Big Thicket Holler
<v Dr. Thomas Eisner>My personal feeling is that unless the bill passes now, the appropriation goes immediately and, in fact, one either enforces the moratorium or prevents further lumbering. It's just a matter of very few years before there will be nothing worth left saving. This is really and this is no exaggeration, this is the last chance for the thicket. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>And there are more and more demands being made only available land base. You have highways, you have lakes. Some hesitancy now to sell volumes of timber, also national forest. And what this is doing is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on those areas, which still, still are in timber production. And if we have any rightful indication, the southern part of the United States is, is, uh, on the verge of accep- accepting the bulk of responsibility for producing lumber for the United States now. <v Dr. Thomas Eisner>It's the only place left ?in the South as testified?. It's big enough for a National Park in the Southern hardwood-type forest crossed with pine from the sweep of this country, from Maryland, down across the Potomac, around the Southern end of the Appalachians, west of the Great Plains. The one spot left to save for each generation to see what this was like.
<v Narrator>The area they're talking about is tucked away in Texas's southeastern corner. It used to be about 3 million acres. Now it's shrunk to perhaps a tenth of its original size. It's become known as the biological crossroads of North America, for its varied habitats provide shelter and sustenance for an incredible ?wealth? of plants and animals. But these habitats also permit timber, particularly pine trees, to grow faster than perhaps anywhere else in the world. Great companies, mostly based elsewhere, have been colliding for years with those who want to preserve the unique flavor of the Big Thicket. One company, Time Inc., which through its subsidiary Eastex Inc., is the region's largest landholder, is in collision with itself. Once considered by ecologists to be guardians of the environment, the company is now considered an arch villain. The area's ?gossip? politics have become enmeshed in national politics as the larger questions of corporate responsibility and a balance between the nation's need for wood and its need for park land and open space has first showed down in the hearing rooms and chambers of Congress.
<v Dr. Thomas Eisner>If you look at a map of North America, you've got the forests of the Northeast, you got the forests of the East, you got the forests of the South. And then let's skip over Texas and go to the West. And you got dry lands in the Southwest, the Southwestern desert. Then you've got coastal, tropical and subtropical forests coming up from Mexico. Now, what's happened in the Big Thicket area is you've got a series of factors. First of all, the convergence of all these different vegetations. And they're coming together in an area that has high rainfall and where the soil will hold that rainfall. The result is a fantastic mixing of biological populations. Perhaps one can say that the Big Thicket includes more pockets of biological diversity in a relatively small area than any other comparable region in the world. <v Geraldine Watson>A common misconception people have of Big Thicket country is that there's nothing here but swamps and ?bayous? and big forest, big forest. But actually, uh, this is the... an area where you can find at least, uh, eight separate plant- forest associations, uh, interspersed with dense thickets of many different kinds. Uh, the prairie is just one of the associations that we have in the Big Thicket. We have vegetation, uh, here from three different types of prairies. There- there is a mixture of, uh, prairie vegetation here from the eastern tallgrass prairies, from the, eh, coastal wetland prairies and from the central Texas highland prairies. This area, the Big, Big Thicket country, is an ?eco town? or a meeting place between prairie and woodland. And, uh, in ancient times, uh, as climate changed from dry to wet, prairie and woodland pushed one another back and forth across this country. Uh... Pine Island Bayou has been the dividing line in historical times between prairie and woodland here.
<v Geraldine Watson>The Little Pine Island Bayou, like Pine Island Bayou, was once a course of the Trinity River. It has meandered all over this country and left behind meander scars. And those two streams are old courses. The bottom lands and the two streams are good examples of palmetto hardwood flat associations. I suppose this is most typical of the traditional thicket. It has a very unusual atmosphere. People often describe it as eerie and frightening. Large palmettos and swamp in damp, jungle-like atmosphere.
<v Narrator>It was these characteristics which mark the thicket's early history. The coastal Indians, Tonkawans and Karankawas, and their mound-building cousins, the Caddoes, called the forest The Big Woods and avoided it. The first white settlers lured to Texas by Spanish land grants found the dense ?tideland? thicket and the lush swamp lands impenetrable and were forced to detour south, either along the coastal plain or north across the rolling hills. The word spread that there was a place, a place along the uncharted border between Texas and Louisiana where you could go and no one could find you. Soon, people who needed a place like this began to arrive. They were outlaws running from the sheriff, rum runners outdistancing the revenuers and runaway slaves too, a step or two ahead of the hounds. Sam Houston, the father of Texas's independence, planned to hide what was left of his army here in case he lost to the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto. Later, Southern pacifists or those who didn't own slaves and couldn't see any reason to fight for the Confederacy came here to hide. Some of these folks settled here, many in the tangled river bottoms where their descendants still live.
