not know, is:

“to assist owners of rural land to increase value by conserving, restoring and/or improving their property’s native wildlife and habitats through science-based solutions and exceptional customer service.”

 

This series will outline the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the 2 best exemplifications of this mission statement each quarter. I will try to cover a different department each time; some examples may be particularly outstanding, and some may just be an employee doing his or her job just like you would expect, but that’s the point – to meet, and hopefully exceed your expectations daily. Here at Plateau, we take pride in our mission and our employees’ daily attempts at its fulfillment. For this first Mission Mentions, though, I just want to give you one great example of what you’ll be reading for several Seasons to come…

Damon SpeidelWho: Damon Speidel – Products & Services Division Technician

What: Damon was at Balie Griffith’s property conducting a scheduled site visit, and Mr. Griffith rode along as our clients are always welcome to do. Mr. Griffith has a Service Agreement with Plateau but also chooses to conduct some activities himself. He regularly fills his Platform Turkey and Wild Bird Feeders, and Mr. Griffith planned on filling his during his time with Damon. As Mr. Griffith got out of the vehicle and began preparing to fill the feeder, he asked Damon if maybe he would not mind doing so. Though this is a service Plateau charges for, and even includes in many Service Agreements, Damon gladly jumped on the feeder completed the re-fill.

Where: Travis County, TX

When: December 6th, 2012

Why: Here’s what Damon had to say: “I knew Mr. Griffith could fill the feeder on his own, he’s obviously done it many times, but it just seemed like a nice thing to do, and something he might appreciate.”

Client Feedback: I called Mr. Griffith to get his side of the story, and he had great things to say about the experience: “Damon did a great job on that, a really great thing.” Interestingly, he also told me another great story about Lee Kothmann, Plateau birder, and Products & Services Manager, which I might share in our next Mission Mentions. Stay tuned for next time…

Do you have a story you’d like to tell us about, highlighting an instance in which a Plateau team member exceeded your expectations on your land or in customer service? Give us a call or shoot us an email so we can share your story in our next issue of Seasons.

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Winter Wildlife Management Activities Checklist

By Kameron Bain, Business Development

Brush ManagementBrush Management is a great year-round wildlife management activity, but for landowners in WMV, it’s especially important to get all brush clearing done BEFORE the spring breeding bird season.

The Plateau Team hopes you are spending this Holiday Season enjoying time with family and friends as well as enjoying your year of accomplishments in wildlife management. In just ten days, we will be celebrating the start of a New Year and it is never too early to start planning for your 2013 Wildlife Management activities. There are some key activities that are popular with many landowners that are completed during or start in the winter months. Start your New Year off right by implementing one of these activities:

  • Wintering and Resident Bird Surveys (WRBS): We are currently finishing these up for the season but still have some room to fit in a few more before February 15th. Schedule yours today!
  • Nest Boxes: Check and clean them before the upcoming breeding bird season
  • Imported Red Fire Ant Control: Begins in March
  • Brush Management: Needs to be done before the breeding bird season, which begins in early March
  • Spring Breeding Bird Surveys: Begins March 15th
  • Camera Surveys: Post hunting season is a good time for this activity
  • Feral Hog Control: Late winter through spring is an ideal time to reduce feral hog numbers prior to spring nesting/fawning
  • Strip Mowing and Discing: Best conducted up until late February
  • Tree Trimming: Not a qualifying activity but this is the time of year to do it
  • Tree and Shrub Planting: This is the best time of year to plant woody plants

 

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Support and Recognition for Texas’ Rural Heritage through Texas Department of Agriculture Programs

By David Braun, Founder and CEO

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Rick Rhodes who is the Administrator for Rural Affairs for the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). Rick is a very interesting and knowledgeable guy who served four terms as the mayor of his hometown of Sweetwater, Texas before coming to TDA. Over the course of an hour talking about the trends in rural Texas, it was obvious that Rick has a lot of passion and enthusiasm for the future of rural and small-town Texas. I learned about several exciting programs of Rick’s department that will be of interest to some of our clients. Here is a sampling:

TDA Programs

To learn more about TDA programs like these that support Texas landowners, visit their website: http://www.texasagriculture.gov/GrantsServices/RuralEconomicDevelopment.aspx

The Family Land Heritage Program recognizes families that have owned and operated their Texas land for 100 years or more. We already represent a number of these families and we would like to see more of our eligible clients apply for this program. There are no legal protections or financial benefits directly related to this program, but I think it will make a difference when applying for grants or defending against condemnation if the land has been recognized as part of the heritage of Texas. CLICK HERE to learn more.

