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Texas EcoLab Program

The Texas EcoLab Program

For land that has lost or is without an “Ag” valuation, Plateau works closely with our sister company, Braun & Gresham, and together we have 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. Plateau and Braun & Gresham are 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 Plateau and Braun & Gresham, PLLC have successfully achieved EcoLab status for over 260 landowners. We have also secured more than 48,000 acres of land for ecological research and gained approval for EcoLab applications in 42 different appraisal districts- a true testament to the program’s high rate of success.

EcoLab advantages

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

EcoLab qualifications

  • Properties must be over 20 acres.
  • The 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.

How Do I Qualify?

First, Plateau Land and Wildlife Management will carry out a Habitat Assessment to evaluate your property as an Ecological Laboratory. Properties over 50 acres work best, but neighboring landowners with less acreage can work together to qualify for the EcoLab program. After a Habitat Assessment, we’ll work with our sister company, Braun & Gresham to take care of the necessary legal requirements to establish your property as an EcoLab.


Learn More from the experts at Braun & Gresham


Click here to view or print an EcoLab information sheet


What's the process for establishing an EcoLab on my property?

  • 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.


  • 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 the 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 the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, Texas State University, University of Houston, Rice University, Trinity University, Mississippi State, and Penn State.



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