Thousands of acres donated
The Conservation Fund joined the east Texas community and a host of public and private partners today to celebrate and announce the donation of 6,600 acres of bottomland hardwood forest and cypress-tupelo swamp to the National Park Service as part of Big Thicket National Preserve. It is the largest donation of land in the preserve’s history.
Well known as the “biological crossroads of America,” Big Thicket National Preserve contains diverse ecosystems – ranging from forested wetlands to open plains – that provide a home for an impressive amount of plant and animal species, including 20 different species of orchids and more than 200 species of birds. The preserve’s 97,000 acres comprise nine land units and six water corridors in narrow bands along the Neches River and Village Creek, two of the most pristine and unaltered river corridors remaining in Texas.
The Conservation Fund acquired the 6,600 acres from a variety of landowners near the Beaumont and Village Creek Corridor units of the preserve. About 4,500 acres came from Temple-Inland, and 970 acres came from Tony and Gisela Houseman. The remaining acreage was a combination of smaller parcels from multiple landowners.
The Conservation Fund was able to obtain the properties through land donations and funding from: BP America, Inc.; Entergy Corporation; Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation; T.L.L. Temple Foundation; Mr. Eddie Arnaud; Mr. Walter Umphrey; Malcolm C. Damuth Foundation; North American Wetlands Conservation Act; Land and Water Conservation Fund; Imperial Oil Company; family members of the C.W. Howth Estate; and three environmental settlements.
“The Conservation Fund has been a partner in mission with Big Thicket National Preserve for several years,” said Acting National Park Service Director Dan Wenk. “This is a big help to the National Park Service as we acquire congressionally authorized lands critical to the survival of the Big Thicket. This donation of spectacular wetland habitat, adjacent to the city of Beaumont, Texas, and a major interstate highway, will enhance opportunities for visitors, residents and students to enjoy and appreciate our country’s first national preserve.”
“Acre by acre, public and private partnerships such as this one are protecting wetlands across the nation,” said Paul Schmidt, assistant director for migratory birds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has funded thousands of wetland habitat projects in the last 20 years and the Service is proud to have partnered with The Conservation Fund to help conserve this special wetland ecosystem.” More than $2.5 million was provided for this wetland conservation effort through three North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants.
“As one of the most biologically diverse areas in Texas, Big Thicket National Preserve is a priceless Texas treasure,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. “I’m proud to help the preserve secure funding so that more of our state’s lands and wildlife will be protected for future generations to enjoy.” Sen. Hutchison, Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Kevin Brady have continued to champion the preservation of Big Thicket this in Congress and since 2003 have secured more than $17 million in federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for acquisitions at Big Thicket National Preserve.
“Texas’ Big Thicket National Preserve is a state treasure that is home to some of our most unique wildlife and diverse ecosystems,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This donation, made possible by the collaboration of both public and private partners, ensures the protection and preservation of this land so that Texans can continue to enjoy its abundant natural beauty for generations to come.”
“I would like to thank the Housemans, Temple-Inland, The Conservation Fund and everyone else involved in securing the 6,660 acre donation to Big Thicket National Preserve in east Texas,” said Rep. Brady. “This project truly enhances the Big Thicket and is a great demonstration of the value of public-private partnerships.”
“The protection of our natural resources serves to protect and improve the quality of life in Southeast Texas,” said Phyllis Woodford, grants administrator for the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, which made a grant of $375,000 for the project in 2007. “Big Thicket National Preserve is an important asset to the community, and the Stark Foundation is pleased to have been a part of this significant conservation project.”
The Conservation Fund has been working to expand Big Thicket National Preserve, permanently protecting the ecological integrity of the region. To date, the Fund has added more than 35,000 acres.
“This announcement shows that Texans feel strongly about conserving the state’s land, water and wildlife,” said Andy Jones, Texas director for The Conservation Fund. “Even in tough economic times, the east Texas community came together and leveraged resources to complete the biggest land donation to Big Thicket National Preserve. We thank all of the landowners, funders and partners that made this possible.”.