AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The T.L.L. Temple Foundation, International Paper and The Conservation Fund closed a deal Monday to protect 19,000 acres of hardwood forest along the Neches River in East Texas.
The foundation purchased the land from International Paper and then granted a conservation easement to the fund to protect the Boggy Slough Forest west of Lufkin. The groups did not release the financial details of the agreement, said Jena Meredith, spokeswoman for the fund.
The Temple family first purchased the land in the 1900s but sold it in the 1960s. Owners since then have used Boggy Slough as a forest and wildlife management area, and the new agreement guarantees that the hardwood forest and wetlands will be kept as a nature preserve.
The tract stretches 18-miles along the Neches River and includes 4,500 acres of riverside forest that has not been touched in decades.
Buddy Temple, the foundation's chairman, said the land is among the most unique places in Texas.
"Today is a tremendous day for East Texas conservation," Larry Selzer, The Conservation Fund's CEO, said. "There is no land more significant or more important to the future of the Neches River, the wildlife or character of East Texas than Boggy Slough.
The 416-mile long upper portion of the Neches River is one of the state's least developed rivers, flowing through the heart of East Texas where lumber and paper milling is big business. Environmental groups have lobbied for greater protection of the river and the few remaining natural hardwood forests along it.