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CHAPTER IX Urbanites and Intellectuals

James J. Cozine Jr. University of North Texas Press PDF

CHAPTER IX

Urbanites and Intellectuals

F

ollowing the general Big Thicket convocation in Silsbee in December

1968, the Big Thicket preservation movement experienced a transformation. The talk and controversy began to resolve into clear legislative proposals. By 1970, it had become eminently clear that federal Big Thicket legislation would occur. When, how much, and where, were questions that would remain unresolved. Preservationists and timber interests had distinct versions of what the Big Thicket Preserve should be, but the important thing was both sides agreed that a preserve should be established.

Senator Ralph Yarborough almost secured legislation for a Big Thicket

Preserve, but the vagaries of politics left the issue still in the lap of Congress by the close of Yarborough’s term.

The meeting in Silsbee had been called by Edward C. “Ned” Fritz, chairman of the Texas Committee on Natural Resources and a seasoned environmentalist. He had summoned all interested conservation and preservation groups to send representatives to the meeting to decide which areas of the

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AFTERWORD

James J. Cozine Jr. University of North Texas Press PDF

AFTERWORD

W

hat follows is an effort to complete James Cozine’s narrative, taking off roughly from the point at which he ends his account and bringing it up to the present time. To write such a concluding narrative is to confront serious problems. The creation of the Big Thicket National

Preserve was a single event, one which tied together innumerable strands of history. The development of the Preserve was, and is, a many-sided series of events, which branch out, grow, and only occasionally interact. In the first case, one has many strands of history becoming a single strand; in the second, one has the Preserve becoming many strands of events.

It would seem at first glance that these events could be approached as a simple chronology: that is, as a series of dates of significant events listed according to the order in which they took place. The apparent simplicity of such a rubric, however, conceals its weakness. The history of the Big

Thicket National Preserve is too complex to be constructed as a single series. Too many of its factors are contemporaneous, taking place at the same time but without affecting each other. Too many take place in areas outside the Preserve. Too many culminate at different times—if they do indeed culminate. All of these must be described in the present essay. Their sheer diversity in time, place, and character forbids their being nailed down on a “time line.” Inevitably what follows must be like the Neches River: a

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BIBLIOGRAPHY TO AFTERWORD

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BIBLIOGRAPHY TO AFTERWORD

Abernethy, Francis E., ed. Tales from the Big Thicket. Temple Big Thicket Series 1. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2002. First published 1966 by University of Texas Press.

Ajilvsgi, Geyata. Wild Flowers of the Big Thicket, East Texas, and Western Louisiana. College Station, TX: Texas A& M University Press, 1979.

Baxter, David. Nature of the Forest: Temple-Inland’s Timberlands in the Twentyfirst Century. Diboll, TX: Temple-Inland, Inc., 2002.

Cozine, James J. “Defining the Big Thicket: Prelude to Preservation.” East

Texas Historical Journal 32, no.2 (1993): 57–71.

Fountain, Michael S., and R. Lee Rayburn. Impact of Oil and Gas Development on Vegetation and Soils of Big Thicket National Preserve. Technical Report,

No. 5. College Station, TX: National Park Service Cooperative Park Studies Unit, Texas A & M University, 1987.

Gunter, Pete A. Y. “The Big Thicket: A Case Study in Attitudes toward Environment.” In Philosophy and Environmental Crisis, edited by William

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CHAPTER IV The Anglo Assault

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CHAPTER IV

The Anglo Assault

T

he Big Thicket had survived the assaults of the Indians, French, and

Spanish with relative impunity. However, beginning in the 1820s the Texas wilderness was subjected to the onslaught of a more vigorous civilization. Land-hungry Americans, at the invitation of the Mexican government, swarmed into Texas by the thousands. At first these early

Anglo settlers avoided the heavily wooded Big Thicket in favor of more open land. However, in later years they began nibbling at the Thicket’s flanks. Eventually a few hardy souls entered the region to hunt, trap, or eke out a frugal living from the soil. By the mid-1830s, the Anglos’ assault on the Big Thicket had begun.

The Anglo migration, which doomed the Texas wilderness, was initiated by the fertile imagination and perseverance of one man: Stephen F.

Austin. In 1820, Stephen F. Austin’s father, Moses Austin, a citizen of

Missouri who had suffered a series of financial setbacks in the United States, obtained permission from Spanish officials in Mexico to establish a colony of 300 Anglo-American families in Texas. In return for colonizing the region, Austin was to receive a large grant of land, which he hoped would relieve his personal financial crisis. The colony was to be established on a grant of land mutually agreeable to both parties. Austin’s plan held great appeal because it offered the government an inexpensive method of popu-

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CHAPTER XI Conclusion

James J. Cozine Jr. University of North Texas Press PDF

CHAPTER XI

Conclusion

T

he Big Thicket National Preserve now moved from the legislative to the administrative phase, but it was a stage no less critical. A shortage of federal land acquisition funds delayed the purchase of all the Preserve units for a number of years. Meanwhile, timber interests, hunters, fishermen, cattlemen, land developers, farmers, and oil prospectors continued to compete for the natural resources of the Thicket until title to the land passed to the federal government. Nevertheless, by creating the

Big Thicket National Preserve, Congress ensured that the Big Thicket would continue to exist and to influence, as it always has, the way man lives in southeast Texas.

More than any other group, the Texas congressional delegation must shoulder the responsibility for permitting the struggle over the Thicket to last for nearly a decade. Both the timber industry and preservationists desired to save the timber resources of the Big Thicket, although for vastly different reasons. The desire to conserve the timber resources of the region was a common denominator, which the Texas congressmen could have exploited to forge a compromise solution.

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