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 Texas : Features : Columns : Bob Bowman's East Texas

Unique Forest Areas

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

In the late l980s, a Connecticut-based forest products company launched a program that triggered the protection of some of East Texas' most unique forest areas.

The forerunner of the trend to set aside unique areas for environmental reasons was Champion International, which created six "Special Places in the Forest."

The initial sites were later joined by ten others and the Champion program was continued by International Paper Company when it purchased the Champion lands. Additonal lands were also added to the Special Places sites with 37 sites totaling 8,100 acres in 15 counties.

Other corporate landowners soon followed the Champion example. Louisiana-Pacific Corporation designated twelve areas in Texas and one in Louisiana totaling more than 4,000 acres in six counties, calling them "Living Legacy Lands." Temple-Inland also set aside seven "Distinctive Sites" totaling more than 700 acres in several counties.

Most of the set-asides were located in remote forest areas, and all of them were environmentally sensitive in some manner. "It is important that we try to exercise enough control over tours so that the areas will not be adversely affected," said Tony Bennett, president of the Texas Forest Industries Council, an industry association, in 2000.

The areas were among some of the most unusual sites in East Texas, including

  • A 317-acre Polk County stand of virgin longleaf pines, some more than 200 years old.
  • Dillard Creek, 270-acres of huge boulders, petrified wood and lignite outcroppings in northern Walker County.
  • Beef Creek Waterfall, a 225-acre site in Jasper County that includes a picturesque 20-foot waterfall with a sandstone bottom creek.
  • A 1,227-acre area in Marion County where archeologists discovered what may be the last known settlement of the Caddo Indians in East Texas. It is believed to have been occupied by the tribe several hundred years ago.
  • The Oyster Reefs, a collection of giant prehistoric oysters in White Rock Creek in Trinity County.
  • Today, as a result of corporate land sales by International Paper, Louisiana Pacific and Temple-Inland, the unique sites have fallen into the hands of new owners and little is mentioned of the sites that author and environmentalist Pete Gunter once hailed "as a new direction for the timber industry."

    But, hopefully, some of the unique sites may still be protected by the new landowners.

    Bob Bowman's East Texas
    September 20, 2009 Column
    A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
    Copyright Bob Bowman

    (Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 40 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

    Related Topics:
    Texas | East Texas | Texas Towns |
    Texas Ghost Towns |
    Bob Bowman's "All Things Historical"

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