In a landmark deal for forest conservation, T.L.L. Temple Foundation, International Paper, and the Conservation Fund announced today the completion of an effort to protect more than 19,000 acres of hardwood forest and wetlands in East Texas, known as Boggy Slough, according to a press release.
"My main purpose in this was to keep it from being fragmented. When property is sold and cut up into small tracks you can never put it back together again so that was our main purpose in this," said Buddy Temple, a board chairman for the T.L.L. Temple Foundation.
The T.L.L. Temple Foundation purchased the property in fee from International Paper and agreed to donate a conservation easement over the entire property to the Conservation Fund. Located west of Lufkin, Boggy Slough contains some of the oldest and most ecologically significant hardwood forest habitat in East Texas and spans 18 miles of river frontage along the Neches River. The former temple-inland property includes 4,500 acres of riverside forest land that has remained virtually untouched for decades.
"With this historic agreement to conserve Boggy Slough, one of the most unique and beautiful places on the Neches River in East Texas, I want to thank the Conservation Fund, the board of trustees of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation and John Faraci, chairman and CEO of International Paper Company, for their unwavering commitment to the conservation of Boggy Slough," said Buddy Temple, chairman, T.L.L. Temple Foundation.
T.L.L. Temple, founder of Southern Pine Lumber Company, purchased Boggy Slough in the early 1900s. It belonged to the Temple family until the late 1960s. Boggy Slough operated as a wildlife and forest management research and demonstration area under Temple Industries, Temple-Eastex and Temple-Inland, Inc. International Paper Company built on that tradition when it acquired Boggy Slough in 2012.
"It will call for very conservative forestry practices on the Upland Pinelands so it will essentially preserve the 19,000 acres and the condition that it is now or even better," Temple said.
The sale of Boggy Slough to the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, and the foundation's commitment to donate a conservation easement across the property to the Conservation Fund, ensures that the land will be protected and managed sustainably as a working forest in perpetuity.
"Today is a tremendous day for East Texas conservation," said the Conservation Fund's CEO, Larry Selzer. "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. We are grateful to T.L.L. Temple Foundation for donating the easement to the Conservation Fund and to International Paper for being such an excellent steward of the land."
Often called Texas' last "wild" river, the 416-mile Neches River is truly one of the state's least discovered natural resources. The river's slow moving water along with its pine and bottomland hardwood forests has been a part of Eastern Texas' history and culture for thousands of years, dating back to when Native Americans and early European settlers depended on the river and its forests for food and shelter. Healthy forest lands across East Texas, including Boggy Slough, are important habitat for white-tailed deer and eastern turkey as well as numerous ducks, songbirds and fish. Its sloughs and oxbows host two sites home to the threatened Neches River rose-mallow.
"International Paper is proud of our conservation heritage and our partnerships with organizations like the Conservation Fund. The conservation of Boggy Slough is the latest example of our company's commitment to protecting and restoring forest ecosystems for future generations," said International Paper chairman and CEO John Faraci.
Earlier this year, International Paper committed $7.5 million over five years to the forest land stewards initiative, a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). This effort will restore native forests, strengthen important fish and wildlife populations and protect watersheds in eight states across the Southeastern United States, including East Texas. NFWF will leverage the IP contribution for a total program impact of $30 million.
Temple says having the land back means a lot of him and his family.
"I feel very good about it. I gew up on this property. When I was a kid it was family owned. It was privately owned and so I had the run of the place and grew up floating the Neches River, hunting deer and squirrels and anything else that moves in those bottom lands," Temple said.