What is a Wildlife Management Tax Exemption?

In some cases, property that has an existing agricultural property tax exemption may be in a circumstance where that current agricultural practice may not be able to continue as it previously was. Thankfully back in the 90s, legislation in Texas passed to allow agricultural appraisal for land used to manage wildlife.

I do want to be clear, this is not an easier cop-out versus doing the traditional ag exemption route. This exemption status requires annual reports and has a checklist to ensure you’re doing the proper practices. But – if this is a direction you are interested in going with your property or a place you’re considering buying, let us know and we can help you out.

In order to qualify for a wildlife management exemption,

the landowner must have been actively using land that at the time the wildlife management began was appraised as qualified open-space land under this subchapter in at least three of the following ways to propagate a sustaining breeding, migrating, or wintering population of indigenous wild animals for human use, including food, medicine, or recreation:
(A) habitat control;
(B) erosion control;
(C) predator control;
(D) providing supplemental supplies of water;
(E) providing supplemental supplies of food;
(F) providing shelters; and
(G) making census counts to determine population.

There are a couple of requirements in order to get the qualification for wildlife management use:

The first requirement for wildlife management use qualification is purely technical and is not related to the land’s actual use to manage wildlife – the land must have an existing agricultural tax exemption status. In other words, you can only “roll” from an ag exempt status into a wildlife status, but you cannot start from scratch with a wildlife status. The law restricts the land that may qualify for wildlife management use. To qualify for agricultural appraisal under the wildlife management use, land must be qualified for agricultural appraisal under Tax Code Chapter 23, Subchapter D, (also called 1-d-1 or open space agricultural appraisal), at the time the owner changes use to wildlife management use. In other words, the land must have been qualified and appraised as agricultural land during the year before the year the owner changes to the wildlife management use. For example, an owner who wishes to qualify for wildlife management use in 2002 must be able to show the land was qualified for and appraised as agricultural land in 2001.

Land qualified for timber appraisal is not eligible to qualify for wildlife management use. Timber land is qualified under Tax Code Chapter 23, Subchapter E. The law limits wildlife management use to land qualified under Subchapter D of Chapter 23. Similarly, land qualified for agricultural appraisal under Article VIII, Section 1-d of the Texas Constitution and Chapter 23, Subchapter C Tax Code (also called 1-d agricultural appraisal) is not ineligible for wildlife management use.

Land must be used to generate a sustaining breeding, migrating or wintering population of indigenous wild animals. The second requirement for qualified wildlife management use is that the land must be used to propagate a sustaining breeding, migrating or wintering population of indigenous wild animals. An indigenous animal is a native animal that originated in or naturally migrates through an area and that is living naturally in that area, as opposed to an exotic animal or one that has been introduced to the area. In this context, an indigenous animal is one that is native to Texas. (Contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to determine if an animal species is considered indigenous.) Land may qualify for wildlife management use if it is instrumental in supporting a sustaining breeding, migrating or wintering population. A group of animals need no permanently live on the land, provided they regularly migrate across it or seasonally live there.

A sustaining breeding population is a group of indigenous wild animals that is large enough to live independently over several generations. This definition implies that the population will not die out because it produces enough animals to continue as a viable group. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department may be able to provide information to help determine the number of animals of a particular species that must group together to sustain the population. A migrating population of indigenous wild animals is a group of animals moving between seasonal ranges. A wintering population of indigenous wild animals is a group of animals living on its winter range.

Is the land used for three or more of the following activities?

Under the law, an owner must perform at least three of seven listed wildlife management activities on the land. An owner may qualify by doing more than three, but may not engage in fewer than three of the activities. These activities are explained in detail, but a short summary of each management activity listed in the law appears below.
1. Habitat Control (Habitat Management). A wild animal’s habitat is its surroundings as a whole, including plants, ground cover, shelter and other
animals on the land. Habitat control—or habitat management—means actively using the land to create or promote an environment that is beneficial to wildlife.
2. Erosion Control. Any active practice that attempts to reduce or keep soil erosion to a minimum for the benefit of wildlife is erosion control.
3. Predator Control (Predator Management). This term means practices intended to manage the population of predators to benefit the owner’s target wildlife population. Predator control is usually not necessary unless the number of predators is harmful to the desired wildlife population.
4. Providing Supplemental Supplies of Water. Natural water exists in all wildlife environments. Supplemental water is provided when the owner actively provides water in addition to the natural sources.
5. Providing Supplemental Supplies of Food. Most wildlife environments have some natural food. An owner supplies supplemental food by providing food or nutrition in addition to the level naturally produced on the land.

6. Providing Shelter. This term means actively creating or maintaining vegetation or artificial structures that provide shelter from the weather, nesting and breeding sites or “escape cover” from enemies.
7. Making Census Counts to Determine Population.
Census counts are periodic surveys and inventories to determine the number, composition or other relevant information about a wildlife population to measure if the current wildlife management practices
are serving the targeted species.

If you like to read and research things on your own, here’s the main resource you’ll need for navigating the process to roll over to a wildlife management status. Guidelines for Qualification of Agricultural Land
in Wildlife Management Use

But if you’d like some help, let us know at TexasLandAndHome@gmail.com or 979-541-7810 and we’d be happy to help you out. Same goes for Agricultural Tax Exemptions – if you missed that article, take a look here.

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