<v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>What you got there, I see? <v I.C. Eason>Just some saucy ol' turtle eggs. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>That's as big as they get? <v I.C. Eason>That's as big as they get. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>?Inaudible? ?Often? <v I.C. Eason>Well, pretty often. We eat'em. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>How do you cook'em? <v I.C. Eason>Well, you cook'em just like you cook any other egg. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>Which way do you prefer them? <v I.C. Eason>Well, I eat'em boiled, they're pretty good boiled. And... we ?inaudible? fry'em, and we eat'em. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>You're in ?inaudible? on the river a lot? <v I.C. Eason>Oh, but over a hundred years. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>When did they first come? <v I.C. Eason>Oh... Grandpa come here eighteen... forty... eighteen, I believe, eighteen, but eighteen forty six or forty seven. My grandpa was ?netted? here. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>Why did he come? <v I.C. Eason>Well, he just come here to a hundred-year ?inaudible? <v Narrator>Most of these settlers, along with others who came to East Texas after the Civil War, didn't like to deal much with the authorities, so things like recording land titles never occurred. About the same time in the aptly named town of Woodville, John Henry Kerby, East Texas's first timber baron, realized the potential for profit in those piney woods.
<v Houston Tompson, Silsbee Attorney>Eighteen eighty four, John Henry Kirby, who was a lawyer, came into East Texas and began to accumulate land. He, of course, at this- at that time in this country was made up of people that very few of them could read and write. And then they, uh, would think that John Henry Kirby was ?more or less? the only lawyer in East Texas at that time in this area. And, uh... he was able to, to purchase some of it at very low prices. They got a tax title and then later they sued a lot of these people who had come in here and had settled on the land and had cultivated. And Kirby sued them in Houston, which is one hundred miles. And the way their settlers had to travel to court would go down the major's river to Beaumont. And they took up a railroad train over to Houston. And it was a matter of about a week. And then whenever they'd go there, they'd find out that, that the judge had put the case off, unbeknownst to them. And so there was the judge, the federal judge who was operating that time was an ex attorney for Kirby. And so then they would go back home and then they said, court the next spring and they'd go back. And if they, if they showed up to it, put the case off again. And then if the case wasn't, I mean, if they didn't show up and finally they didn't show up cause they didn't have the money or it just took too much time and it was too much trouble. And land didn't seem to be that valuable. But if they didn't show up, then they tried the case. And of course, Kirby won in the absence of anybody there to defend their, their title.
<v Narrator>To exploit his immense holdings, Kirby installed a network of railroads, and logging began in earnest. But the first substantial damage the thicket was to suffer came from the oil industry. <v Narrator>The oil boom began with Texas's first well, Spindletop, and nearby Beaumont, but within a few years, the thicket had producing fields at Sarah Lake, Batson, Saratoga. No one cared much for the environment in those days. And soon, the landscape began to show the boom's effects. Oil spills and saltwater overflows killed everything they touched. Even 60 and 70 years later, the lingering effects have prevented anything from growing back on tracks like these 400 acres near Saratoga. Nobody knows just how many acres in the thicket have been scarred so badly that nothing will grow again. The oil boom simply played out after a few years, and most of the companies left.
<v Narrator>The lumber companies, however, were not far behind the oilmen. They scoured the forest ruthlessly, and within a decade or two, the forests, too, were played out. Then some folks got together to try and save some of what was left. <v Dr. Pete Gunter>Well, the Big Thicket Association has two histories. There was one created in 1927. And they were trying to get a park started and had good chances in the late 1930s, but the Second World War came along and pretty well killed it. Then in 1960, in the mid 1960s, the second Big Thicket Association was formed. And the attempt then was to do everything possible to publicize the Big Thicket and to bring the political leaders into some realization of its value. <v Narrator>The association hasn't had much luck with local politicians. Like most areas which have one-product economies, the timber industry has pretty much controlled things. In the four counties affected by the park proposal, 90 percent of all the land is in commercial forest production. <v Houston Tompson, Silsbee Attorney>We've got one county commissioner, for instance, that depends for part of his livelihood on a... He's a local contractor. And of course he has to get timber from the county. He's sold timber to the counties. And they could cause a lot of trouble or he could cause them a lot of trouble. And it's a pretty cozy arrangement whereby, uh, they scratch each other's back. We've got another county official that has, uh, this lease to... There's a free lease to a picnic here in the county. Which ?inaudible? worth, you know, $50,000. He paid nothing for it. And of course, uh, that makes him tend to the company's business a little bit better then he tends to somebody else's business.
