The Forest Legacy Program, funded by the USDA Forest Service, works with state agencies and local landowners to protect environmentally important forests that are threatened with conversion to non-forest uses. Texas competed nationally with 90 other projects and was one of 35 selected for 2008 Forest Legacy funding. The project also received strong support from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Kevin Brady, who helped secure the program in Texas. The Conservation Fund, through a grant from the Brown Foundation, provided remaining funds needed to complete the transaction.
“I was delighted to hear the announcement that the Turkey Creek Unit of Big Thicket National Preserve had been chosen by the Forest Service as one of the 35 projects selected for a 2008 Forest Legacy grant,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. “I also applaud the work of The Conservation Fund, the Brown Foundation and The Campbell Group in their help with this effort to add valuable forestland to the Big Thicket. The Big Thicket is an important natural resource to the state of Texas, and I am proud to lend my support to this important initiative.”
The state of Texas used the funds to purchase a working forest conservation easement on the property. Under the conservation easement, Crown Pine Timber 1, LP, a private forest managed by The Campbell Group, LLC, retains ownership of the land as well as the right to manage their land as a sustainable working forest. At the same time, the easement serves as an important buffer to Big Thicket National Preserve, provides open space and recreation opportunities and preserves habitat for a number of plant and animal species. Texas Forest Service will monitor and enforce the conditions of the easement.
“Our partners in conservation – The Campbell Group and The Conservation Fund – are to be commended for their commitment to conserve the ecological and environmental integrity and working forest landscape of this critical area,” said Tom Boggus, interim director for Texas Forest Service.
“We are proud to team with the Texas Forest Service and The Conservation Fund to conserve the working forest. This is an opportunity to ensure this land and the wildlife are protected for generations to come and continues The Campbell Group’s rich history of assisting with environmental stewardship programs,” said John Gilleland, president of The Campbell Group, LLC.
The area known as the “Big Thicket” encompassed more than three million acres 150 years ago. Today, the preserve formally protects 97,000 acres of this area – about three percent of its original size. The Big Thicket region continues to be in danger of losing more acreage due to increased forest fragmentation, and the preserve has twice been named one of America’s ten most endangered parks.
“Safeguarding our forestlands and protecting our wildlife are important responsibilities, and today’s announcement illustrates the economic and environmental benefits that can be sustained through the cooperation of public and private entities,” said Sen. John Cornyn. “The Big Thicket is a valuable asset to East Texas, and I am pleased these lands will be preserved for future generations of Texans to enjoy.”
“Protecting this working forest maintains its economic value while protecting the scientific and recreational value of the Big Thicket, adding to its potential as a top eco-tourism destination,” said Rep. Kevin Brady.
“This is a very significant accomplishment for Texas,” said Mike Murphy, U.S. Forest Service Region 8 Legacy program coordinator. “The Turkey Creek Project is a good example of how the Forest Legacy program can leverage funds to assist conservation efforts in the states.”
Often called the “biological crossroads of North America,” the 15 small, mostly scattered units that make up the preserve contain a unique mix of southeastern swamps, eastern deciduous forest, central plains, pine savannas and dry sandhills. More than 1,000 species of flowering plants and nearly 300 species of birds inhabit the area.
The land protected under this conservation easement shares a one-mile border with the Turkey Creek Unit of the preserve and sits within the watershed of Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Neches River and contributor to Beaumont’s water supply. It has been identified as a critical conservation area by numerous national and state entities because of its rich biological and soil diversity.
“Through partnerships like this we can create buffers to Big Thicket that protect plants and wildlife, but also keep the land under private ownership as a working forest that contributes to the local economy,” said Julie Shackelford, Texas programs director for The Conservation Fund. “It’s a perfect blend of environmental and economic goals, and we’re thankful to all of our partners at the private, local and federal levels who made this transaction possible.”
The easement is the first phase of an effort by The Conservation Fund, Texas Forest Service and The Campbell Group, LLC, to protect more than 10,000 acres of environmentally-significant forestland adjacent to Big Thicket National Preserve.
An event celebrating this conservation milestone will be held on Friday, Jan. 16 at the Texas Forestry Museum in Lufkin at 10:30 am. The event is free of charge and the public is invited to attend. Light refreshments will be served. For more information about the event, please call Jan Davis at (979) 458-6630.
About The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund is dedicated to advancing America’s land and water legacy. With our partners, we conserve land, train leaders and invest in conservation at home. Since 1985, we have helped protect more than 6 million acres, sustaining wild havens, working lands and vibrant communities. We’re a top-ranked conservation organization, effective and efficient. conservationfund.org
About Texas Forest Service
Texas Forest Service (texasforestservice.tamu.edu) is recognized as the leader in defining forestry of the future for Texas and the nation through its applied programs in forest and tree development; wildfire prevention, mitigation and protection; urban and community forestry and a host of other innovative forest sustainability programs. By collaborating with regional governments and forestry cooperators, some 355 Texas Forest Service employees work to ensure the state’s forests and trees are protected and continue to provide a sustainable flow of environmental and economic benefits today and for future generations.
About The Campbell Group, LLC
The Campbell Group, LLC, (www.campbellgroup.com) is a full-service timberland investment management company headquartered in Portland, Oregon. The company is focused exclusively on acquiring and managing high quality, investment grade forestland on behalf of institutional investors to produce excellent risk-adjusted returns.