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Texas Families Find Financial Stability in Nature-Related Tourism

Jill Miller
Courtesy of Jill Miller, Rim Rock Photography
The CE Miller Ranch in Valentine, Texas.

Around 76% of land in Texas is ranch and farm land and nearly all of it is family-owned. Over time, ranching has changed; nowadays, in most cases, it is no longer possible for ranchers and farmers to meet the costs of maintaining their land and business solely through agricultural income. To make ends meet, most farmers and ranchers are broadening their income streams, incorporating hunting and ecotourism into their operations, using their resources to host guests and out of towners looking to experience the Texas landscape.

The shift towards diversifying income has been a gradual one, but a statute passed by the Texas Legislature in 1997 that capped liability for nature related tourism opened a lot of ranchers up to the idea, as they would no longer be liable for any accidents that occurred on their land. As rancher Jody Miller said, it's always beneficial to find new sources of income, but after a drought spanning from 2010-2012, the need became more pressing.

Some ranchers aren't interested in doing this, as they are still anxious about liability or don't want the extra traffic on their land, but in an unpredictable climate where rain falls only once in a while, some ranchers find the financial stability essential.

Zoe Kurland is a senior producer at Marfa Public Radio.