<v Pete Trest, Hardin County Commissioner>They have been very nice, Eastex, and, and flying our sheriff. The county is not prosperous enough to own an airplane, nearing these murder cases in the past days. Flew our sheriff, wherever he needed to go, which was appreciated. <v Houston Tompson, Silsbee Attorney>Of course, every year, they, you know, they always, always problems with these, these big recreational areas they want over here. ?Eastex, they usually go there when they want to really entertain. And we take them down to south Texas, down at Goulburnham, and they spend weeks to them in Mexico. And, and usually whenever they come back?, but ?inaudible? They have got some influence over. <v Pete Trest, Hardin County Commissioner>No, sir. They do not have any influence on the county government. They don't even try to. <v Narrator>The association then tried to interest the state government. But Texas is not a state known for caring about the environment. So the association turned to the federal government, particularly an East Texas Populist, then Senator Ralph Yarborough.
<v Ralph Yarborough>My family has lived in the nation's river watershed for a hundred and twenty five years. I grew up one mile from the banks of the Neches. It's a mixed hardwood and, uh, pine area. Wonderful fruits and, uh, flowering trees and shrubs and clinging vines. Just one of the most entrancing areas to a boy growing up in America. And then my father would go down to the Big Thicket, which was south of our area, to hunt bear. And that's a legendary park to many legends that go back before the Civil War. This great, fabulous area. And it's part of the whole legend and folklore of East Texas. And as I went to the Senate of the United States, I knew efforts have been made to create a state park there. I read Mary Lastwood's book on this course of evolution that worked on it for years. In 1966, introduced the first bill to create a Big Thicket National Park ever introduced into the House of the Congress. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>What happened to your bill? <v Ralph Yarborough>Well, it languished in the committee for four or five years. The National Park Service of the United States dragged its heels. You can see the influence of the great lumber companies generally. They avidly went in for more parks, but not on this, the Big Thicket National Park.
<v Narrator>But Yarborough's bill sparked new interest in the Thicket, and people like Pete Gunner, a philosophy professor at North Texas State, and Geraldine Watson of Silsbee, mother of five and wife of an oil company technician, kept trying to get people to come and see the woods. <v Geraldine Watson>The arid sandy lands like the prairies are a little unexpected in the Big Thicket. Usually, our arid sandy lands are found on the high terraces of, eh, our streams, which are no longer flooded. People are really surprised when they come upon these sand hills almost barren and find ?inaudible? cactus. It's just not thought to be here.
<v Dr. Pete Gunter>And it really, you know, it's just a group of smiling amateurs. Uh... None of the people who started it, and certainly not I, were professional publicity people or professional fundraisers or professional organizers. And we've had to learn as we go, we made mistakes, and we stumbled, but somehow through this, the thing has continually grown and, and mushroomed. And now it's become a really, a significant movement. So we're proud of what we've done. We... excuse me. We're proud of what we've done. Yea, but it it was done purely by smiling amateurs. <v Narrator>Lined up against them was a who's who of the forest products industry. Times, Eastex, Kurby Lumber, which is owned by the Santa Fe Railroad, U.S. Plywood Champion Paper, ?Owens?Illinois, Georgia Pacific. But 1967, the National Park Service recommended the so-called String of Pearls Park proposal, thirty five thousand acres worth, which included bits and pieces of the Thicket's unique areas. The lumber companies publicly endorsed it. The environmentalists didn't. <v Dr. Pete Gunter>Number one, many of those pearls were cut originally because they weren't owned by the lumber company. Those lumber companies only owned about seventeen thousand five hundred acres. And then the second problem with it was that it didn't have any of the strange yet isolated areas. Every one of them would be surrounded by subdivisions, and the water supply would be cut off. So it was too late and too small and too unprotected.
