Ranch Properties In Texas: How To Best Manage The Land & Wildlife
In the great state of Texas, nearly 100 percent of the land is privately owned placing the responsibility of the natural wildlife habitat squarely on the shoulders of landowners. This voluntary land management encompasses brush, range, grazing and riparian management in addition to prescribed burning, wetland enhancement, habitat protection and the prescribed control of the many species of animals that occupy the land.
Continuous Changes to Landscapes
The natural wildlife habitat has undergone many changes over the centuries as a result of population shifts from humans encroaching to the destruction of integral wetlands to the elimination of natural fires. The suppression of fire and the absence of the bison have been major forces in shaping the ecosystem that historically supported black bear, antelope, white-tailed deer, quail, turkey, wolf, and prairie chicken.
Methods of Restoration
Key to the considerations in controlling habitat are erosion, flooding, water quality, predation and making supplemental food and shelter available to protect and propagate native wildlife. Native prairie is restored by allowing grazing, controlled burns and the mechanical disturbance caused by plowing or mowing.
Problematic invasion of woody growth can be controlled with chainsaws and herbicides. Quoting from Aldo Leopold’s 1933 book, “Game Management,” the same tools can be used for restoration that were originally responsible for habitat destruction – the “ax, plow, cow, fire, and gun.” Further, high quality habitat to attract and produce animals is achieved with the basic understanding of ecological principles, such as food chains, plant growth and succession, and the nutritive cycles of soil, water and minerals. In addition to stabilizing conditions for continued improvement, these same efforts make it possible to better withstand the stressful periods of winter and drought.
Maintaining the native wildlife habitat can be tailored to enhance the property through high density clearing, removing cedar-shears, regrowth and juniper control. The slash, or downed brush, is useful in creating berms and dams to help control erosion while providing supplemental shelter. The chip from slash makes excellent mulch for reseeding, building trails and planting.
Using a high-intensity – short duration grazing system will involve multiple pastures and can be used as a tool for the purpose of manipulating plant diversity, similar to way the bison on the grasslands once did. The duration of grazing allows the land to rest. The kind of livestock and the intensity of grazing can be controlled by allowing or restricting grazing as part of land recovery.
Range enhancement re-establishes plant communities providing for cover as well as a food source to meet the basic requirements and attract wildlife. Diversity of native plants is achieved through seeding mixes that include some broadleaf native perennials which help with foraging and seed production.
Learning about the land’s unique habitat and ecological characteristics help to reveal the potential to attract more native wildlife while complying with expectations.