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House Hearings on Big Thicket National Preserve (1972)

Maxine Johnston

Sound | 1972

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  •  Interview with a congressman about the hearing 
  •  Testimonial about the destruction of the region and the need for its conservation 
  •  Pat Malone of KFDM-TV conducts an interview about the proposal by the National Park Service and challenges made by the timber industry 
  •  Footage of Big Thicket 
 
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This film from 1972 captures coverage of hearings in the United States House of Representatives regarding the creation of the Big Thicket National Preserve. In the footage, broadcast on Beaumont’s KFDM-TV, representatives discuss the need for and proposed implementation of conservation efforts.
Described as one of the most biodiverse areas in the world outside of the tropics, Big Thicket is a heavily forested area occupying much of Hardin, Liberty, Tyler, San Jacinto, and Polk Counties in Southeast Texas. The region fosters a wide variety of vegetation and wildlife, including at least eight different kinds of plant communities and around 350 species of birds.
 
Until the 1880s, the economic history of the thicket primarily consisted of subsistence farms, with inhabitants running hogs and cattle and hunting small game. In the 1880s, however, the lumber industry began opening up more land for farming and grazing. And in 1901, the Sour Lake oil field ushered in a period of frantic activity. 
 
By the 1920s, concern began to rise regarding the natural devastation of the lumber and oil industries. And in 1927, R.E. Jackson formed the East Texas Big Thicket Association to initiate formal efforts at saving the area. While the organization gained support during the 1930s, the need for timber during World War II caused the movement to fall into neglect. Conservation efforts resurfaced during the early 1960s with the establishment of the Big Thicket Association. Led by Lance Rosier and Dempsie Henley, the organization pushed to give Big Thicket national-park status. In 1974, Congress passed such a bill, written by Charles Wilson and Bob Eckhardt, establishing an 84,550-acre Big Thicket National Preserve. In 1981, the area was also designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.