<v Narrator>Furthermore, even though the companies had officially supported the String of Pearls proposal, they continued cutting for more than a year in park areas designated by the National Park Service. They finally announced a moratorium on these lands. But even this had holes. <v Dr. Pete Gunter>On the other seventeen thousand five hundred, this was owned by small owners and very often this was cut and we've had some beautiful areas destroyed right after the lumber companies declared the so-called moratorium. <v Dr. Pete Gunter>And the really grim thing about this was that the lumber companies would buy the, the timber off of this land, that they said they were protecting. In other words, they didn't ask the small lumber companies any questions. They just said, give us your, give us your timber no matter where it comes from. <v Narrator>The lumber companies objected to the park proposals for many reasons. <v Narrator>Most of them economic. <v Larry Layboume, Time Inc.>To take away productive acres - I'm, I'm sure it's difficult for them forest managers. It, it curtails their possibility. You know, that means that curtails their possibilities of producing and selling their products. So, uh, so it represents, it represents a real, uh, economic loss. No question about it.
<v Narrator>The companies also said that the loss of significant amounts of timberland would have harmful effects on the economies of the counties involved. This is Congressman Charles Wilson, a first-term Democrat whose district includes the Big Thicket, testifying at a recent congressional hearing. <v Rep. Charles Wilson>I must defend the actions of this Congress to the labor union people and the working people who fear that their jobs might be in jeopardy. In endorsing the seventy-five thousand acres and indeed and introducing the seventy five thousand acres, I have gone at least twice as far as the majority of my constituents would want me to go. <v Narrator>This is the front page of the August 2nd, 1973 edition of The Silsbee Bee, a weekly newspaper in Hardin County. The headline and story announced plans for Kirby Lumber Corporation's multi-million-dollar particle board plan across the street from the company's existing Silsbee Mill. This plant will offer one hundred new jobs. The story added that another new Kirby plant now under construction, this one for plywood production, would create another 300 jobs. And just below the Kirby story was one dealing with Eastex Inc. This one announced a 100-million-dollar expansion program at Eastex's ?Eveydale? Mill, located seven miles east of Silsbee, which would boost that plant's capacity by about 45 percent.
<v Pete Trest, Hardin County Commissioner>Uh... I don't have - I do have, but not with me, the exact figures that we could lose economy-wise, taking a base pay per acre if this ?part? developed. It would hurt the county, wise, tax wise as well as development, eh, byproducts of the timber company. We have lost a lot of revenue due to the all that's going down. And as I said, timber and, uh, residential homes is about the only thing we've got to survive on as far as tax purposes go. <v Houston Tompson, Silsbee Attorney>We're supposed to be paying 100% value-only tax just like the rest of us would. You can see examples all over the county where the companies' land is valued at eighty.... but eighty dollars a thousand usually. And then when you take a third of that and you're down around twenty or eight, sixteen or twenty dollars per acre, adding ?inaudible?, and then the rest of us are paying us bases of, uh, you know, $400 and things of that sort.
<v Pete Trest, Hardin County Commissioner>Yes, uh, I think there needs to be some adjustment down on it, but I think they're paying their fair share. <v Narrator>But time passed, and more and more of what had originally been envisioned for the park was cut and subsequently forgotten. Many areas which had been opened to hikers and naturalists were fenced and posted with no trespassing signs. <v I.C. Eason>Well, we had a problem with timber counties, been having that for years ?inaudible? Eastex, while I think you can ?try to take this country? ?inaudible? East Texas wildlife, and they had no luck. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>What's East Texas wildlife ?like? <v I.C. Eason>?Had to let a logging days in town.? I got up down here and down low. They lease, um, leased this land from the companies, you see, and made a little hunting club and ?it was? still nowhere. In ?inaudible? town, it was even against the law to get out on a bank of that river there. Like, Eastex ?inaudible?. And I mean, you had to camp. You camped, you camped on a sandbar. You got out on the bank - they pay- made you pay a fine. Some people, but they never did me because they know that I wouldn't let them ?put?, you know, ?hard-won? partying time. They didn't make me do that.
