Texas land-use trends

Texas Land-Use Trends: Major Changes Coming

A reader recently sent me a link to a fascinating conservation webinar by a group called Texan by Nature. It begins with an eye-opening presentation on Texas Land-Use Trends by Roel Lopez, Director of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute.

According to Lopez, Texas comprises 171 million acres. 95% of that is private and 83% rural.

Texas loses one square mile of working lands (farms/ranches) every day due to population increases.

Roel Lopez, Director, Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute

Biggest Intergenerational Transfer of Land Ever

A&M’s Lopez predicts the largest intergenerational transfer of rural land ever will take place in the next ten years. A minuscule 1% of Texans steward 141 million private acres. And a whopping 40% of rural landowners exceed 65 years of age. Fifty-six million acres (one third of the total) could change hands during in the next ten years, according to Lopez.

The people who buy those lands may not have the same priorities as the previous generation. Rapid growth and a strong economy create increased demand for rural land. And high land values create incentives to subdivide and sell.

So conversion of the land could result in a loss of food, fiber and water supplies, says Lopez. He calculates that every day, that one square mile of land lost results in 20,000 fewer steak dinners produced, 10,000 blue jeans not made, and 91 water towers not filled.

Lopez doesn’t specifically address flooding issues, but it doesn’t take a genius to connect those dots.

Screen capture from State of Texas Natural Resources held on Jan. 19, 2022 shows rapid rise in population placing pressure on land owners.

Pressure to Convert Land Puts Pressure on Forests, Wetlands

With the future of agriculture and human health dependent on private lands and their stewardship, and with so much pressure for elderly landowners and their heirs to cash in, we can expect rapid change.

As urban areas grow rapidly outward, the forests and wetlands that create natural buffers between people and floods could disappear rapidly.

Part of approximately 2500 acres cleared by Colony Ridge in Liberty County last year. These were once forests and wetlands.

To learn more about Texas land-use trends, visit the A&M Natural Resources Institute website.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/16/22 with thanks to Beth Leggieri

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