Read the Statewide Texas Landowner Survey results

Researchers from the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute (NRI), in collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and agricultural and natural resource professionals distributed the survey to better understand rural landowners and their land management objectives, challenges, concerns, and preferences.

The newly released report provides an overview of the survey’s general responses to aid conservation organizations, natural resource agencies, and policymakers in conserving working lands across Texas through better landowner engagement. The report also uses data from USDA-NASS to provide an overview of the demographics of Texas landowners and further validate the survey responses received. Understanding who will attend workshops or benefit from programming is vital for natural resource professionals who are developing meaningful resources.

The anonymous, voluntary, and confidential survey is conducted every 5 years and consisted of 34 questions in 2017 and 45 questions in 2022, covering four topic areas: land management preferences, landowner concerns and challenges, land loss, and general landowner information. Over 5,000 Texas private landowners who steward rural working lands volunteered their time and offered candid responses across both survey years.


Owners of private working lands in Texas are among the most productive stewards of farms, ranches, and forests in the country. Their land management decisions influence wildlife habitat, create many year-round opportunities, and support economy-driving industries, such as agriculture and the energy sector. Since private rural working lands comprise most of the open space in Texas (83%), private landowner stewardship determines the condition of the land and the resulting public and private benefits derived from their agricultural and natural resource practices. Landowners are an integral part of ecosystem service benefits, and understanding their needs translates to improved programming and stewardship practices.

Survey Findings

Based on findings from both survey years, fewer landowner respondents are deriving income from their lands, particularly those who own smaller parcels of land (i.e., < 500 acres). Collectively, small acreage landowners in Texas make up approximately 85% of the state's total operations. Despite their large number, this group owns approximately 19.5M acres of operations or only 16% of the 141M private working land acres in Texas.

When asked about their reasons for owning land, the top 3 reasons for landowners were wildlife, family, and hunting, closely followed by ranching and recreation. The most common recreational activities landowners enjoyed included hunting, wildlife watching, and experiencing nature. Respondents also managed their lands for a variety of game species ranging from big game to upland and migratory game birds. For those who hunted, their preferred target wildlife species was overwhelmingly white-tailed deer. Their stated interests and preferences for wildlife, recreation, and ranching indicate that Texas landowners have a vested interest in land stewardship, and many stated that they are willing to participate in landowner programs like tax valuations, landowner cooperatives, and technical assistance programs.

The survey also measured concerns and challenges landowners face in the management of land; the most stated as water ownership, increasing human population, invasive species, water conservation, and habitat loss or land fragmentation. Many landowners expressed feeling a loss of control or that their ownership rights were being restricted. Understanding these feelings allows natural resource organizations to provide program options, information, or technical assistance that can directly address landowner concerns and become invaluable in aiding their continued land stewardship efforts.


Final Takeaways

The Texas Landowner Survey provides an overview of private working land stewards in action, their concerns, objectives, and preferences. Texas rural lands are changing—landowners are generally less economically dependent on the land than in the past, and from a land and wildlife conservation perspective, this creates many opportunities. If natural resource professionals can properly connect with landowners through their values, needs, and concerns, there is a real opportunity to help them better steward their land to the benefit of all Texans.


Report contact: Angelica Lopez


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