<v Narrator>Also, the companies were busy creating what they call the new forest. And it was new, but it wasn't a mixture of pines and hardwoods which had been there before. Instead, the forest was replanted with rows and rows of slash pine. Pine plantations, as they are known, begin with clear cutting the forest, itself a controversial procedure. <v Narrator>The pines are harvested, and many of the hardwoods are left for the bulldozers, which follow the saw crews. The bulldozers push what's left into long rows which are then burned.
<v Narrator>The planters come next, placing tiny pine seedlings a few feet apart. Ecologists abhor the steady march of the pine plantations. Call it just a way to squeeze more profit per acre out of the forest and say that nothing grows or lives there. <v Narrator>The lumber companies reply that pine plantations aren't bad environments at all, and that given the shrinking of available timberlands, it's responsible management to seek more yield per acre. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>Well, essentially, we do not create pine plantations until all marketable timber has been cut from that, that particular piece of land, and our foresters determined that that area will not regenerate itself or regrow without some help. At those times that we do utilize clearcutting, it's done strictly to enhance the amount of marketable timber on that piece of property over several-year period. After several cutting cycles, you get to the point that the timber is not growing there by itself. It's not good timber, it's not producing well. And so our foresters then decide that it's best to go back through, clear it out and start over. Much as you do- would do on a farm.
<v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>Mrs. Watson, you call these pine plantations ecological deserts. Why? <v Geraldine Watson>Oh, I think that's pretty obvious, uh. You see all these wildflowers and this, uh, vegetation here. These are just remnants of what once grew over here. And now you see nothing except just pine needles on the ground and a few scattered grasses, uh. Not only that, it's very poor habitat for wildlife. And the first few years of the pine plantations, say four or five, it's good habitat for deer, and, and for quail. Other birdlife in the summertime only. In the wintertime, there's no, uh, what we call mass. That is acorns and, and nuts for the deer and the animals to feed on. So it's very poor habitat in, in the wintertime, and any time. Of course, after a few years, when it gets up large enough to shade all the ground, then, then, uh, nothing grows there. And it's poor habitat for any, any kind of wildlife or, or plant life either.
<v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>Well, it depends on what you mean by an ecological desert, uh. This we consider to be essentially monoculture. So at this point, if you're talking about, uh, needing to grow a variety of trees, yes, it would be an ecological desert. But if you mean by that that absolutely no vegetation grows other than a pine tree - no, this is not true. Uh... Hardwood comes back almost invariably. It's just that we feel that the, that the pines need to be the predominant tree. <v Narrator>Environmentalists charge, however, that the companies sometimes go too far to ensure the predominance of the pine. <v Dr. Pete Gunter>Now, when it comes to the use of herbicides and insecticides, this is something we've really objected to. What the lumber companies do after they've bulldozed and planted their rows of pine is to go over this area with insecticides and spray it from the air. Well, then what happens? Insecticides are toxic. They get from the pine plantation into the creek, from the creek, into the river. Then they get into the birds that feed on the fish and the people that feed on the fish. You have what's called biological magnification where- where you start from a small dosage of insecticide and up the feeding chain, it gets intensified. And it's very dangerous to have insecticides in your bloodstream. Uh... And it also will eventually kill off a lot of frogs and fish and birds. Uh... And then for the herbicides, this was something that can be done to keep hardwoods from growing up in a pine plantation, where you again fly over in the air and dump herbicides which kill off everything except the pine trees. And it's, you know, it allows you to raise a lot of pine trees, but it destroys the forage crops that is the oaks and so forth for the game. And it adds another toxic element to the environment.
<v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>Our operations manual for for our resources division indicates that, of course, we follow all, uh, strict rules and codes for the use of any, uh, defoliant, uh, or, or any insecticide, uh, or any spray of any type. And this is not to say that we would never use one, but it's not commonly used. <v Narrator>The pine plantation controversy brings into sharp focus the greater questions of corporate responsibility to the environment, to the stockholders in the company and to the nation, which depends on the timber industry for materials. And nowhere in the Big Thicket discussion is the dilemma better illustrated than by the behavior of Time Inc. and its most profitable subsidiary, Eastex Inc, which now owns over a million acres of forest land. <v Rep. Bob Eckhardt>Eastex is just a corporation out for the money, eh. Primarily owned by Time, I understand, and supplying people, well, another subsidiary. Their concern is not in the area, but in the resource.
