Conservation Matters October 2015

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Texas A&M institute publishes interactive Web tool for land use trends

Texas A&M institute publishes interactive Web tool for land use trends

The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) recently added a new interactive Web tool to its Texas Land Trends website that allows users to interact with land use information released in 2014.

The October 2014 Texas Land Trends report described key findings of changes in land use, ownership size and property values of rural working lands alongside population changes from 1997 to 2012.

“This new Web tool allows users to interact with the data to view land trends across Texas for user-defined areas,” said Amy Snelgrove, IRNR’s program coordinator.

Snelgrove said users can view 15-year trends in private working lands for such metrics as land use, market value, ownership size and population by county, river basin, ecoregion or region of interest. They can also choose different regional areas to make side-by-side comparisons of different metrics used.

“For example, a user interested in trends in land use and ownership size in Brazos County can use the interactive tool to see that information for 1997-2012,” Snelgrove said. “Then, if the user wants to see how those trends compare to the same metrics in another area, they can.”

Dr. Roel Lopez, IRNR’s director, said the 2014 Texas Land Trends report showed that Texas experienced a net loss of nearly 1.1 million acres of rural working lands from 1997 to 2012, continuing the trend of rural land loss and fragmentation in Texas.

“This dramatic loss and fragmentation of privately owned farms, ranches and forests — also known as  rural working lands — is affecting the state’s rural economies, the conservation of water and other natural resources, as well as the nation’s food security and military training capabilities,” he said.

Lopez said the interactive data in Texas Land Trends provides public and private decision-makers with information needed to plan for the conservation of these vital working lands.

“Texas Land Trends is a critically important data source for policy makers, conservation organizations, state agencies and federal agencies in terms of looking at what is happening to our land base in Texas,” he said. 

Ross Anderson, IRNR’s software applications developer, built the database for this interactive tool using data sources that included the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts property tax/value data, which provided an annual compilation of land use and land value data from 1,021 independent school districts. Other data sources included the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Census of Agriculture data from 1997 to 2012 and Texas Department of State Health Services census population data and between census years estimates. 

Lopez said the Web tool will be followed by a series of reports relating land trends to natural resource issues across the state. All reports will be available on the Texas Land Trends website as they are published.

Texas Land Trends was developed in cooperation with Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Agricultural Land Trust. It was funded by the Meadows Foundation, Houston Endowment, Mitchell Foundation, Hershey Foundation and AgriLife Extension.

Read the AgriLIfe Today story.

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