Saving the Big Thicket: From Exploration to Preservation, 1685-2003

Saving the Big Thicket: From Exploration to Preservation, 1685-2003

Saving the Big Thicket: From Exploration to Preservation, 1685-2003

Saving the Big Thicket: From Exploration to Preservation, 1685-2003

Synopsis

The Big Thicket of East Texas, which at one time covered over two million acres, served as a barrier to civilizations throughout most of historic times. By the late nineteenth century, however, an assault on this wilderness by settlers, railroads, and timber companies began in earnest. By the 1920s, much of the wilderness had been destroyed. Spurred on by the continued destruction of the region, the Big Thicket Association (BTA) organized in 1964 to fight for its preservation. Arguing that the Big Thicket was a unique botanical region, the BTA and their supporters convinced President Gerald Ford to authorize an 84,550-acre Big Thicket National Preserve in 1974.

Saving the Big Thicket is a classic account of the region's history and a play-by-play narrative of the prolonged fight for the Big Thicket Preserve. It is a clearly written case study of the conflict between economics and preservation, presenting each side with objectivity and fairness. Originally written by Cozine in 1976, it has been updated with a new afterword by Pete A. Y. Gunter.

Excerpt

When Saving the Big Thicket (then called “Assault on a Wilderness”) reached completion, in 1976, the dust had just settled on a tenyear-long struggle between conservationists and timber companies. the upshot of this controversy was the creation, in 1974, of a sprawling southeast Texas Big Thicket National Preserve of 84,550 acres: the first such biological preserve in the history of the National Park Service. in giving an account of this conflict, the author, James J. Cozine, had his work cut out for him. To achieve an overview, Cozine found it necessary to work his way through a long paper trail of newspaper and magazine articles, to read the many books and pamphlets staking out positions on both sides, and, finally, to interview personally political, conservationist, and industry leaders. the result was a story of movement and counter-movement, protest and response. As such, however, the project was incomplete. It was only a beginning (or rather, an end) of a much longer history.

The conservationist struggle that culminated in the creation of the Big Thicket National Preserve had been preceded more than a decade earlier by another conservationist movement with its own problems and goals. It, in turn, had been preceded by the unprecedented development of railroads and cut-and-get-out timber operations and of oil field development in the swampy, biologically rich area. Prior to oil booms and large-scale timbering . . .

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