2010-03-11 / Community News

Maintaining Your Wildlife Valuation

The implementation and record keeping of wildlife management should be the same as any agricultural practice. Records of expenses, receipts, and any other pertinent documentation should be maintained annually.

Photographs are one of the most effective ways to document progress and compliance with your wildlife management plan. Photograph all habitat management practices that you do prior to, during, and after implementation. Do this by creating a photo point, or specific area that you will take photos over time, by marking a targeted area with a post or stake so that the exact same area can be relocated and photographed repeatedly to help monitor change. For example, if the management practice being implemented is restoring native grass pastures, a landowner could create a photo point to monitor the success of native grass establishment. When taking annual photos for a photo point they should be taken during the same season (e.g., every spring), preferably on the same date, for a more precise comparison. Trail cameras are also an effective tool for documentation. Camers help document the variety of wildlife species that are using an area in order to help create an annual list of species seen on a property. Cameras also may be used to conduct a formal census for animals such as white-tailed deer or bobcat.

Creating and maintaining current maps on an annual basis, whether hand-drawn or computer generated, is also helpful. Areas where management practices have been or will be implemented should be included on the map. For example, areas targeted for brush control, locations of photo points, food plots, nest boxes, brush piles, trail cameras, feeders, etc. should be indicated on the map.

Saving receipts of all expenses incurred in order to implement and complete wildlife management practices can also be kept on file for documentation of compliance. Keeping a log of all activities performed by date, noting information such as when they were initiated and when they were completed is helpful.

Whatever method of verification is chosen, it should be appropriate to the practice and it should be easy to maintain. As with other agricultural

practices, the law does not require the landowner to be successful or even to use best management practices. It does however require the landowner to show good

faith effort. If bluebird

houses are properly placed and maintained, but no bluebirds nest in them, the landowner cannot be penalized for the lack of success because the effort was made. If the bluebird houses sat under a tarp in the garage for two years, then it would be reasonable to assume that the landowner had not acted in good faith. Good faith effort for other practices can be more difficult to determine and may be weather dependent, so it is wise for landowners to be able to document their attempts and efforts.

At the discretion of the Chief Appraiser, the landowner may be requested to submit an Annual Report to document annual accomplishments. The law does not require an annual report, but if the Appraisal District chooses to do so, then the report must be on the Annual Reporting Form as provided by TPWD and it is the responsibility of the Appraisal District to notify landowners. This form can be found on the TPWD website at: http:/ /www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/land/private/ agricultural_land/, if not provided by the Appraisal District. The deadline for annual reports if requested is typically January of each year. Regardless of what the Appraisal District requests, it is a good idea to keep up with your plan by completing an annual report and keeping good documentation of your activities.

Landowners who would like TPWD technical assistance may contact their local biologist. You can find your local biologist online at: http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist/.

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