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Contact: Jason A. Ginder, 409-951-6721
On December 8th, Texas Representative James White and U.S. Representative Brian Babin’s Regional Director of Community Relations Rachel Iglesias joined the staff at Big Thicket National Preserve for a ceremonial planting of the 100,000 longleaf pine trees in the 2016 Centennial Forest. The National Park Service (NPS) turned 100 years old in 2016. In acknowledgement of this anniversary, NPS staff invited school students and local community member to rediscover their national park and lend a hand in reforesting approximately 60 acres of land in the Big Sandy Unit, near Dallardsville, Texas.
Over the past year, students from many local schools have helped plant the Centennial Forest, including students from: Woodville Middle School, Silsbee ISD, Warren ISD, Big Sandy ISD, Kountze High School, Harmony Science Academy, and Lamar Honors College, and community members from local chapters of: Texas Master Naturalists, National Parks Conservation Association and, Sierra Club. Nearly 1,200 volunteers from throughout Southeast Texas, have donated over 4,500 hours, to help reforest the Big Thicket, planting 100,000 native longleaf pine seedlings.
“Through the help of community volunteers, school students and others, we have made significant progress in the on-going efforts to re-establish healthy native forests throughout the Big Thicket.” stated Big Thicket National Preserve Superintendent Wayne Prokopetz. “Many of these volunteers were students from local schools, who can return to the Big Thicket in 10, 20 or even 50 years with their families and find the trees that they planted in an ecosystem that they helped to restore. Every tree planted by these volunteers has the possibility to grow into a towering longleaf pine.” continued Prokopetz.
Longleaf pine is a slow-growing tree which can take up to 100 years to fully mature. Much of the land currently a part of the national preserve was once managed by the timber industry. After the first harvest, they replanted these lands with faster growing trees like slash pine and loblolly pine. Now that these lands are a part of the national preserve, significant efforts are being made to re-establish healthy native ecosystems throughout the region.
Community involvement is the key to success for any volunteer program, and local support is a major reason the national preserve exists in this community. Prior to 2016 the national preserve, in partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association, hosted annual tree planting events on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in January.
If you weren’t able to attend these special events, there are many other ways to experience the preserve. In the coming months there will be a wide variety of ways to get involved, ranging from trash clean-up days, to ranger guided hikes, canoe trips, night hikes, and so much more.
Every activity offered by Big Thicket National Preserve is FREE, including a museum/visitor center, ranger-led activities, backcountry camping, birdwatching, hunting and fishing, more than 40 miles of hiking trails, and over 100 miles of navigable waterways perfect for paddling. For more information on the preserve, visit our website at www.nps.gov/bith , follow us on Facebook @BigThicketNPS, or just drop by the visitor center located at 6044 FM 420, Kountze, TX 77625 and see for yourself what Big Thicket National Preserve is all about.