The Agricultural Loan Guarantee Program will guarantee loans to establish or enhance agricultural operations up to $750,000 and rebate a portion of the interest paid on these loans. This program can make the difference for someone who is thinking of buying agricultural land or investing in agricultural operations. CLICK HERE to learn more.

The Young Farmer Grant Program provides matching grants up to $10,000 for people under 45 years of age who want to start or expand agricultural operations. We are very proud that one of our former attorneys, Susana Canseco, just received one of these grants. Susana still does some contract work as a lawyer, but she is mainly focused on developing a market for grass-fed beef business to compliment her family ranch. Check her out HERE and the TDA program HERE.

To see all the various programs of Rick’s department, CLICK HERE.

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December Activity Highlight: Wintering and Resident Bird Surveys (WRBS)

By Mark Gray, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Did you know that in some parts of Texas nearly half of the bird species are found during cooler months? Wintering & Resident Bird Surveys are ideal for landowners interested in inventorying or learning more about the type and population of birds that utilize their property during the winter months. They’re also a fun, easy, and qualified wildlife management activity that will demonstrate to the Central Appraisal District that your wildlife management efforts are having their intended effect.

Bluebird

Pictured is a Bluebird, one of the many Texas birds only visible in the winter months. To see more wintering & resident birds, like us on Facebook to see a full photo slideshow! Photo courtesy of Lee Kothmann, Products and Services.

Why should I perform a Wintering & Resident Bird Survey (WRBS)?

Wintering & Resident Bird Surveys are ideal for landowners interested in inventorying or learning more about the type and population of birds that utilize their property during the winter months. They’re also a fun, easy, and qualified wildlife management activity that will demonstrate to the Central Appraisal District that your wildlife management efforts are having their intended effect.

Loggerhead Shrike

Pictured is a Loggerhead Shrike. Photo courtesy of Lee Kothmann.

How does a WRBS fit into my wildlife management plan?

Texas Wildlife Tax Valuation law allows landowners to qualify in the Census wildlife management activity category by adhering to consistent and accepted protocol for avian point or transect surveys. The WRBS is a great addition to any Wildlife Management Plan because you can use the information to identify important wintering habitats, track population trends, and create management plans for year-round use.

What Qualifies as a WRBS?

Distributing survey efforts throughout the entire property while emphasizing the unique habitat types.
Surveys conducted by highly skilled individual(s) in both auditory and visual avian identification.

What does NOT qualify?

Counts that are not performed with accepted protocol.
Counting birds from your backyard or patio feeders.
Counts performed by individual(s) lacking adequate skill-set of identifying avian species by sight and sound.
Surveying in inclement weather such as high winds, dense fog, and heavy rain.

What is Plateau’s WRBS solution?
Lee Kothmann

Plateau birder, Lee Kothmann spotting an American Robin on a WRBS.

Plateau offers one of the most professional, sought after Wintering & Resident Bird Surveys on the market. Our WRBSs go beyond simple compliance by offering an educational experience that helps reconnect landowners with their land. One of our most popular surveys attended by Plateau clients, this is a great opportunity to tour your land, either one-on-one or with the whole family, accompanied by a professional, Plateau biologist who will teach you about the flora and fauna of your land.

To conduct the WRBS, a Plateau birder establishes listening stations within diverse habitat locations throughout your property for observation and records both the number and type of different species of birds that are seen or heard at each station. Then we provide you with a detailed report including the number of species and individuals recorded, and an aerial map highlighting survey stations. Plateau may also offer wildlife management recommendations for current and potential activities which may improve overall species abundance and diversity. Plateau also provides Spring Breeding Bird Surveys and seasonal bird surveys for those interested in determining populations that utilize their property at different times during the year. Give us a call to learn more.

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Winter Wildlife Management Seminars: Starting January 2013

By Erica Fick, Marketing Coordinator

Many of you receiving this newsletter may already have a Wildlife Exemption, but if your property, or someone you know, is in Ag, or even market value, you should consider making the switch to Wildlife. “Wildlife Exemption” (Wildlife Management Tax Valuation) is a compelling alternative to Ag because it allows you to enjoy the same low tax valuation while also benefiting from:

Make the Switch to Wildlife Exemption

  • No livestock or fencing requirements
  • Enhanced recreational value
  • Improved habitat
  • Increased wildlife diversity
  • Returning your land to its pre-grazing condition

 

Please join us at one of our seminars across Texas this winter to learn more about the many benefits of switching to Wildlife. CLICK HERE to see our seminars web page where we’ll be updating the calendar with new dates and locations through January. And if you don’t see a seminar in your area, shoot us an email to request one!

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Texas Frogs: An Appreciation for Nature’s Less Cuddly, Cute Creatures

By Romey Swanson, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Most Texans are likely aware that frogs and toads (collectively referred to as anurans) are abundant throughout our state. With over 40 documented species, Texas boasts one of the richest anuran assemblages found within the United States.

Several of these species should be considered iconic representations of Texas’ love for wildlife and the outdoors. Consider the Houston Toad, which represents the continual and committed efforts of an ecologically conscious public and government to save a species in eminent danger of extinction. How about the Leopard Frogs, a group of several similar looking and closely related species that are found throughout the state and seem to have a propensity for concrete troughs in the midst of arid pastures. Or the Coastal Plains Toad which thrives among the activity of man and which may best be known by the adoring nickname, “driveway toad.”

Canyon Tree Frog

Pictured is a Canoyon treefrog, captured during one of Romey’s trips to Big Bend State Park.

But probably my favorite group of Texas frogs, and certainly my son’s, is the treefrogs. Six species of treefrog occur within Texas borders, covering the majority of the state, though, the group is completely absent from the panhandle and rolling plains regions. The four species with the largest area of distribution, and therefore most commonly recognized, are the Green and Squirrel Treefrogs (collectively the greens) and the Gray and Cope’s Gray Treefrogs (collectively the grays). All four of these species primarily occur within the eastern half of the state, though Green Treefrogs show up locally within the moister parts of the Big Bend region. Throughout the majority of their respective species’ range, these frogs represent the typically welcomed guests of homes and gardens where they are often found relaxing within shaded flowerpots, aligning on trees and windows in preparation of snagging an evening meal, or romancing a potential mate. These endencies are afforded by the enlarged toe pads characteristic of all treefrogs.

Two other species of the group have a much more reduced distribution within Texas, and further represent niche specialist within the state. Canyon Treefrogs are only found within the moist canyons of the mountains of far west Texas. Though they are considered somewhat common along elevated streams and springs of the Trans Pecos, together with the isolated and pristine habitats in which they occur, Canyon Treefrogs offer one of the most memorable and reflective wildlife observation opportunities in the state. The other species, Mexican Treefrog, is the only representative of the genus Smilisca (all others are members of the genus Hyla). This beautiful, tropical species is found exclusively in extreme southeastern Texas along the Rio Grande Valley (isolated individuals have appeared elsewhere as a likely result of transplanted trees and plants from the Valley). Mexican Treefrogs are protected by the state and listed as threatened on Texas’ endangered species list. This species shares the fascinating ability of color change with both Gray and Cope’s Gray Treefrogs.

Texas is a wonderful place to observe nature and, despite its dryness, includes great a diversity of frogs. For those looking for a way to engage and share nature with others, especially children, Texas frogs are a great place to start and who knows, you may just contribute to a life-long appreciation for nature’s less cuddly and cute creatures.

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PLUS: Your Full Service Rangeland and Construction Company

By Beyrl Armstrong, Founder and Interim General Manager

Plateau Land Use Services

PLUS: adding value and enjoyment to your most precious asset…your land.

Plateau Land Use Services (PLUS) works with private property owners on land enhancement, planning, and construction projects to achieve the goals envisioned for their land. Building on Plateau Land and Wildlife Management’s broad understanding and experience on private lands in Texas, PLUS was created in 2010 as the construction arm of Plateau.

Pond Design and Construction

PLUS specializes in planning, siting, and managing the construction of ponds in shallow soil with a focus on more than just water retention. Our team of rangeland ecologists work with landowners to address variables such as location, erosion prevention, site specific vegetation, water quality, and clarity. Incorporating aesthetic shape, pond liners, low sight-line dams, and wildlife features, PLUS creates the ideal recreational retreat on your property.

Pond Repair and Conversion

For landowners with ponds that don’t hold water, have spillway or dam erosion problems, and/or don’t fulfill their aesthetic or recreational needs, PLUS is the answer. PLUS looks at all the pieces of the puzzle to devise a long term solution, not a band-aid. Our experienced team of professionals analyze the catchment area, soil types, and design or construction problems, to repair or convert your pond to a water feature that will attract targeted wildlife and enhance the recreational value of your property.

Brush Control and Management

At PLUS, we view brush management as more than simply clearing or wiping out invasive brush species. Working closely with landowners, our approach to brush management incorporates individual plant management techniques, selective chemical control methods, dead tree remediation, and smart slash management within a comprehensive brush management plan. PLUS delivers a unique solution that will result in an increased value of your land, while supporting greater and more diverse wildlife and plant communities.

