Podcast Ep. #4: Finding Natural Resource Professionals in Texas and Wildlife Tax Valuations

We ended 2023 on a reflective note after a year of learning, shifting, and planning. The new year brings about a prompting of sorts to take a look at the ground we’re treading and recenter on our purpose. We’re looking to do better with less and to maximize our time where there’s still work to be done in natural resources management, education, and policy. We’re looking to always begin with: Who can we help?

In the spirit of teaching and extending science, we were excited to kick off the new year with Episode #4 of The Land Steward Podcast, “Finding Natural Resource Professionals in Texas and Wildlife Tax Valuations”. This episode is chock full of personal and relatable experiences—what a great time to be a land steward.

As land managers, we’re often asking how we can carry out our practices better, reassessing our resources and the community and experts we lean on for solutions. Thankfully, we have access to dedicated, passionate, and insightful professionals who prioritize ensuring you can sustainably manage the complex ecosystem of land, wildlife, economics, and time.

On the podcast, we dove right into the episode from the NRI inbox, which you can take advantage of at nri@tamu.edu anytime, to share a story from a friend of a landowner who reached out looking for direction and resources. We receive emails of this nature a few times a month and we’re ecstatic about any opportunity to solve a challenge for one more landowner.

Paraphrasing here, he wrote that he has a friend who owns 1,500 acres on a Texas ranch. He's looking to maximize the deer herd in addition to doing some general habitat restoration. He said that he’s worked as a wildlife biologist outside of Texas since 1998, so we already know he’s coming from a place of expertise and he's recognizing some of those challenges that may be priorities for his friend. He asked about how to find and share Texas-based resources that will help his friend build a foundation from a management aspect, especially concerning white-tailed deer. He shared some of the more obvious issues regarding invasives he identified and asked if there was an entity that could support maintenance or removal. He asked if Texas Parks and Wildlife would be the best resources for deer population management and if we were aware of any workshops, webinars, trainings, or just different events that he could investigate.

We were able to respond to him with resources, and from one landowner to another, I shared with him the experiences we’ve had on our property working with organizations and specialists to prioritize and identify our best plan of action.

We wanted to share this story because this landowner’s journey is beginning like many other landowners in Texas, whether you’re new to the land or manage a heritage ranch. With that in mind, NRI created a field guide called How to Find a Natural Resource Professional in Texas to give direction and a comprehensive look at resources and expertise ready to be tapped.

Private Land Stewardship Field Guide Private Land Stewardship Field Guide


Taking the time machine back to 2018 when we were able to test this field guide, we were attending workshops, filtering through scientific publications, and identifying experts to curate the best information for land stewards when you’re at the decision table. Some of those workshops included the Bennett Trust Land Stewardship Conference, GenerationNext, and educational experiences from organizations like the Hill Country Alliance. There’s an incredible number of brilliant pieces of education out there developed by specialists who are dedicated to creating solutions and providing resources for land stewards. By going through this experience and applying what we built for the Institute to our individual properties, we were able to ensure that the user experience and information offered just made good sense.


How to Find Natural Resource Professionals in Texas

Cracking open this lesson, right off the bat, you recognize the four main entities designed to support you as a land steward, to start conversations that enable you to make the best possible decisions, doing better with less knowing that you can make a positive impact. Ultimately, you don't have to do it alone, and this is where to start. 

There are a multitude of benefits for landowners who take the time to contact local natural resource professionals, not limited to gaining knowledge about natural resource issues. By creating this connection, you meet new people who have a wealth of information and experience, and who have figured it out so that you don't have to go through trial and error.

AgriLife Extension

Beginning with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (Extension), their mission is powerful and far-reaching. They work daily to make Texas better by providing solutions at the intersection of agriculture, natural resources, youth and health, to improve the well-being of individuals, families, businesses, and communities through education and service.

Areas of expertise:

  • Mitigating drought impacts
  • Water conservation
  • Livestock management
  • Row crop management
  • Wildlife management

The services and programs led by Extension are Texas Wildlife Services, Department of Soil & Crop Sciences, Beef Cattle Short Course, Biological & Agricultural Engineering Extension, Irrigation Water Management, Water Resources Management and Animal Feeding Operation Engineering.

The most important part of each of these areas is how to get connected. You can use the tool to search by county to pinpoint your area and matching specialists.

Texas A&M Forest Service

The next section covers the Texas A&M Forest Service which provides statewide leadership to assure the state's trees, forests, and related natural resources are protected and sustained to benefit for all. Their areas of expertise are forest management and then wildfire and disaster management. Their services include Wildfire and Disaster Response, Preparing for & Preventing Wildfires, Forest & Land Management Programs, Urban & Community Forestry Support, Data & Analysis and Educational Resources and Programs.

Texas Parks and Wildlife

The third section of four is the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) which manages and conserves the natural and cultural resources of Texas to provide hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

My personal entrance into understanding the complexity of land management and stewardship began when we developed a relationship with our property’s biologist, Joyce Moore. Joyce supported the creation of our land and wildlife management plan and set the stage for management conversations our multi-generational ranch hadn’t yet approached. The work we’ve done with TPWD changed almost every aspect of how we approach management from our livestock operation to our hunting lease.

TPWD leads permitting for the state, including fishing and boating, land and water, and hunting and wildlife permits, Private Lands Assistance and Technical Guidance Programs, Wildlife Management on Private Lands, Agriculture Property Tax Conversion for Wildlife Management, and Game Management.

If you’re interested in learning more about different types of tax valuations outside of traditional agricultural, this episode also features an interview with Dr. Jim Cathey who covers another resource called Wildlife Management as Agricultural Use for Property Tax Valuation in Texas. He also shared some about conversation heroes and giants including David Langford, Kirby Brown and Clyde Alexander, who moved this effort forward, creating new possibilities and options for land stewards.


Natural Resources Conservation Service

The last section is the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) which delivers conservation solutions so agricultural producers can protect natural resources and feed a growing world. Their areas of expertise are soils and reducing erosion, water conservation and wildlife habitat management. NRCS leads the Farm Bill Program and works with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, EQIP, which provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers.

They also host the Conservation Stewardship Program, which we refer to as a CSP, to help ag producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and then adopt some of those additional conservation activities to address other priorities. They also help with easements through their Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and their Healthy Forest Reserve Program. Additionally, they offer the Conservation Technical Assistance Program to provide the nation's farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with the knowledge and tools that they need to conserve, maintain, and restore natural resources.



We’ll leave you with this—as a lesson designed to allow you to go through on your own time, it’s been helpful for us to see all our options on the table from AgriLife Extension to the Forest Service, TPWD and through the NRCS. Knowing your options and that resources exist that haven’t been tapped into helps to relieve the pressure for land stewards who are working to make the best decisions for their piece of Texas.

Listen to our latest episode of The Land Steward Podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.



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