What does a Horny Toad Have to Do with It?
In Part I of Be Aware, I discussed performing a due diligence assessment with regards to past and present environmental hazards in the vicinity of the property you may be considering. In this part, I want to point out another aspect of the due diligence research you do that revolves around the plants, animals, and habitats that may be on or near the property you are considering making a loan on, developing, or remodeling. The animals and plants that inhabit that property need to be accounted for, not only because we value them, but because their presence may affect the dollars we need to spend on a project. As I have said before, hard money loans are offered based on the value of the property. So, you want to look carefully at anything that affects the property value now and in the future.
As a landowner, you will be obliged by law to work around habitat or vegetative species that are considered endangered. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, endangered species are plants or animals that will likely become extinct within the foreseeable future. Threatened means that a species may become endangered within the foreseeable future.
In Texas, plants or animals may be protected under the authority of state law and/or under the Federal Endangered Species Act. Examples of federally listed species in north Texas are the black-capped vireo, golden-cheeked warbler, and the Texas poppy mallow. Some of the state listed species are the Texas horned lizard (horny toad) and the Texas kangaroo rat.
The Texas list deals only with the status of the species within the borders of Texas. The Federal listing means that an animal is in trouble throughout its entire range which may cover several different states. Federal law not only protects the individual animal, but also protects its habitat. While TPWD enforces regulations pertaining to state listed species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforces regulations pertaining to federally listed species under the Endangered Species Act.
Real Estate as Habitat
In the business of real estate, habitat is the concern. Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat is the number one cause for species declines in Texas. For example, the black-footed ferret is one of the rarest mammals in North America, yet it inhabited prairie dog towns in North Texas as recently as 1963. While prairie dog towns still exist, they are too small and too few in number to support a population of ferrets.
To sum it up, just as you would review the local area of your planned real estate transaction for hazardous concerns that will affect the property, you need to research the animals and plants that live on the property and their habitats that might be nearby.
Don’t forget to look for wetlands and ponds when you walk around the property or when you look at the topographical maps. Working around wetland and rivers requires special permits and special protective construction measures that need to be worked into the cost of the construction or remodeling projects.
A County by County List
Visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for a county by county list of endangered and protected species in the area you are planning to work in. Each county’s list can be downloaded onto an Excel Spreadsheet. See https://tpwd.texas.gov/gis/rtest
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department also offers private landowner tools for things like habitat conservation plans, safe harbor agreements, candidate conservation agreements, and landowner incentive programs at
Remember. I’m not giving legal advice, just pointing out areas you should research before you buy a property or loan money and put your name on a deed. Be sure to be aware of the physical reality of the property itself. Look at it in real life and on the internet.
Texas Parks and Wildlife website at https://tpwd.texas.gov/
Photo Ben Goodwyn [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons