Wildlife Management GuidelinesComptroller’s Proposed Rule Includes TPWD Standards
To address concerns with granting open-space land valuation when an owner uses the land for wildlife management, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill (H. B.) 3123 to develop state standards.
H. B. 3123 adds Property Tax Code Section 23.521 that requires the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to develop standards for the qualification of open space land used for wildlife management.
By rule, the Comptroller will adopt the TPWD standards, and these standards are binding on the chief appraiser and the appraisal review board (ARB) in each county. The Comptroller has proposed Rule Sections 9.2001 to 9.2009 to adopt these standards.
The standards may require that a tract of land be a specific size to qualify as wildlife management land, taking into consideration: 1) the activities listed in Tax Code Section 23.51(7); 2) the type of animal population; 3) the land’s location; and 4) any other factor TPWD determines is relevant.
Section 23.51(7) defines “wildlife management” as actively using land that at the time the wildlife-management use began was appraised as qualified open-space land in at least three of the following seven ways to propagate a sustaining breeding, migrating, or wintering population of indigenous wild animals for human use, including food, medicine, or recreation: habitat control; erosion control; predator control; providing supplemental supplies of water; providing supplemental supplies of food; providing shelter; and making of census counts to determine population.
The standards also may include specifications for a written management plan to be developed by a landowner, if the landowner receives a request for a written management plan from the chief appraiser.
These new standards will be effective for the 2002 tax year.
The TPWD adopted wildlife management standards January 16 that the Comptroller has proposed in the rules. To address implementation issues, the following would apply:
Tracts that have not been subdivided and are in current, active agricultural use during five of seven years may switch to wildlife management at any regular cycle.
Tracts that are subdivided from previous qualifying tract and are in current, active agricultural use during five of seven years, the county may designate a ratio that requires an area be devoted to wildlife management use.
For the purpose of wildlife management open-space land valuation in a county, the county may designate a ratio that requires the bulk of an area must be devoted to wildlife management use on subdivided tracts. The county selects the ratio based on the region in which the county is located. Each region has a ratio of wildlife management use, based on the total tract size minus one acre divided by the total tract size. Every tract approved for wildlife management must have a wildlife management plan.
The county may designate a minimum ratio devoted to wildlife management use. In East Texas, the county shall select from a minimum of 92 percent (12.5 acres) to a maximum of 94 percent (16.6 acres). In Central Texas, a minimum shall be 93 percent (14.3 acres) to a maximum of 95 percent (20 acres). In South, West and Panhandle of Texas, a minimum shall be 96 percent (25 acres) to a maximum of 98 percent (50 acres). In the Trans-Pecos area, a minimum shall be 97 percent (33.3 acres) to a maximum of 99 percent (100 acres).
For example, a Central Texas county may select a ratio of 95 percent of a tract be in wildlife management, resulting in a minimum size 20 acre tract to qualify. On the other hand, that county could select 93 percent, thus allowing a 14.3 acre tract to qualify. This would be up to the county and locally determined needs.
The county appraisal district’s board of directors in the county shall designate the selected ratio from the regional minimum and maximum.
Counties shall impose lower minimum ratio requirements for areas designated as wildlife property associations. In such areas, all properties within the area must have deed restrictions, property owner agreements, or conservation easements adequately addressing compatible wildlife management activities. The county will designate a ratio one or two percent below the minimum designated for the region.
For example, in Central Texas if the county selected from the regional list 95 percent (20 acres) to 93 percent (14.3 acres), the ratio for the wildlife property association would be one or two percent below the minimum of 93 percent for the region, so it would be designated by the county at 92 percent (12.5 acres) or 91 percent (11.1 acres).
Each tract within a wildlife property association must be performing three of the seven wildlife activities. Each tract must have a wildlife management plan; however, an overall plan for the association may suffice for general purposes, but activities performed on the tract must be identified and supported.
Counties shall address areas that have species of concern, such as candidate, threatened, and endangered species, in the same method as the wildlife property association. The county shall impose lower minimum ratio requirements for areas designated as candidate, threatened, or endangered species habitat if the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has designated properties within the area and if landowners have targeted these species as part of their wildlife management plans. The county will designate a ratio one or two percent below the minimum designated for the region.
Counties shall “grandfather” existing tracts qualified for appraisal as wildlife management as of January 1, 2001 that may not meet these new standards selected by the counties.
The county shall provide a separate 1-d-1 application for wildlife management to clarify request for that use. The county also will provide a standardized wildlife management plan format as designed by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Counties will have a standardized reporting form to send out as it deems necessary, but no more than annually.
The Comptroller published the proposed Rule Sections 9.2001 to 9.2009 in the Texas Register. After adopting the final rule, the Comptroller will distribute the Guidelines for Qualification of Agricultural Land in Wildlife Management to the chief appraiser in each county to use in determining qualification of property for appraisal based on wildlife management use.
Direct questions about the new rule and the manual to Dan Wilson, Property Tax Division, at email@example.com or call 1-800-252-9121, ext. 5-9806. In Austin, call 305-9806. Or, write the Property Tax Division at P.O. Box 13528, Austin, Texas 78711-3528.