Savannah Oaks Farm & Ranch by Texas General Land Office

 

Savannah Oaks Farm & Ranch was submitted to the Texas Farm & Ranch Lands Conservation Program (TFRLCP) by Ducks Unlimited as a TFRLCP project for CIAP funding. The property is owned by Rodney and Donna Kuchar and is located approximately 7 miles east of Angleton and 38 miles south of downtown Houston. Development of neighborhoods and ranchettes has begun within close proximity of the property.


Seven hundred acres were proposed to be placed under conservation easement with restrictions on further development of the property for residential, commercial or industrial purposes. The goal of the project is to preserve and protect the agricultural and wildlife benefits that Savannah Oaks provides, in perpetuity.

Funds requested from TFRLCP and partners were based on current estimates of land values and restrictions in the region. Estimated value of $3,000 per acre without restrictions and $1,500 per acre with restrictions. However, all costs are based on a yellow book appraisal conducted when the project was approved.

Ducks Unlimited requested $542,500 from the TFRLCP. Funds contributed from other sources are as follows: $292,500, West Bay Initiative (Galveston Bay Estuary Program/Texas Commission on Environmental Quality); and $250,000 in easement value donated by Savannah Oaks Farm and Ranch. Ducks Unlimited proposed to use $1,000,000 of secured funds and donated easement value to fully protect 700 acres. An additional $85,000 was necessary to perform the appraisal, baseline report, and other required due-diligence efforts.

Savannah Oaks Farm and Ranch has been managed for agricultural purposes since the late 1800s. The property was heavily farmed until the late 1970s when land ownership and management changes caused the farming to fall under more sporadic and passive patterns. In 2000, the current owner began to actively manage the property with a focus toward rice production and improved wildlife habitat.

The farm contains several habitat types that provide significant value to a host of migratory and resident wildlife species. The four major habitat types include: Rice production/agriculture; managed wetlands; pasture/grassland; and riparian woodlands.

Savannah Oaks is located approximately 5 miles due north of the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. Mr. Kuchar reports considerable utilization of managed wetlands and crops on the property by waterfowl and other waterbirds from the refuge. Any loss of wildlife benefits provided by Savannah Oaks could significantly disrupt localized feeding patterns and cause migratory birds to displace to other regions of the Gulf Coast.

Savannah Oaks is also within 6 miles of 1,389 acres of managed wetlands and wildlife-friendly farmlands enrolled in the Texas Prairie Wetlands Program (TPWP). TPWP is a cost-share program that helps private landowners restore, enhance, and protect shallow, seasonally flooded wetlands throughout a 28-county focus area. Ducks Unlimited, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service partnered to create the TPWP.

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