Water is probably the most effective addition to rural property in Texas that will increase its value over the cost of construction. If your property can hold water, building ponds, lakes and wetlands will instantly increase its market price. With wetlands in particular, due to the great loss of this ecosystem throughout the country, there are many public and private groups that are designed to offer landowners technical and financial assistance to enhance and/or create wetlands on their lands.
As a prospective buyer the two most important factors in choosing a piece of land will be the suitability of the soil to hold water, and the availability of water to add to the created wetland.
Many areas of Texas do not have soil that is capable of holding water for an extended period of time. While for smaller ponds, there are solutions such as bentonite that may be added to the soil to aid in holding water, wetlands typically cover a much larger area than ponds making bentonite prohibitively expensive. You can go to http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/WebSoilSurvey.aspx and determine the soils ability to hold water on any piece of land in the State.
Access to a source of water to add to the wetlands in times of drought is also critical in Texas. While wetland units may be built without supplemental water, this lack will cause many seasons of lost productivity when the rains do not come. In addition, many of the programs for landowner financial aid in building the wetlands will give precedence and will pay a higher percentage of the cost of construction if a water source is available to ensure water every winter. Certain areas of Texas may have water canal systems available to purchase water, however these areas tend to be limited to the middle and upper coast of the State. Most water sources will come from groundwater so it is important to find out how much water can be pumped and the cost of a well to drill if one is not already available. As an example to consider, a 50 acre wetland unit that average 18” in depth would take 75 acre feet of water to fill. If one wished to fill the unit in a two-week period the well production would have to be approximately 1,200 gpm.
Once you have determined that a wetland on your property will be feasible, or found a new piece of property that fits the criteria for putting in a wetland, your next step is to contact one of the myriads of groups that will offer assistance in your endeavor. Ducks Unlimited works through several programs with State and Federal authorities and are the most often used group by private landowners in Texas to put in wetlands. Calling the D.U. field office in Richmond is a good place to start (832) 595-0663. Many of their programs will reimburse landowners up to 75% of construction costs of building wetlands and in cases where there is supplemental water they may reimburse 100% of the costs.
You can also contact your local Texas Parks & Wildlife Department office, local FSA office and local NRCS office to find out other programs that may fit the criteria for enhancing wetlands on your property. Each of these groups has programs that offer financial and technical assistance in putting a program in place.
Once you have created wetlands on your property, management of the land is integral in maintaining a vibrant system that will attract wildlife on a continuing basis. This will require manipulation of the water levels, prescribed burns and ground disturbance (disking) to be sure that prime moist soil plants will dominate your wetland unit. Learn to identify plant species that will be most favored by waterfowl such as smartweed, barnyard grass and sprangletop and develop techniques that will encourage them over less favored plants that can push out these desired species. Again, the technical assistance that you will find through the groups contacted will be invaluable in maintaining your wetland.
With the exception of some deep South Texas and far West Texas properties, much of our State is suitable for building wetland units. The type and size of wetland units will change depending on many factors over the geography of the State, but the creation of wetlands on your property will greatly enhance the value of the place and will improve its attractiveness to all wildlife, not just waterfowl. There are few arguments for not taking advantage of the great help that is offered in Texas for building these units and the rewards of bettering your ranch for increased recreational value.