Wildlife Tax Valuation in Texas

What is a Wildlife Tax Valuation

Wildlife management use on land for a wildlife tax valuation on private lands all began in Texas. In 1995, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow landowners whose land was currently appraised for agricultural use under 1-d-1 Open Space, to manage properties for native plants and animals as an additional agricultural practice.

This amendment is still often referred to as “Proposition 11” by many people, which was its amendment number at that time. The wildlife management use tax valuation is also improperly referred to as a “wildlife exemption,” but there is no tax exemption. Rather, the wildlife valuation is actually the same as the ag tax valuation, which keeps the appraised value of the property low and the actually taxes that landowners pay very reasonable.

In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed HB3123 to clarify and standardize landowner requirements to manage for wildlife as an agricultural use, the wildlife tax valuation. In order to help landowners manage their land for wildlife as an agricultural practice, the state developed a series of accepted wildlife management practices for each of Texas’ ecological regions. We are intimately familiar with these guidelines and can help you with the preparation of a wildlife management plan that can be used to meet wildlife tax valuation requirements.

Applying for the Wildlife Management Use Tax Valuation

Applying for a wildlife tax valuation is not overly difficult, but landowners must submit the proper documentation to the county appraisal district for lands to be considered in wildlife management use. To apply for property tax appraisal of open spaced lands as authorized by Section 1-d-1 of the Texas Constitution, including appraisal of agricultural lands, timber lands, or land used for wildlife management, a landowner must submit a 1-d-1 Open Space Appraisal Application to the County Appraisal District along with a detail wildlife management plan. Only lands that are currently appraised as ag lands or timber lands may switch to appraisal based on wildlife management. This point is critically important.

The wildlife management plan is an important part of the application process. A wildlife management plan is necessary and must outline the goals of the property owner as well as the specific management practices (and their objectives) that will be implemented on the land to meet the goals. This must be submitted and approved by the country appraisal district before a wildlife valuation is granted. By law, all wildlife management use documents must be submitted to the appraisal district by May 1 of each year.

Requirements of the Wildlife Tax Valuation

After filing the necessary documents, the next requirement is to ensure that the management practices that were identified for the property are completely implemented. The paperwork is important for a Texas landowner to receive a wildlife tax valuation on their property, but the on-the-ground management is important not only for native wildlife, but also for the landowner in order to maintain a wildlife management use valuation into the future.

Many counties in Texas also require the submission of an annual report. Most property owners can complete this form themselves using the activities outlined in their wildlife management plan as well as listing the other wildlife-related management practices that took place on the property during a specific calendar year.

How often a county appraiser comes out to inspect your property depends entirely upon the county. In most cases, an appraiser is merely there to verify that the landowner is making a good faith effort to fulfill the objectives detailed in the wildlife management plan that was submitted to the county with their application. As in all agricultural endeavors, success is not guaranteed or required, including for the purpose of a wildlife tax valuation. Texas law does not require landowners to be successful, but the effort must be made. Once everything has been filed, it is recommended that landowners keep a record of expenses incurred and photos of the various management practices implemented in order to document this good faith effort on their land.