The Annual Report

Posted: December 28th, 2008 under Land.
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In Texas, if you have your land recorded with the county tax appraiser as “wildlife management,” which qualified for a lower tax rate on the property, you must have a written plan (based on the seven requirements of the enabling legislation) and submit an annual report on what you’ve actually done to comply with your plan.

Tax appraisers are out to get the most tax income for their county, so they look with great suspicion on agricultural land, and especially wildlife management land.   They have zero interest in wildlife,  and are under pressure from county government to provide the money the country wants for roads, bridges, EMS service, county law enforcement, etc.   So it’s imperative that the annual report adhere to the legal guidelines for wildlife management and convince them that yes, this is a real project, not a tax shelter.

A previous state comptroller decided that counties must require landowners to use the report form from Texas Parks & Wildlife–the one approved by the legislature and hence not negotiable.  This form really fits large properties managing for game animals better than small properties.   So I add supporting documentation that adapts the form to a small property.

Preparing the report usually takes me at least a week, and often more–time lost to writing books, but necessary nonetheless.   I look through the work logs, the photographs, and try to find things that make it clear what our goals are and how we met them.  Sometimes, as this year, it makes disappointing reading.  Landowners can’t control rainfall, so in a drought year–especially a drought year with a very hot summer and high fire danger–some projects (involving, for instance, anything that might start a fire) can’t be pursued or at least can’t be pursued as vigorously.   In a flood year, it may be impossible to get the tractor into the field for all the mowing I’d like to do.

As soon as I finish two more end-of-year writing tasks that bring in actual money,  I will start on the annual report–I’ve collected the facts and here’s an idea of how we go about it.

The seven required activity areas are: habitat control, erosion control, predator control, supplemental feed, supplemental water, supplemental shelter, and census.

Within each area, using the same wording as TPWD, I detail what we’ve done in the preceding year.  No activity can count in more than one requirement (even though manipulation of habitat can and does provide additional shelter and food supplies, for instance), so I parcel activities out where they’ll do the most good.  Cutting Ashe juniper falls neatly under “brush control” and pulling the cut junipers into a pile is either “supplemental shelter” (in one location) or “erosion control” (when placed in a gully to slow runoff.)   In the gully, the pile of cut juniper is also providing shelter but it can’t do both at once according to the rules.

The law requires activity in only three of the areas in a given year, but we have always had more than one qualifying activity in each of the seven–we build new brushpiles for shelters, repair checkdams and gabions to control erosion,  plant native plants and put out feed (both) for supplemental feed, remove non-native invasive plants, plant and promote native plants, and use mowing as a means of habitat control,  treat for invasive, non-native fire ants for predator control,  provide permanent water sources for supplemental water, and keep track of what’s living out there and its apparent abundance, documenting with photographs.

One or both of us is out on the land–some part of it anyway–almost every day, severe weather and illness excepted.  I’m about to go check the water at Owl (checked the water at Fox yesterday) and take along some feed for the birds in both locations.

Despite the drought, I  have good things to report in this 8th year of our management–continuing increase in the number of native species of both plants and wildlife.    Numbers within species (some species) dropped this year with the drought, but diversity is my main management goal at this time.    We’ve topped 800 species that I’ve been able to identify….that’s  way more than we started with (175, but not all taxa were surveyed.  For the same taxa as at baseline survey,  we now list 446.)

But now, back to the work that has to be done before I can start the formal annual report.


  • Comment by Chuck — December 28, 2008 @ 6:00 pm


    “using the same wording as” the agency — this is something that should be obvious to anyone dealing with Government agencies, but it is one that surprisingly many people don’t catch on to, whether in filling out forms for personal projects or trying to obtain contracts for building military equipment. Especially useful in dealing with understaffed, overworked officials.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 28, 2008 @ 7:54 pm


    Yup. The tax appraisal boards have been briefed by TPWD, so that’s the terminology they know. I think the reason our application for the wildlife management status passed first time, and subsequent yearly reports have gone through, is due in part to my willingness to follow the exact order and wording of the agency even on the part that I’m adding.

    Then there’s illustration. Pictures are definitely useful (a hint I was given by a company that does wildlife management for clients.) So the 2007 annual report has a front page photo of blue-winged teal (rare occurrence, but 2007 was unusually wet, and two teal spent a day in the north end of the creek,) a pictures of plants we introduced that year and of general environment in which they were planted, picture of water flowing over a check-dam that would later need repair, picture of two species using one of the wildlife water features we built (frog eating damselfly, migrant sparrow bird bathing), pictures of every natural/seasonal water on the place, including two of native fish, one fingerling and one adult guarding a nest, photos of supplemental feed being prepared for transport, a picture of volunteers from a local Audubon Society chapter doing a sparrow walk for census, a page of 12 photos of newly IDed insect species, and a final “end of paper” set of four really pretty pictures: raccoon, bird, jewelwing damselfly, and turtle.

    I use their vocabulary and then bury them in data.

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