Big Thicket National Preserve, a rich crucible of biodiversity, would double in size under legislation introduced by a congressman from Texas.
A diverse mix of cypress sloughs, hardwood forests, meadows and swamp, Big Thicket has been called an "American ark" because of its biodiversity.
There are 85 tree species, more than 60 shrubs, and nearly 1,000 other flowering plants, including 26 ferns and allies, 20 orchids, and four of North America's five types of insect-eating plants, says the National Park Service. Nearly 186 kinds of birds live here or migrate through. Fifty reptile species include a small, rarely seen population of alligators. Amphibious frogs and toads abound.
"With the right vision and support, the Big Thicket can become a premiere eco-tourism attraction,” said U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, who last week introduced legislation that would add 100,000 acres to the preserve, in part by connecting some of the preserve's dozen units.
To help bolster interest in Big Thicket, the Republican wants the Park Service to make a number of improvements in the preserve. For instance, Congressman Brady would like to see:
* The Park Service build "a system of canopy walks, elevated boardwalks, and associated interpretation that connect visitors with the ecological diversity of Big Thicket National Preserve;"
* A canoe trail with global positioning system waystations to guide paddlers, and;
* An interactive visitor center that could serve as an educational outlet for visitors to learn more about "Big Thicket National Preserve, wildlife, and the environment, and the importance of protecting these resources."
The legislation, which was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, also aims to connect the preserve's boundaries by buying up land from willing sellers.
"To connect the boundaries of the Big Thicket, Mr. Brady wants willing landowners to be able to sell or donate their land to the Preserve at a time when thousands of acres of timber land are already changing hands," the congressman's press office said. "By adding up to 100,000 acres to the Big Thicket, the unique blend of swampland, forest pine savannas and dry sand hills can be preserved for future generations."