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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wildlife Biology

I had a surprising day this week. We had made an appointment to see one of Texas' official wildlife biologists. Frankly, I didn't know there was such a thing as wildlife biology (though I guess I should have assumed as much).

We bought some land in a remote area of Hunt County, Texas last year. According to Murphy's Law ('s_law), the tax assessor for that county decided to review the property's agricultural exemption status after the transfer of ownership had been processed. (We had been told by the former owner that the property had no agricultural exemption for taxing purposes.) Of course, they realized that the property was not being used for agricultural purposes, and hadn't been for several years.

So we were notified that the taxes on this property would be tripling this year. Ouch! But we were told there is an opportunity to convert a previously agricultural property to a wildlife property status - thereby maintaining a more favorable tax status. The natural question then is, "What is a wildlife property?" It was an especially pertinent question to us, since the property is on a single-lane dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, and seems to be inundated with just about every kind of critter you can imagine.

Enter Mr. Trevor Tanner, who is maybe one of Texas' finest wildlife biologists. He works for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Service (, and is responsible for coaching land owners in Hunt County. Our appointment with Mr. Tanner was to discuss what would be involved in our managing this land as a wild life preserve. We expected to spend maybe an hour in his office, learning the basic rules and probably being directed to more resources. We definitely expected to be directed to someone who would charge us more money.

What happened at Mr. Tanner's office was nothing short of a surprise. He spent the entire morning with us. Hours. We pulled up maps, got books out, researched, discussed and of course asked loads of questions. Finally, around noon, Mr. Tanner suggested that we break for lunch, and then he would follow us to our farm for a "look around."

After lunch, he drove with us out to the farm and spent the rest of the day with us. We hiked all 52 acres, identified plant species, discussed tree types, examined creek flows, pond critters (there are some gigantic turtles) and more. Mr. Tanner showed us how to harvest wild seeds from different plants, where to plant what, how to build a brush pile, where to place bird houses and bat houses, etc.

As we sat around the camp fire that evening, we realized that we'd just gotten a wonderful gift from the State of Texas and from this enthusiastic wild life biologist. He's made his passion his profession, and it shows in his work. It isn't often that one gets to compliment a government employee. But this week our hats are off to Mr. Trevor Tanner, of the Texas Parks & Wildlife in Greenville. He is a gentleman and a scholar. And he does his state proud.

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