Conservation & Endangered Species
Land and natural resource conservation has become an increasingly important issue for Texas, and our conservation practice group is very experienced in assisting clients with a variety of conservation and resource related matters, including conservation easements, water rights, endangered species issues, mineral issues, environmental permitting, and renewable energy development.
With the rapid growth of our cities and expanding development into rural areas, Texas continues to experience the breakup and loss of family-owned farms, ranches and recreational land. The challenges of profitably operating a farm or ranch and the increasing estate tax burden created by high land values has made it difficult for families to retain their properties to pass on to the next generation. The use of conservation easements is becoming a popular tool for landowners, allowing them to retain ownership of their property and maintain their current uses, while at the same time generating significant tax benefits and sometimes needed cash. We represent landowners with the sale and donation of conservation easements and regularly advises land trusts and governmental entities holding conservation easements.
We have considerable experience in the negotiating and drafting of conservation easements and related development and management plans and extensive knowledge of the applicable laws affecting real estate generally and conservation easements in particular. We are also very experienced in dealing with issues related to bargain sale transactions utilizing public funds, including NRCS grant programs such as the Farm and Ranch Protection Program (FRPP). In fact, our attorneys have been involved to date with nearly every transaction funded in the state by NRCS under the FRPP. Our attorneys also regularly work with other consultants often necessary in conservation transactions, including real estate brokers, title companies and underwriters, surveyors, appraisers, land planners, environmental consultants, wildlife biologists and geologists.
Our conservation attorneys are recognized as one of the premier land conservation groups in Texas, with more than 25 years of experience advising private landowners, land trusts and governmental entities on conservation issues. The team has as deep understanding and appreciation of the complex and sensitive issues involved in balancing land use (including development) with conservation and protection of natural resources. They are particularly experienced in structuring complex multi-party transactions and negotiating and drafting conservation easements, open space, endangered species habitat, and sensitive water quality issues.
- Represented landowner in a multi-party bargain sale transaction involving the negotiation of a conservation easement protecting over 1,500 acres of open space and significant water recharge features, and the sale of an additional 1,500 acres in fee to a local governmental entity for $30 million.
- Represented land trust in the purchase and negotiation of a phased conservation easement transaction, involving easements encumbering approximately 2,300 acres and 1,300 acres, respectively, utilizing federal funding awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through a section 6 HCP grant.
- Represented landowner in bargain sale transaction involving the negotiation of a conservation easement over 500 acres, involving the protection of open space, critical watersheds and significant archaeological sites, and compliance with NRCS funding requirements of its FRPP.
- Represented local government agency and national land trust in its acquisition of over 30,000 acres of fee interests and conservation easements, including more than 20 separate transactions at a cost of over $65 million.
- Represented national land trust in the donation of a conservation easement over 4,600 acres, protecting open space and endangered species.
- Represented landowner in two multi-party transactions involving the conveyance of conservation easements over 1,000 acres and assistance with securing the first FRPP grant awarded in Texas.
May 26, 2023
On May 25, the U.S. Supreme Court (the Court) issued its decision in Sackett v. EPA which substantially narrows the reach of Section 301(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA), a provision that prohibits certain discharges of pollutants to navigable waters without a CWA permit. Determining the scope of the CWA’s definition of navigable waters, and in turn the propriety of the regulatory definitions established by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) to define waters of the United States, is at the heart of this litigation.
By Jonathan Bull
November 17, 2022
Lesser Prairie-Chicken Listed as Endangered in Permian Basin | Bloomberg Law (Subscription Required)
The Biden administration plans to list the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered in the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, and threatened in Oklahoma, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday.
June 8, 2021
Proposed Listing of Lesser Prairie-Chicken Under Endangered Species Act and Potential Impact on Energy Projects
By Jerry Webberman, Alicia French, Jesse Lotay, & Ben Rhem
On June 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to list the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act. If finalized, the species would be listed as endangered in the Southern DPS, which is located in West Texas and New Mexico and overlaps with the oil- and gas-rich Permian Basin, and threatened in the Northern DPS, located in the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado. Public hearings to gather comments on the proposal will be held on July 8 and July 14, and all public comments must be submitted by August 2, 2021.
June 7, 2021
An endangered listing wouldn’t be a “death knell for industry,” but it would be a new regulatory burden for developers, making wind farm construction more difficult, said Jackson Walker partner Ben Rhem, who represents wind farm lenders and developers.
“Developers are going to have to be more careful, more thoughtful about where they’re siting their project,” Rhem said. “There may be certain areas where it becomes such a regulatory burden that it just makes sense to look elsewhere.”
March 5, 2019
Jonathan M. Bull brings to the Chambers USA-ranked Environment & Natural Resources practice substantial experience handling environmental issues encountered in land development and construction, manufacturing, and commercial operating sectors.
November 1, 2018
Leonard Dougal Speaks on Water Rate Issues and Agency Jurisdiction at Texas Water Conservation Association’s Fall Conference
Leonard Dougal participated in a panel discussion on emerging trends at the Public Utility Commission of Texas on wholesale water rates, cost of service, and PUC actions to change retail water service areas.
April 14, 2017
Energy attorney Pete Hosey spoke on water treatment technologies at the 43rd Annual Ernest E. Smith Oil, Gas and Mineral Law Institute in Houston on April 14, 2017.