Trail, Road and Fire Break Construction

PLUS works with landowners to improve access and enhance enjoyment of their land through thoughtfully designed roads and trails. With more than 4 million acres burned in the fires of 2011, a well thought out road and trail system can further protect the property by also serving as firebreaks and improved access for emergency vehicles. PLUS employs biologically sound design by incorporating design elements such as aesthetics, shade, and gentle gradients following natural contours.

Plateau PLUS is fully insured and works with the kind of professionals you want on your property.
Contact us today for more information, or visit the PLUS website: http://plateauplus.com/.

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Get to Know Plateau

By Kameron Bain, Business Development

Sarah Ruiz

Sarah Ruiz | Accounting Assistant

One thing everyone should know about Sarah is that she has the best laugh, which is a great indicator of how much she enjoys working with the Plateau team. Sarah warmly says, “Some of my dearest friends I have met because I work here. I love our mission and what our company stands for, and I love our people.”

Sarah has been working at Plateau for almost four years starting as the receptionist then moving on to work with the Accounting Team as an accounting assistant where she mainly focuses on accounts receivable for Plateau and Plateau Land Use Services (PLUS). The impact of her hard work is felt all throughout the office. Besides ensuring all invoices are accurate she is often busy answering phones, planning company gatherings, helping out on spotlight deer counts and keeping us well stocked in caffeine, which some staff members consider a high importance.

Staff Biologist Kyndal Anderson also recognizes Sarah’s value, “Sarah is absolutely a joy to work with. Her quirky sense of humor and contagious laugh make the office a bright and fun place to be. From the complex task of handling invoicing matters for Plateau clients to simply keeping the office refrigerators stocked, Sarah’s caring, responsible, and helpful nature ensures that we are all well taken care of.”

If life at Plateau does not keep Sarah busy enough she is also attending Texas State University part time working towards a BS in Resource and Environmental Studies. When not crunching numbers or studying away, you can find Sarah outdoors, “I have recently discovered disc golf, thanks to my soon to be husband, and even though I’m completely awful at it, I really enjoy trekking through the brush to find my discs.”

Eric Lee

Eric Lee | Wildlife Management Services Technician

Eric Lee is a perfect example of why Plateau takes so much pride in our Wildlife Management Services Technician team. With two years experience on the Plateau tech team, Eric works in Plateau’s Hill Country South Region conducting site visits. Recently, he has been instrumental in helping fine-tune our newest service, the Wildlife Management Activities Check-Up.

According to Eric, working at Plateau is a dream come true. “Almost on a daily basis I’m allowed to hike some of the most beautiful places in Texas and actively study wildlife biology, ornithology, and geography and make a living doing so,” explains Eric. His dedication to Plateau’s mission and passion for his work makes him a perfect fit to assist landowners with their day-to-day wildlife management activities and compliance questions. Staff Biologist Romey Swanson agrees: “Eric exhibits a strong passion for conservation values and the land ethic. Not often will you meet someone so dedicated to wildlife management and conservation that they happily agree to swim through Tamaulipan thornscrub during hot August days… just to get a feel for the habitat. Eric has a bright future in Texas wildlife management and is an asset to Plateau’s wildlife technician team and the land owners we serve.”

On his days off you can find Eric reading, birding, practicing photography, or working on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu or judo skills. For Eric, he’s most happy when he’s spending his free time “pursing the lifestyle of a modern naturalist.”

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Texas Land Trust Council’s 2013 Land Conservation Conference – Mark Your Calendars & Register Now!

By Erica Fick, Marketing Coordinator

TLTC’s annual Land Conservation Conference will be held February 27th-March 1st in Austin, and features a number of presentations and speakers that Texas landowners don’t want to miss- including attorneys from sister firm, Braun & Gresham! To see the conference schedule at a glance, CLICK HERE.

2013 Texas Land Conservation Conference

Sister firm, Braun & Gresham, will be represented at the conference by attorneys Allison Elder, Thomas Hall and Cassie Gresham, all participants in the Farm, Ranch and Family Lands Conservation Workshop: Estate Planning and the Benefits of Conservation Easements, to be held on Wednesday, February 27th from 1-4:30pm. Allison and Thomas will be leading the panel, Estate Planning Basics, and Cassie will be moderating the panel, Conservation Easements from the Landowner Perspective. David Braun is also scheduled to speak during the breakout session, Emerging Issues: What Land Trusts Need to Know on March 1st, from 9:30-11am.

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to learn about trending issues in rural land ownership, and to meet the professionals that are helping to shape the future of Texas lands.

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AUTHOR: Plateau Wildlife
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