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Boggy Slough conservation effort counters forest fragmentation

The Temple Foundation's plans for historic Boggy Slough property
Written by Matt Joyce.

Boggy Slough is a patch of undeveloped land in deep East Texas encompassing nearly 20,000 acres of forest and wetlands, as well as 18 miles of Neches River frontage, just west of Lufkin. Backers of a recent conservation effort aim to keep Boggy Slough intact and counter a growing trend of forest fragmentation in the Piney Woods. 

The T.L.L. Temple Foundation, The Conservation Fund, and International Paper struck an agreement in 2013 to conserve Boggy Slough, rather than let it be subdivided under market pressures that have prompted significant flipping of East Texas timber land in recent years.

The parties are still working to implement the agreement, under which the Temple Foundation purchased the property from International Paper and agreed to donate a conservation easement over the entire property—about 31 square miles—to The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit environmental group.

“This year and next year we’ll put a conservation easement on it so it cannot be broken up and sold off in small pieces and will ensure that it’s managed in an environmentally sound way,” said Buddy Temple, chairman and CEO of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, in a November 2014 interview. “It’s our intention to make it a unique conservation area where we will conduct seminars and other educational programs for young people, primarily, to introduce them to the natural world to help create respect for the natural world.”

East Texas Timber industry pioneer Thomas L.L. Temple’s Southern Pine Lumber Company bought Boggy Slough in the early 1900s. The property remained under ownership by the Temple family or Temple-related companies until about 2011, when International Paper acquired it.

Now back with the Temple Foundation, logging will still be allowed on the property, Buddy Temple said. “It’s always been a timber property. For many years, different people ran cattle on it, but it was always a timber property,” he said. “It will be a working forest, but we convened a meeting last spring of about 15 botanists, wildlife managers, and bird specialists to advise us on how to manage it in the most environmentally sensitive way. It will be managed as a commercial forest, but very carefully.”

Andy Jones, director of The Conservation Fund’s Texas office, said the Boggy Slough conservation easement is part of the group’s ongoing effort to protect the Neches River watershed and wildlife corridors. With the addition of Boggy Slough, the group has conservation easements and land acquisitions protecting 82,458 acres—or 129 square miles—of Neches River watershed between the Palestine area and Beaumont.

“We’re seeing one of the most significant turnover and subdivision of property in this state that we’ve seen, maybe in our history,” Jones said. “So the bigger pieces we can keep together, the better protection for the watershed, and then you’ve got a good permanent buffer along the river and it continues to be good public access or good working forest, not to mention the benefits to the whole migratory corridor that goes up that Neches River.”  

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