Enhancing your property doesn’t have to be a costly expert endeavor or a drawn-out DIY project. There are many programs available to landowners through public agencies, universities and colleges, as well as organizations in the private sector with wildlife and conservation interests. All of these entities aim to help you improve your land conditions while simultaneously improving and protecting the land, habitat and environment.
These programs can provide you with education and technical assistance that otherwise might be cost prohibitive, and the assistance will help you better understand the conditions of your land and what improvements you can make should you decide to do so. Some programs offer grants or fund matching, as well as encourage conservation that make taking land out of cultivation less costly.
Enhancements can come in many ways such as wetland improvements, grass restoration, cedar removal and erosion control. All of these add value to your property while increasing natural beauty and personal enjoyment.
Clients of Republic Ranches have seen financial and aesthetic benefits from projects such as wetlands aided by Ducks Unlimited, quail restoration from grants provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and wetland and grass restoration assisted by Texas R.I.C.E., to name a few.
Below are a handful of the many federal, state and private programs available. My goal is to raise your awareness and possibly motivate you to take advantage of any number of the resources available.
- One of the many resources provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is technical guidance assistance. The TPWD provides guidance from biologists at no charge to assist in planning and implementing practices that enhance wildlife habitats and populations, conducts landowners workshops, provides game management information, administers the TWIMS – Private Lands Assistance, among other helpful information and programs.
- Texas’ State Soil and Water Conservation Board’s Brush control program promotes and funds the selective control, removal, or reduction of noxious brush such as mesquite, juniper, salt cedar, or other phreatophytes that, as determined by the State Board, consume water to a degree that is detrimental to water conservation; as well as the revegetation of land after the brush has been controlled.
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers many programs for the benefit of rural landowners. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) offers the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program’s (CCRP), arguably some of the most well-known and utilized programs available. Under these programs the landowner receives payments for improvement of air and water quality, usually associated with not actively planting row crops. Technical assistance is also readily available through your local FSA office. Also under the USDA umbrella, another notable agency with prominent pragmas such as the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program is the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS’s natural resources conservation programs help people reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies (including assistance with planning new tanks), improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters. Finally, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers through contracts up to a maximum term of ten years in length. These contracts provide financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and for opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland.
- Ducks Unlimited (DU) offers Texas C.A.R.E to enhance, restore, protect and manage wetland habitat. DU offers technical and financial assistance through this program. Jeff Boswell has covered this subject extensively in his blog: “Wetland Creation in Texas”.
- A unique education agency, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has a network of 250 county Extension offices and some 900 professional educators that provide a vast array of education opportunities and field services.
- One final tool that is becoming increasingly popular is Conservation Easements. A “conservation easement” (also known as a conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, sell it or pass it on to heirs while benefiting from a lower tax valuation, deferred tax deductions on taxable income and even direct payments in some cases. The subject of my next blog will be entirely devoted to explaining and understanding conservation easements.
- For a list of programs available to you see – Natural Resources Conservation Programs and Services for Texas Landowners
We at Republic Ranches are very familiar with the programs mentioned in this article but also have direct knowledge of many other programs available to you. Should you be interested in learning more or have a specific project you would like to discuss, please contact any one of us. We are readily available to help you in any way we can.