Congress Approves $2 Million for Big Thicket National Preserve

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   July 28, 2005
Contact:   Craig Obey, NPCA, 202-223-6722, extension 234


Congress Approves $2 Million for Big Thicket National Preserve

Washington, D.C. - The Department of Interior spending bill that passed the Interior Appropriations conference committee this week includes $2 million for the acquisition of threatened lands around Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, and a modest increase for park operating needs. The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association says these funds don’t go far enough to protect the Texas treasure.

“This funding is welcome, but doesn’t go far enough to halt the march of developers that are encircling Big Thicket,” said National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) Vice President for Government Affairs Craig Obey, “or to address the annual funding shortages that are crippling Big Thicket and national parks across the country.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) had requested $3.6 million for land acquisition needs at Big Thicket; the final bill includes only $2 million. The National Park Service is hoping to use the funds to purchase the Village Creek Corridor, which was added to the park in 1993 as part of the Big Thicket National Preserve Addition Act.

Earlier this month, NPCA released a comprehensive assessment of Big Thicket, rating the condition of its natural resources as “fair,” with a score of 69 out of 100, in part because of development threats. According to the NPCA State of the ParksÒ report, ad hoc commercial, industrial, and residential development enables non-native and invasive plants and feral animals to invade the preserve; subjects the preserve’s delicate ecosystem to pesticides and fertilizers; interferes with fire management; and cuts off wildlife migration routes.

The Interior bill also includes a modest $60 million increase for the operations of national parks, including Big Thicket. However, this is far short of the need. NPCA’s analysis indicates that the national parks suffer from an annual shortfall in excess of $600 million.

According to NPCA’s report, funding shortfalls at Big Thicket have resulted in a shortage of law enforcement rangers to patrol the park’s 15 units to ensure visitors are safe, plants and wildlife are not poached, and illegal dumping is halted. Experts are needed to manage the park’s archival and museum collections and maintain historic buildings and sites that tell the stories of Big Thicket’s human history. Currently the park’s dedicated staff provides educational opportunities for 4,000 schoolchildren annually; with more funding, the park could reach many more of the children in Houston, Beaumont, and other communities within 100 miles of the preserve.

The product of a year-and-a-half-long analysis, “Big Thicket National Preserve: A Resource Assessment,” is the 24th NPCA State of the Parks report.

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