Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Ted Hollingsworth
Consideration by Council of staff recommendations regarding applicant eligibility, project eligibility, and eligible project costs in Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program project proposals.
March 2, 2016
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff has fielded a number of questions from applicants and potential applicants to the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program (TFRLCP) regarding who may apply for grants and what project costs are eligible for funding. While the answers to some of these questions are prescribed in HB 1925, others appear open to some discretion from the TFRLC Council. Staff will present the Council with recommendations for guidance for this and future cycles of grant funding associated with the TFRLCP.
According to HB 1925, a grantee must be a “qualified easement holder”, defined as a state agency, county, municipality or a Section 501© (3) organization organized for the purpose of preserving agriculture, open space, or natural resources. Also, according to HB 1925, an agricultural conservation easement means a conservation easement designed to conserve water quality or quantity, conserve native wildlife species through protection of their habitat, conserve rare or sensitive plant species, or conserve large tracts of qualified open-space land that are threatened with fragmentation or development. In previous years, TFRLCP guidance has in general considered lands eligible if they were covered by a special ad valorem tax valuation granted by the Central Appraisal District for that county under Section 1-d-1 of Article VIII of the Texas Constitution. These lands include lands managed for row-crop agriculture, hay production, cattle ranching, timber production, other food and fiber products, and wildlife.
There are a number of ancillary costs associated with conservation easement transactions in addition to the actual purchase price of the easement. These can include the costs of an appraisal, survey, phase 1 environmental report, title policy, monitoring endowment, and related costs. HB 1925 does not disallow these costs from grant awards, and staff recognizes that the option to cover these costs in TFRLCP grants can increase the versatility of the program and the range of proposals that are likely to be submitted to the Program and the Council for consideration.
“The Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Council authorizes staff to accept and rank grant applications from any qualified easement holder for lands covered by Section 1 (d) 1 ad valorem tax valuations. The Council furthermore authorizes staff to consider and recommend to the Council project grants that include payment of ancillary project costs.”