Working lands, whether private or publicly owned, provide substantial economic, ecological, and recreational resources across the U.S. Here in Texas, we often boast of being a “private land state”, meaning the majority of the land (~95%) is held in private ownership. Many may wonder how this came to be and if other states fall under similar ownership patterns. For this new Featured Map, we briefly explore the history of land settlement across the nation and demonstrate the unique ownership landscape that exists today.
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Texans will agree that you could never experience the full breadth of the state in one lifetime. It’s easy to identify the unique characteristics sprinkled throughout, ranging from the population composition and cultures, the native flora and fauna, and the spectacular river systems like the Red River in the north and the Rio Grande in the south. In true Texas form, you will also find a range of agricultural production strategies varying by regional differences in climate and landscape. At the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, we tell the story of our state’s privately-owned farms, ranches, and forests, otherwise known as working lands, which provide numerous ecological, economic and intrinsic benefits to our communities and beyond.
While ag tax evaluations traditionally involve practices such as haying, cropping, grazing and livestock, the state added a wildlife management use component in 1995. This non-traditional approach to preserving open space lands and their values has gained momentum in the past two decades, as the total number of acres enrolled has risen from 93K in 1997 to 3.2M in 2012. So how do you qualify and what is the process to switch from a traditional ag use property to wildlife management use?