Big Thicket is the name of a heavily forested area in Southeast Texas, United States. Several attempts to provide boundaries have been made ranging from only a 10 to 15 mile section of Hardin County to an area encompassing over 29 counties and over 3,350,000 acres. Scientific studies have been performed also, but with varying results. In "... 1936, ... Hal B. Parks and Victor L. Cory of the Texas Agriculture Experiment station conducted a biological survey of the Big Thicket region". Their study, based on geology, resulted in over 3,350,000 acres of Southeast Texas and covering 14 counties from Houston in the west to Orange in the east and Huntsville to Wiergate on the north. Claude McLeod, a botany professor at Sam Houston State University, performed a botanical based study. That study resulted in a region of over 2,000,000 acres. While no exact boundaries exist, the area occupies much of Hardin, Liberty, Tyler, San Jacinto, and Polk Counties and is roughly bounded by the San Jacinto River, Neches River, and Pine Island Bayou. To the north, it blends into the larger Piney Woods terrestrial ecoregion of which it is a part. It has historically been the most dense forest region in what is now Texas, though logging in the 19th and 20th centuries dramatically reduced the forest concentration.
The Big Thicket has been described as one of the most biodiverse areas in the world outside of the tropics. The Big Thicket National Preserve (BITH) was established in 1974 in an attempt to protect the many plant and animal species within. BITH, along with Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, became the first national preserves in the United States National Park System when both were authorized by the United States Congress on October 11, 1974. Senator Ralph Yarborough was its most powerful proponent in Congress and the bill was proposed by Charles Wilson and Bob Eckhardt that established the 84,550-acre Preserve. Big Thicket was also designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1981. As of December 31, 2014, the preserve includes 109,085.52 acres. It consists of nine separate land units as well as six water corridors. Centered about Hardin County, Texas, the BITH extends into parts of surrounding Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Orange, Polk, and Tyler counties.
The Preserve's headquarters are located 8 miles north of Kountze, Texas and approximately 30 miles north of Beaumont via US 69/287.
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