TPWD News Release — March 6, 2006
SAN ANTONIO — Recognizing the growing problem of Texas rural land being fragmented into smaller tracts, often with new urban-based owners who haven't been exposed to wildlife or land management, wildlife experts are offering a workshop March 11 designed specifically for San Antonio-area urban owners of rural land.
Workshop topics will include: Quail Management, Prescribed Fire Management, How to Lease your Land, Feral Hog Management, and Updates on the Wildlife Tax Valuation Program. The workshop is jointly hosted by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Alamo Area Master Naturalists.
“For the last few years, we have noticed a challenging trend affecting our Texas ranchlands,” said Richard Heilbrun, TPWD urban wildlife biologist based in San Antonio. “In urban areas across the state, residents move further and further out, seeking refuge from big city living by purchasing rural lands on city fringes. Here in San Antonio, folks are moving northward into the hill country and southward into Wilson and Karnes counties. As these areas become too crowded to be called rural anymore, residents continue their outward migration, and the trend continues unchecked.”
Meanwhile, Texas ranchlands are undergoing a conversion in size and ownership, especially in counties adjacent to large metropolitan areas, where the desire to purchase nearby rural land is strongest.
This conversion is changing Texas, which boasts more private land than any other U.S. state. According to a study by Texas Cooperative Extension, “privately owned farms, ranches and forestlands account for 144 million acres or about 84 percent of the state.
Since 1970 about 1,000 new farms and ranches have been established in Texas each year, even though the total area in farms and ranches has declined by almost 3 million acres over that time.
About 78 percent of our farms and ranches are smaller than 500 acres and these account for 14 percent of the state’s farm and ranch acreage. Only 6 percent of all farms and ranches exceed 2,000 acres, but these account for about 63 percent of Texas’ farm and ranch acreage.
The end result is less available ranchland owned by more and more people.
Heilbrun says a key factor is the type of people purchasing Texas ranchland. The percentage of land owned by traditional ranchers is rapidly decreasing.
“The majority of the new landowners are well educated families that have spent most of their lives saving money specifically to own a piece of rural Texas,” Heilburn said. “Eighty percent of Texans currently live in 20 percent of the state, so it’s no surprise that the majority of new landowners come from the city. It is interesting, though, that most of these landowners are not moving to the country simply to ‘get away from it all.’ These landowners have a strong desire to reconnect with the land, to use their land for recreation as opposed to an income source, and the vast majority of them want to manage their property correctly. They are interested in managing for wildlife and proper use of livestock to ensure their land remains in good shape.”
The challenge, Heilbrun said, is this newest generation of Texas ranchers doesn’t often have the benefit of prior knowledge passed down through generations. To help fill this knowledge gap, TPWD has begun hosting workshops in major cities.
The upcoming San Antonio workshop is open to any interested landowners. It will take place from 8:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11, in the Palo Alto College Performing Arts Building Auditorium at 1400 W. Villaret Blvd.
The cost is $20 per person or $35 for two and includes a box lunch. Walk-ins are welcome if space allows. To register please send a check made out to “Master Naturalist” to Richard Heilbrun, Attn: Wildlife Management Workshop; 12861 Galm Road, San Antonio, TX 78254. To be eligible for door prizes, pre-registration is required. For more information, call (210) 688-6444.
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