Further recognition of Big Thicket's unique biological diversity came from the United Nations UNESCO Man and the Biosphere program. In 1981 Big Thicket National Preserve was added to the list of International Biosphere Reserves. The United States Man and the Biosphere (USMAB) program, a voluntary program, requires no special programs, management techniques, obligations, or changes in ownership. Program support comes through the U.S. Department of State. There are 47 MAB sites in the United States. The Man and the Biosphere program is beneficial because it provides a wider reach of scientific knowledge made available through the international scientific community.
Interested citizens must prepare the application materials and submit them to UNESCO in order to be considered for designation as a biosphere reserve. The application is reviewed and ratified by a national committee, and then designated by UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) program. The area must demonstrate innovative approaches to living and working in harmony with nature. One of the primary objectives of the MAB program is to achieve a sustainable balance between the goals of conserving biological diversity, promoting economic development, and maintaining associated cultural values. Benefits gained from being part of the network include access to a shared base of knowledge that helps in the integration of conservation, development and scientific research into the management of sustainable ecosystems.