Land Management Trends of Small Acreage Landowners in a High Growth Exurban Watershed in Central Texas




Sheffield, Christopher

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The lifestyle- or amenity-oriented landowner is a major force on the rural and xurban landscape and creates an ecology that is unique, yet even in its heterogeneity, is present across most developed areas of the planet. The land management behaviors of these landowners, often living on parcels between 2 to 40 acres, is overlooked by many land conservation studies in favor of the large acreage tracts targeted for protection by conservation agencies and organizations. As a group, however, these landowners control vast amounts of the rural countryside in many areas, and, rather than devaluing those landscapes as vast ecological losses, research can illuminate the type of landscape these actors may produce and why. These inquiries can also inform county extension service programming and other conservation actors seeking to encourage implementation of best practices in these landscapes. This research explores the link between land management attitudes, actions, and ideologies of small acreage exurban landowners and their implications for the landscape as a whole. In particular, this research is a case study of the land management dynamics in a high growth exurban region of Central Texas. A survey gathered in-depth landscape preferences and management actions for a random sample of small acreage landowners in the Onion Creek watershed outside of Austin, Texas. The study’s focus on small acreage residential landowners provides new insights into this class and type of exurban actor, by using survey data to create three recognizable exurban land management aesthetics or archetypes and linked land management actions that are at work across the exurban landscape. “Ranchland”, “suburban”, and “wild / natural” land management archetypes engage in various degrees of brush management, suburban-style gardening, native planting, and relative non-management. Regardless of their archetype, however, many of these actors demonstrate a high motivation for various kinds of conservation actions mediated by a desire to enact their idealized vision of the Texas Hill Country landscape on their parcel of land. The archetypes presented in this research are an opportunity to visualize the various idealizations of a natural Texas Hill Country that effect the types of management actions each actor is likely to employ. These actions, in turn, will create emerging exurban ecologies that will shape the future landscapes in these amenity rich regions. Conservation educators and other programmers can work in concert with these landowner variables to strategize the implementation of land management best practices with small acreage landowners in these regions.



exurban growth, rural land subdivision, urban sprawl, land management, Applied Geography


Sheffield, C. (2017). Land management trends of small acreage landowners in a high growth exurban watershed in central Texas. Master of Applied Geography Degree, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX.


Rights Holder

Rights License

Rights URI