Category Archives: Habitat Management

NWTF: Managing Wildlife Habitat for Hunters

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is putting better habitat on the ground for wildlife across the US. When it comes to funding conservation and the preservation of our hunting heritage, the NWTF is a good steward of your contributions. In the latest report from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, the NWTF was found to put 89.8 cents of each dollar spent towards its mission.

“The NWTF is truly grateful for our dedicated members and volunteers. We want to ensure their contributions are used to fund projects that will preserve our hunting heritage and ensure the future of our wild places and wildlife,” said George Thornton, NWTF CEO. “Our Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative helps drive our efforts towards projects that will help make the biggest and most immediate impact to conserve the most imperiled habitats and recruit the next generation of hunters.”

The NWTF also received the highest score possible on fundraising expense and efficiency, meaning the organization spends very little on its fundraising effort, while it still has great returns.

The NWTF is a nonprofit conservation organization that works daily to further its mission of conserving the wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage. Through dynamic partnerships with state and federal wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members have helped restore wild turkey populations across the country, improving more than 17 million acres of wildlife habitat and introducing 100,000 people to the outdoors each year.

The NWTF was founded in 1973 and is headquartered in Edgefield, S.C. According to many state and federal agencies, the restoration of the wild turkey is arguably the greatest conservation success story in North America’s wildlife history.

To find out more about the National Wild Turkey Federation, become a member or make a charitable donation, visit www.nwtf.org or contact (800) THE-NWTF.

Range & Habitat Management: Prescribed Fire Workshop

The key to maintaining healthy plant and animal communities is range and habitat management. The Academy for Ranch Management is offering a basic prescribed burning workshop Aug. 6-8 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Sonora Station located on State Highway 55 between Sonora and Rocksprings. The basic course is open to those wanting to learn about the benefits of prescribed burning and the basics of planning and carrying out a prescribed burn, said Ray Hinnant, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research senior research associate in College Station.

“This looks to be an excellent year to grow grass, which is fuel for a prescribed burn, across the entire state,” Hinnant said. “This might be a good time to begin planning for a prescribed burn either this summer or next winter/spring.” He also said this workshop would be a great follow up for those who attended the recent Rancher’s Roundup in Abilene.

The workshop also constitutes the first half of Texas’ Prescribed Burn Board-approved course required for Certified and Insured Prescribed Burn Manager licenses by the Texas Department of Agriculture, Hinnant said. A license holder has the ultimate authority and responsibility when conducting a prescribed burn, according to department rules. The burn manager must meet the minimum standards of training and experience and maintain required insurance. There are three types of certified and insured burn managers: private, commercial and not-for-profit. Continue reading

Riparian Habitat Restoration Workshop for Texas Landowners

Riparian Habitat is Important

There is nothing better than riparian habitat. It’s true, the plant communities that comprise riparian areas are critical for wildlife. In many cases riparian areas have higher plant and animal diversity than surrounding areas. Although riparian areas such as creeks, streams and rivers are ever-changing, unprecedented rain events can cause serious problems with the health and function of these systems in the short-term. Central Texas has been hammered with rain, but Texas landowners have help when it comes to figuring out what to do with their flood-impacted properties.

The Nature Conservancy, Texas Parks and Wildlife, City of Wimberley, Texas A&M Forest Service and other Central Texas conservation agencies and non-profit organizations are offering natural resource restoration workshops June 10, 11 and 12 for landowners and residents whose properties were affected by flooding on the Blanco River. Water is important for the Hill Country, but it’s also important that riparian areas function properly.

What: The workshops will cover the do’s and don’ts of riparian (stream side) recovery following the Blanco River flooding. Field trips will cover restoration tips and plant identification and provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions of Texas’ top riparian restoration experts. Continue reading

Farm & Ranch Land Management: Learn the How-To

There is a right way and a wrong way when it comes to farm and ranch land management. Often times, folks just keep in doing what they’ve always done because that’s how it’s always been done, regardless of whether it’s a good thing or not. If improper, then the habitat degrades and become less productive for ag production and the wildlife value decreases. As a farmer, rancher, or land steward, you know that one of your greatest assets is the land you work with, and managing that land can be tough due to weather conditions, environmental pressures and high input costs.

The Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management Program is designed to help you enhance the health, productivity and profitability of your land through the practice of Holistic Management. This hands-on course is taught by Holistic Management Certified Educators and experienced agricultural producers, wildlife biologists and other facilitators. Be prepared to get your boots dirty because the course is taught on holistically managed ranches and farms. The land management class covers Holistic Decision-Making, Grazing Planning, Biological Monitoring and Land Planning.

The six-day course is taught over approximately 6-12 weeks in 2-day increments, so you’ll have plenty of time to start applying what you have learned, while you’re still enrolled in the course. Each day starts at 9 am and ends at 5 pm and there will be plenty of time to network with other ranchers interested in improving their ranching skills. Your learning curve will be shortened by being on a ranch that practices Holistic Management and has built out water and fencing infrastructure and completed successful land improvement projects. At the completion of the course, you’ll have a personalized Holistic Goal, a Biological Monitoring Plan, a Grazing Plan, and a Land Plan. You’ll also be well prepared to:

  • Make effective farm/ranch decisions with the big picture in mind
  • Improve the health of your ecosystem with effective ranch management
  • Improve your rangeland and pasture productivity, water-holding capacity, soil health and wildlife habitat by applying effective ranching techniques
  • Build the landscape you desire and mitigate the effects of drought with better forage utilization and grazing planning
  • Improve land health and wildlife habitat by understanding and working with key wildlife habitat indicators
  • Create a monitoring plan to track performance and analyze natural resource issues
  • Create a land plan that will pay for itself with the right prioritization and investment strategy
  • HMI Holistic Management Whole/Farm Ranch Land Planning Course, land planningManage grazing and animal impact to improve soil and forage standards and build resilient landscapes
  • Know when to and how to destock
  • Create infrastructure and development strategies to create more profit

GET IN THE CLASS: Sign Up Now!

Managing Wildlife Habitat on Idle, Fallow Areas

The best place to start when it comes to managing habitat required by wildlife is the most neglected part of a property. Old, fallow crop fields and abandoned pastures found on private properties across the US can provide quality habitat for native wildlife. This is because wildlife love low succession plant species that provide an abundance of cover and forage. When managing for wildlife, however, it’s important to realize that what looks good to most humans and what looks good to wildlife are two completely different things.

Numerous species of wildlife are dependent upon the earlier stages of plant succession. Examples are bob white quail, rabbits and a variety of songbirds. In the absence of fire, periodic soil disturbance is needed to prevent an old field from growing into a woodland. Disking and prescribed fire will help start the process of plant succession all over again making the area more productive for wildlife.

Fallow fields can be maintained in a productive condition through a variety of management practices. If the area was pastureland there is a good chance that exotic, sod-forming grasses compromise the bulk of the plants found there. Wildlife prefer the cover and seeds produced by native bunchgrasses, so dense stands of exotic grasses should be controlled. Native grass will promote improved foraging and movement at ground level.

It’s a good idea to disturb vegetation and/or the ground during late winter or very early spring. A great habitat management practice is to disk strips through a field on the contour to expose 70 to 80 percent of the soil within the strip. This action will allow weeds to grow and will increase plant diversity within the strip over the next few years. These disked areas can also be enhanced further by seeding at a rate of 5 pounds of Kobe or Korean lespedeza per acre or other seed mix to create an improved forage plot.

Wildlife Management for Habitat

Although the idea of burning the landscape seems like a no-no to many landowners, it’s actually a great management practice for managing wildlife habitat. Burn a portion of the areas between the disked strips on an annual basis for maximum diversity. Burning sets back the plant community and stimulates the production of seeds and insects that are important to quail chicks and songbirds. Burn at 3-5 year intervals and at different times of the year.

Disturbance of an area through management is good, but it’s not a good idea to disturb an entire property at one time. Wild animals always need a place that provides food and cover, so make sure there is always something available to them. A good rule of thumb is to disk or burn about 1/3 of the old field each year. Both disking and burning can be used to prevent an area from reverting to forest, although it would be a good idea from a diversity standpoint to let some of the area grow into a shrubland or woodland.

Idle areas and fallow fields on private lands can be managed for wildlife habitat with a little work and planning. Plants and animals will respond readily to wildlife management practices that increase plant diversity. Increased wildlife numbers are a response to better seed production as well as more complex structure due to a variety of plants on a landscape.

Wildlife Management Field Day for Coryell, Hamilton & Lampasas Counties, Texas

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is hosting a multi-county Range and Wildlife Management Field Day May 6 in Coryell County for landowners interested in managing both wildlife and livestock on their ranches. The multi-county field day is from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Harman School Community Center, located about four miles off of Farm-to-Market Road 580 on Harmon Road, and the field portion will be from 1-4 p.m. at the Hannah Ranch following lunch.

“Many landowners in Texas are beginning to see the value in managing for wildlife on their ranch,” said Brian Hays, associate director of the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and a speaker at the program. “Landowners interested in wildlife management and habitat can take advantage of various incentive programs to diversify their income through good land stewardship for livestock and wildlife.”

Pasquale Swaner, AgriLife Extension agent for Coryell County, said various AgriLife Extension staff will discuss turkey and quail biology and management, feral hog biology and abatement, and rangeland evaluation during the morning session. A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department expert will speak on wildlife management planning and Proposition 11, which allows landowners to retain their agricultural property tax valuation for wildlife management. A U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service expert will discuss proper brush management techniques such as dozing, prescribed fire and herbicide application. Continue reading

The Texas Wildlife Tax Valuation: Not an Exemption, But an Option

Ag Property Taxes & Wildlife Management

Landowners that currently have an ag tax valuation on their property may consider the wildlife tax valuation. Taxes paid because of property ownership to the State of Texas, county or other entity can affect your ability to manage your land as you choose. These expenses should be at the forefront in planning whether you are thinking of buying land or planning next year’s management activities. The ag tax valuation for wildlife management is a viable way for land owners to maintain the low tax rate, but many Texas landowners know nothing about it. It’s not difficult to make the switch to wildlife, but is it for you?

Property taxes are decreased by having an agricultural valuation or a wildlife valuation when compared to a residential or commercial valuation. That said, just because you can meet the requirements for the wildlife tax valuation does not mean that you should convert your land. Think about your short and long term goals for the property, then choose the path that makes sense for you.

Wildlife Tax Valuation

Land is often degraded when managed simply to receive an ag tax valuation. If this sounds like the case on your property, and it is of concern to you, then the wildlife tax valuation may be right up your alley. Landowners that switch ag lands to lands managed for wildlife for tax benefits should have a genuine interest in native plants and/or animals. Please consider your original purpose for the land before managing in a new or unknown way.

Land Trusts and Conservation Easements for Plants, Animals

Land trusts work with private landowners to create conservation easements that conserve or preserve the land into the future. While the landowner can retain ownership of the land, he or she voluntarily and permanently restricts certain uses such as land conversion. Several tax benefits can be associated with conservation easements: income tax deduction, reduced estate taxes, and possibly lower real estate taxes.

The amount and type of tax benefits depends on a variety of factors, so contacting tax professionals and land trust experts is important before making a decision on your land. To learn more about the tax implications of conservation easements, and to find a land trust near you, visit the Texas Land Trust Council website.

Estate Taxes

Estate taxes paid by those who inherit land are expected to fluctuate greatly over the next few years. These taxes should be considered when doing any kind of estate planning as they may affect your heir’s ability to keep the land as you intend it. The federal government collects estate taxes and information can be found by contacting the IRS.