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71 THE BIG THICKET NATIONAL PRESERVE The 3.5 million acres of Big Thicket country are laced with roads and dotted with cities, villages, and farms (see map 1). Much of it has been bulldozed to bare dirt and planted with pine farms or has been altered so radically that little is left that could qualify for preservation . Also, the economy of Southeast Texas is wholly dependent on forest products and taking a too-large portion of the land out of timber production would cause economic distress in an already economically depressed area. Recommendations were made for the preservation of areas from 10,000 to 300,000 acres at different times. The history of efforts to secure a Big Thicket Preserve is not covered in this work for it is dealt with in other publications, such as James J. Cozine Jr.’s Saving the Big Thicket (University of North Texas Press, 2004). Eventually, in 1974 all interested parties compromised and a bill was passed in Congress setting aside a National Preserve of 84,550 acres in nine widely separated units and three stream corridors (see map 7). Enabling legislation (PL-93-439) established units and acreage in each: Beaumont Unit (6,218 acres), Beech Creek Unit (4,856 acres), Big Sandy Creek Unit (14,300 acres), Hickory Creek Savannah Unit (768 acres), Lance Rosier Unit (25,024 acres), Loblolly Unit (550 acres), Neches Bottom and Jack Gore Baygall Unit (13,300 acres), 3 and Turkey Creek Unit (7,800 acres). The corridor units acreage include the Menard Creek Corridor (3,359 acres), Neches River–Upper and Lower Corridors (6,375 acres), and Pine Island-Little Pine Island Bayous Corridor (2,100 acres). In 1986, a bill was introduced to add to the Preserve. The additions were the Big Sandy/Village Creek Corridor (9,290 acres) and the Canyonlands Unit (1,476 acres). The acreage actually acquired varies because of the required purchase of uneconomic remnants as well as gifts of lands, and the present total exceeds 97,000 acres. Environmentalist Bill Hallmon of Dallas did a masterful job of exploring, delineating, and drawing the boundaries of the units but, unfortunately, the park service operated under constraints including acreage limitations, severance restrictions, and feasibility of acquisition rather than on ecological principles. For instance, communities of rare plants, which depend on a delicate balance of seasonal moisture , are often included within the boundaries, but the source of moisture is outside the boundary. Adjacent landowners then ditch and drain their land for either agriculture or real estate development thus altering the drainage patterns and adjacent hydrophytic plant communities are deprived of vital water. Septic systems saturate the ground water with nutrients and agricultural practices pollute the land with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. Boundaries of the units very much need to be adjusted, but it would take an act of Congress and a bitter battle with landowners to do so. Despite these legitimate concerns, some very beautiful forest land is protected, not only to preserve rare habitat, but also to enable future generations to understand and enjoy an unspoiled bit of our country. All citizens should support the National Park Service by seeing that they have the resources to carry out their mandate. Congress rules them and Congress is (or should be) ruled by us. The public must insist that our public lands are managed properly. BEAUMONT UNIT The Beaumont Unit is located on the Neches River between the confluences of that river and Pine Island Bayou and Village Creek. The Lower Neches Valley Authority (LNVA) fresh water canal from the 72 BIG THICKET PLANT ECOLOGY Neches at Lakeview to Pine Island Bayou creates an island several thousand acres in size (see maps 8 and 9). It is very near sea level with the highest elevation on the north end at ten feet and that on the south end at five feet. The entire unit is a maze of sloughs on the north end and cypress-tupelo swamps on the southern portion (see photo 13). Forests of mammoth oaks and gums grow on the ridges. Loblolly pines once grew on the ridges, especially on the north end, but were almost completely removed by lumbering in the 1940s. High water prevented the removal of all the pines so there are still some large specimens in the unit. Oil exploration in the 1950s also left a mark on the island. Faint remnants of logging and oil roads can still be found. Tropical storms in the...


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