The form is supposed to be easy and quick to use (is any government form easy and quick to use, other than the 1040-ES, which just tells you to enclose it with your quarterly tax payment?) It has boxes you can check off for having done the things listed under the various required Management Activities. However, it was designed for large properties, not small ones, and thus some of these listings are...well...ridiculous. There are also no listed maintenance activities and anyone with rural property knows that maintenance of existing stuff (for instance, pumps, pipes, water storage tanks, fences, check dams and gabions) uses up a lot of time, energy, and money.
So every year, in addition to checking off boxes I can check off, I prepare a supplementary report, ordered in the same order as the state form, which details what we did and includes photographs of much of it. Luckily, Richard bought our first little digital point-and-shoot camera just about the time we got the land, which has made doing these illustrated reports vastly easier. All through the year I document our work and its results, what works and what doesn't, as well as photographing every kind of wildlife I can, both for our own research interests and for the annual report. If I'm lucky, I've already cropped, resized, and converted back to jpegs those that will be needed for the annual report. Inevitably, I've missed something, and have to go out during the report-prep period to take the photograph illustrating it.
Pictures, in this instance, are worth more than a thousand words...they're also worth more than a thousand dollars, in that maintaining the partial exemption from property tax for this land means we can afford to own it. It has the same tax rate that it had as pasture for cattle (its qualifying ag use prior to conversion to wildlife management.) There's some feeling among the ignorant that small properties like this have no value to wildlife, even in a rapidly developing region. That's...ignorant. Even city parks have a value for wildlife. Even backyards. As I drove home from church yesterday, I saw another several hundred acre swatch, previously mixed woods and pasture, scraped bare for extension of a toll road. Habitat gone. Watercourse fouled and ultimately made sterile (as it crosses a major highway, it will be put in a concrete chute.) 80 acres being restored to native plants--both prairie and wooded sections--is already a boon to local and migratory wildlife.
But the annual report is a pain in the patoot, no doubt about it. First there's the doing of it, and then the several months of worry until the tax office deigns to let us know if it passed muster or if we need to go down and protest the disallowal. That happened once, when the state changed the rules on us and the county simply disallowed all wildlife management plans. We had to write new plans, and new reports, and I did not appreciate the hours I had to spend inside working on that, either.
However, I'm down near the end. I need to take out one existing picture and put in a better one for that purpose that I found last night. I need to either find the existing picture of the north fence brushpile or go take one.
Then it's over until next year. The report, that is. The "to do" list for the place itself is never-ending. There's the west fence repair...the repair of the east end checkdam that took damage in the fall floods (partly repaired)...the repair of tractor ford (needs more rock) so there's a hope of getting a vehicle across that again someday, and the repair of the Westbrook rock crossing (would be passible to a tractor now, but a tractor couldn't get across the creek now...) Etc.