Monday night the Indian Trail Chapter of Master Naturalists held its first meeting of the year at First Methodist Church in Waxahachie. 

President  “Mox” Moxley led a short business meeting. Program chairman Lysle Mockler then introduced Greg Armstrong of the Ellis County Appraisal District. 

Armstrong is in charge of agricultural appraisals. He then presented an informative talk to the 45 members and guests present.

He provided some background information about Ellis County. It has 940 square miles with 609,000 acres. Of those, 506,500 are in agricultural use;  however, only  465,000 of those are receiving an agricultural exemption for tax purposes. Armstrong then reminded the audience that if a landowner were to relinquish the agricultural evaluation for whatever reason, the state requires that the landowner repay those taxes that would have been levied.

In 1995, the state legislature established a wildlife evaluation which included a detailed list of seven possible activities, and in 2001 restricted this to plots of more than 12.5 acres or larger for land in Region 4, of which Ellis County is a part.  

The remainder of the program dealt with the steps for obtaining and maintaining a tax evaluation for wildlife. 

First, the land must already qualify for an agricultural evaluation, which the tax office can help document. 

This would disqualify land in a flood plain, for example. 

Next, it must be used to propagate a sustaining, breeding, migrating or wintering population of indigenous, or native, wild animals. 

Obviously, this would not include exotic species. 

The landowner may receive help in planning for any three of seven activities from the given list by contacting the Ellis County AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service, or local Master Naturalists. 

He also recommended seminars led by qualified wildlife biologists in the Frontier and Plateau programs held in Bastrop, Texas. 

After a short question and answer session, the presentation ended.

The next training for Master Naturalists will begin in mid-March with classes to run for 10 Saturdays through June 11. (Ellis County Lawn and Garden Expo and holiday weekends are excluded.) 

Classes will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. with classroom presentations in the mornings and field trips in the afternoon. 

The $150. fee covers the manual, speakers and background check. 

In return for this training, participants provide the county with at least  40 hours of volunteer service each year. 

Applications are available by calling the AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175. 

Tuesday, Feb. 15, is the application deadline.