In case you missed it, our Texas Land Trends team recently published the latest Status and Trends report that characterizes our state’s privately-owned farms, ranches and forests, collectively known as working lands. While Texas is widely known for its vast rural landscapes and prolific agricultural operations, much of the state’s population (~85%) actually reside in urban or suburban areas, and only a minor portion (<1%) own a piece of rural real estate, totaling about 248,000 ownerships. This small number of ownerships actually account for 82% of the state’s land mass, thus, the stewardship of privately-owned working lands greatly benefits all of us; through improved environmental quality, supply of numerous natural resources for consumers, and basic infrastructure to supporting our state’s rural economies.
The combined influence of a growing population that results in an expansion outwardly from urban areas, aging farmers and ranchers, and increasing land values, to name a few, are key drivers to land fragmentation or the breakup of larger parcels of land and/or conversion of working lands to non-agricultural uses (e.g., housing development). How we, as collective stakeholders in the state, balance our needs and the challenges from land use changes will surely influence future outcomes for Texas’ open spaces. So, where do we begin? Understanding where fragmentation or conversion is likely to occur is an important starting point for engaging in informed conservation measures, educational outreach, and land development planning. This month, we highlight the Fragmentation Risk Index map from the Status and Trends report. Here we identify counties with a relatively higher likelihood of experiencing these changes. A prominent pattern of elevated fragmentation and conversion risk is seen in the Texas triangle, an area that includes counties within and surrounding the metroplexes of Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas/Fort Worth.
Figure: Texas fragmentation risk index created using market value percent change (1997 to 2017), operator age greater than 65 (2017), average operation size (2017) and future population growth (2020 to 2070).
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