Wildlife Management Minimum Acreage Explained (Once and For All)
Do you own fewer than 20 acres in Ag or Timber? Have you been told you do not qualify for Wildlife Management because you have fewer than 20 acres? Don’t give up so soon. Keep reading and we’ll explain why the Wildlife Management valuation may be right for you, and why you do actually qualify.
There are over 3 million acres in Texas with wildlife management as the current Ag use. Many of those are smaller acreage properties, that when combined, make up a larger patchwork across regions. This patchwork of lands being managed for wildlife, as opposed to grazing and agricultural use, are helping to create a resurgence of good wildlife habitat in many areas.
Wildlife Management minimum acreage requirements are probably the most misunderstood and most misapplied rules when it comes to qualifying for a wildlife management exemption, or valuation. It’s actually not all that confusing. The short version is that, for most landowners, there is no minimum acreage requirement.
The only time minimum acreage is a consideration in wildlife management is when a property is being subdivided, or has been, in the previous year. The facts about wildlife management minimum acreage are available from sources like Plateau Land & Wildlife and Texas Parks & Wildlife. Following is a summary of the facts used to win a minimum acreage hearing recently. We hope that you will think to call us if you ever feel you are the victim of these rules being misapplied.
Wildlife Management Minimum Acreage in the Tax Code
The rule that relates to wildlife management minimum acreage (wildlife use requirement) is Texas Administrative Code Rule 9.2005:
The paragraph that outlines whether a minimum acreage applies is 9.2005(b), which states:
(b) If the number of acres in the tract of land is equal to or greater than the number of acres in the tract of land on January 1 of the preceding tax year, the tract of land is not subject to the wildlife use requirement.
This means that any wildlife management property is exempt from the minimum acreage requirement as long as the property is not reduced in size in the previous tax year. If your property was one size when you paid property taxes on it a year ago, and it is still that size when you apply for wildlife management, then minimum acreage (i.e. wildlife use requirements) does not apply. Your property qualifies for wildlife management.
Both the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Agrilife Extension also have publications that explain these rules:
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
The folks at Texas Parks and Wildlife are the fine people who set all these standards and requirements to begin with. They fully understand what the intended meaning was when Wildlife Management first became an accepted alternative to traditional Ag. The publications TPWD has provided and their own website is very clear about these requirements when it comes to wildlife management minimum acreage. Here are some of those references.
“Is there a minimum acreage requirement? What if I own several adjacent tracts?
…For properties that have been reduced in acreage since the previous tax year, there are minimum acreage requirements. Please check with your county appraisal district for those minimum acreages as they depend on the appraisal region in which the property is located. For all other properties, there is no minimum acreage requirement.”
TPWD’s legal summary “Acreage Requirements”
“There is no minimum acreage requirement for open-spaced agricultural appraisal based on wildlife management use unless the tract of land has been reduced in acreage since January 1 of the preceding tax year.”
Plateau Land and Wildlife representatives deal with this question on an almost daily basis. Resources such as TPWD and Texas Agrilife Extension Service offer statewide advice and recommendations.
What does the Texas Agrilife Extension Service have to say about Wildlife Management minimum acreage?
The Agrilife Extension is a wonderful and trusted service for landowners in Texas. In one of their free publications, The Texas Agrilife Extension Service provides a great example of the wildlife management minimum acreage rule and how it should and should not be applied.
Those examples and a specific scenario that helps to clear up any confusion about wildlife management minimum acreage can be found in the Agrilife Extension Publication ESP-377 “Wildlife Management and Property Valuation in Texas.” See Scenario 1 on Page 6.
Question 1: Does the land currently have agricultural use valuation?
Question 2: Has the size of the property having agricultural use valuation been reduced since the last tax year?
Next step: There is no minimum acreage required; apply for conversion to wildlife management agricultural use between January 1 – April 30.
As you can see, all three of the sources reference that if a property has not been subdivided or reduced in size since the previous tax year, then there is no minimum acreage requirement for that property. If that is your situation, then you qualify to move from traditional Ag use to wildlife management no differently than if you were changing from running cows to raising goats as your Ag use. If you have had a reduction in property size, the county appraiser will have the exact minimums. It should be that simple.
The fact of the matter is, there are people involved in all of this. Wildlife management use requirements, minimum acreage and otherwise, have been misinterpreted and misapplied in many cases for years. Good landowners all across Texas have been working on this for years with Plateau Land & Wildlife to get the facts straight. We argue this rule successfully several times a year for landowners at Central Appraisal Districts.
Whereas the information and rules come from state agencies, these entities cannot advocate on your behalf as a landowner. If you run into an issue where you’re told that the wildlife management minimum acreage requirement applies to your property, when in fact it does not, Plateau Land & Wildlife is a private company that works for landowners. We know the rules and how they should be applied, and we will advocate for you when the law is on your side.
If you have more questions or need help with a specific situation, remember there are no acreage requirements for wildlife valuation, unless you have reduced the size of your land. And then, the minimum varies county by county.