Congressman Brady Introduces Bill to Expand Big Thicket National Preserve

Date:   April 28, 2008
Contact:   Suzanne Dixon, NPCA, 214.383.5381
Janice Bezanson, Texas Conservation Alliance, 512.327.4119
Bruce Drury, Big Thicket Association, 409.892.9108
Niki McDaniel, The Nature Conservancy, 210.224.8774

Congressman Brady Introduces Bill to Expand Big Thicket National Preserve

Congressman Kevin Brady this weekend announced introduction of a bill to expand the Big Thicket National Preserve by as much as 100,000 acres – a move that has wildlife conservation groups applauding enthusiastically.

H.R. 5891 would double the area of the preserve, allowing more public recreational use and additional protection to the Big Thicket Preserve.  The bill especially targets land that will connect the nine land units and six water corridors of the current preserve. 

The bill also launches a plan to boost the economy of southeast Texas by allowing for creation of family-friendly eco-tourism opportunities.  Congressman Brady set a goal of bringing a million visitors to Texas each year to enjoy the Big Thicket’s unique mix of natural landscapes -- southeastern swamps, eastern forests, central plains, pine savannas, and dry sandhills.

"I don’t want the Big Thicket to be one of the country’s best kept secrets any longer," Brady told an enthusiastic crowd gathered at Village Creek State Park for the 29th Annual Texas Wilderness Pow Wow, a weekend of outdoor activities. "With the right vision and support, the Big Thicket can become a premiere attraction for eco-tourism. In order to make this happen, I’ve put three primary goals in H.R. 5891: connect, expand, and preserve the Big Thicket."

Dr. Bruce Drury, president of the Big Thicket Association, praised Brady’s bold vision for the Big Thicket’s future, "I’ve long believed that we need to think more comprehensively about protecting the natural resources of east Texas." The vision includes plans for a canopy walk through the treetops, water-based trails with GPS waypoints, and an interactive visitor center, all of which will help open the Big Thicket’s wonders to a much wider audience.

Land for the expansion would be purchased from willing sellers only. Potential sellers include timber investment organizations which have recently acquired large tracts of forest land in east Texas, including land along the Neches River and Village Creek which are popular recreation destinations.

Mack Turner, chairman of Texas Conservation Alliance, pledged vigorous support from the Alliance.

The scenic beauty of the Big Thicket Preserve draws conventions to Beaumont and tourists to southeast Texas, but it is not as well known as many of its fellow elements of the National Park System. "Increasing the size and visibility of this natural treasure would increase its value as a tourist designation," Turner said. "Protecting these additional acres would consolidate the scattered units of the Preserve, safeguarding its fragile habitat as the population of the region continues to expand."

"This legislation will be a high priority for us," David Bezanson, east Texas program director for The Nature Conservancy, told the audience. "It has the potential to be the biggest step forward for public land conservation in Texas in 25 years."

"Congressman Brady is a true believer in east Texas and the Big Thicket," said Andy Jones, director of the Conservation Fund's Texas Office. We are proud to be working with him. The Fund looks forward to working closely with the Park Service and the Administration to implement the bill once passed by Congress."

"Big Thicket is a treasure of East Texas, and the nation," said Suzanne Dixon, senior program manager of the National Parks Conservation Association's Texas Field Office, which recently released a report highlighting the potential threat of development to national parks, including Big Thicket. "Congressman Brady's leadership will help to protect the Big Thicket from potential development, and ensure its preservation for generations to come."

Brady concluded by saying, "By expanding the Big Thicket National Preserve, we can protect the Preserve’s unique attributes against the challenges of increased development while tapping its enormous potential to attract tourists from around the state and nation."

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