Angelina County, TX (KTRE) – A national wildlife refuge established on a part of the Neches River has been in limbo for years after a suit was brought by the City of Dallas and the Texas Water Development Board. Legal matters are finally over marking a turning point for the refuge.
The Neches River is proud of its unadulterated status.
"The Neches is the only river left in the State of Texas that is unfettered and looked like it did in most cases like it did when Davy Crockett swam his horses across it," said Richard Donovan, Director of Texas Conservation Alliance.
About five years ago that abundance of nature along the Neches incited the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to create a national wildlife refuge along the northern banks of the river.
"I like to think of the refuge as a giant incubator. Wildlife will nest and den and feed and raise their young," said Donovan.
But there was trouble from the start when the suit was filed against the refuge.
"The refuge was going to be in a particular place where they thought maybe 50 years from now… they may want to build a dam there," said Donovan.
The first trial ended in favor of the refuge and so did the first appeal. Dallas and the Water Board appealed it again to the Supreme Court.
"The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. It's just a great victory for the people, culture and history of East Texas," said Donovan.
All land acquisitions were put on hold after the suit was filed. Now that land through purchases and donations will potentially expand the refuge from 35 acres to 25,000 acres. This victory for the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge belongs to all East Texans who will enjoy it for generations.
"These places are becoming more and more dear and more and more special to you and to me and to the wildlife itself."
The refuge is meant to be an outdoor, live, learning laboratory for students, families and nature lovers. The Texas Conservation Alliance hopes the entire Neches River will be designated as Wild and Scenic by congress allowing for further preservation of the river.