For land that loses “Ag” valuation, Braun & Gresham has an interesting and effective alternative to paying taxes on market value for five years while reestablishing agricultural use. Taxes can be returned to “Ag” rates immediately if the property is made available for ecological research. Most appraisal districts allow an Ecolab property to move into wildlife management after two years or agricultural use after five. Braun & Gresham is uniquely able to set up qualifying Ecolabs through our many relationships with colleges and universities.

As a conservation-minded landowner, you could substantially reduce your property taxes within just 1 year — while fostering meaningful university studies — by allowing confidential ecological research on your property with the highly successful Texas EcoLab program. Under this program, developed by Braun & Gresham, PLLC, your land could transition into wildlife management use after just 2 years — a compelling and cost-effective alternative to the minimum of 5 years of grazing or farming typically required for properties to qualify for favorable Ag tax rates.

Since the program’s inception in 2005 it has grown ten fold, and Braun & Gresham, PLLC has successfully achieved EcoLab status for over 240 landowners. We have also secured more than 46,500 acres of land for ecological research and gained approval for EcoLab applications in 38 different appraisal districts- a true testament to the program’s high rate of success.

EcoLab advantages

  • Substantial tax savings achieved during first year of program.
  • Property qualifies for wildlife management valuation after 2 years.
  • Advances important scientific research.
  • Enhances relationships with universities and professors.

EcoLab qualifications

  • Properties of 30-50 acres or more work best, but contiguous landowners with less acreage can cooperate for EcoLab purposes.
  • Property must be principally used for research by a college and/or university.
  • Landowner commits to funding and accommodating research projects for a 2 year period.

Braun & Gresham, PLLC provides all the necessary services to establish an EcoLab

  • Evaluate your property to determine the ecological studies and restoration that would be appropriate.
  • Identify specific, high-qualified research scientists who have the capability and interest for doing ecological studies and restoration on the property.
  • Negotiate and draft an agreement between you and each researcher’s university that establishes the terms for use of the land.
  • Coordinate and manage all activities of the researchers, including evaluating research proposals, obtaining liability waivers, logistical coordination, and reporting to your appraisal district.
  • Apply to your appraisal district for appraisal of the land as an Ecological Laboratory.

EcoLab FAQs

What is the legal background for EcoLab?

The Texas Tax Code Section 23.51(1) defines qualified open space land to include “land that is currently devoted principally to agriculture use…or land that is used principally as an ecological laboratory by a public or private college or university.”

What do researchers study on my land?

Past examples include studies of meadow grasses and the preservation and enhancement of native grasses, long-term studies of ecological succession, studies of canyon vegetation, studies of the effects of urbanization on the Edwards Plateau, and soil sampling.

How will use of my property be restricted or changed?

Principle use of property must be for research, but the program allows you to consult with the researchers to clearly ascertain the scope of their research.

Which universities participate in the program?

As the EcoLab reputation grows, so does the distinguished list of institutions of higher learning. The Texas EcoLab program has partnered with University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, Texas State University, University of Houston, Rice University, Trinity University, Mississippi State, and Penn State.

Every Braun & Gresham, PLLC client has their own need and story. For a personal conversation and more tailored information on the EcoLab program, contact attorney Cassie Gresham at (512) 894-5426 or email cgresham@braungresham.com. You can also visit our EcoLab website at www.texasecolab.org