<v Ralph Yarborough>They followed ?his old hand?. They are the one, the big bulldozers, they have the ?inaudible?, they're fighting ?inaudible?. They put out this brochure, got one through the mail, trying to sell me these books, The American wilderness, telling us about these great areas, what great areas? They're telling us about the Grand Canyon, the Atlantic Beaches, Wild Alaska, Baja- Baja California. That's in Mexico, about Alaska up there or lower Mexico or lower California. And they show pictures of this American wilderness. These other, these beaches and things, but they won't talk about this great gem. They're saying that Edwin ?Way Teal? calls the last remaining remnant of a wilderness of this type in America. <v Narrator>Time Inc., through its magazines, TIME, Sports Illustrated and Life, has traditionally been a leader in the ecology movement. Life, when it was alive, printed story after story on the environment, praising its wonders and sharply criticizing individuals and corporations which despoiled it. Time magazine began a new section called simply Environment. Sports Illustrated, it seems, is single-handedly trying to get the Hudson River cleaned up. But here, in addition to opposing a Big Thicket Park, were trying to limit its size and location, Time has been a major polluter. Eastex's huge mill has the usual serious odor problems associated with pulp and paper operations and has also consistently violated air and water quality standards. Further, for a company whose business is communications, Time is distinctly uncommunicative about its timber operations. When asked about the Big Thicket, Time officials, whether in Texas or New York, are unavailable. The question of what the company's responsibility should be finally fell to its Washington lobbyist.
<v Larry Laybourne, Time Inc.>Oh, I don't suppose there's any, eh, eh, there's no formula that I'm aware of. There's no way to to measure this kind of a relationship or the- or these competing claims. I think you try to do what is, what is economically sound and at the same time come-, eh, eh, not only in the letter of the law, but in the spirit of, of the law, and in the- in the spirit of cooperation with the, with the - the best interests of society as as as we can figure them out. <v Dr. Pete Gunter>There were cases that looked to us back in the middle 1960s where it looked to us as if the lumber companies were either intentionally destroying areas or talking other people into doing it. America's largest magnolia tree was poisoned with arson that had lead. Magnolia trees were cut along highway right of ways, the heron rookeries were bombed from the air with insecticides to kill them. Various areas in which the creeks were beautiful, and the lumber companies would cut up to the creek and push the timber in the- brush over into the creek. There was an awful lot that looked to us like spiteful cutting and intentional destruction.
<v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>I, I think that that probably there had been many- many unfair things said, uh, possibly from all quarters. Uh... I think that- that, uh, some of the, the feelings that were generated during the, the attempt to create a Big Thicket national area park have been very, very unfortunate.
<v Dr. Pete Gunter>One of the big problems that we had was getting a Big Thicket national biological reserve was the resistance by some of the Texas congressmen, specially John Dowdy - the Big Thicket was in his district - and also Earl Kabal, who's from Dallas, I don't know what he was doing mixed up in the things. Uh, but Dowdy, uh, has been replaced in Congress. He got caught on a bribery charge. He got replaced by Charlie Wilson, who has introduced a pretty good Big Thicket bill. And then, uh, uh Earl Kabal got replaced by Alan Steelman, who's introduced even a better Big Thicket bill. So that the situation in Texas, particularly among the congressmen, has really turned completely around. And we're able to have some real backing from the Texas delegation. It's the kind of thing you have to have. Uh, then Wayne Aspinall, who was head of the House committee that deals with parks and biological preserves, was really extremely conservative on creating any new parks. And the conservationists managed to pump a lot of money into his district nationally and defeat Aspinall. <v Geraldine Watson>I really think our successes are do more to the fact that, uh, uh, conservation are env- environmentalism is simply an idea whose time has come, and that the Big Thicket has just ridden the crest of this wave of environmental concern that swept over the country.
<v Narrator>Time Inc. has been changing too. They've been working on their pollution problems, although they still have a long, long way to go. The company has come around concerning a part two backing Congressman Wilson's bill. <v James Shepley, President, Time Inc.>You have read some of the press reports about the Big Thicket, and you will know that Eastex and Time have been accused of trying to block this project. I am here to refute such statement and to make it as plain as possible that Time Inc. hopes your committee will vote authority for the seventy-five-thousand-acre reserve as originally structured by the Interior Department. <v Dr. Pete Gunter>You know, Time Inc is between a rock and a hard place. They've been printing these ecology editorials and putting out the American Wilderness series for years and years now. Uh... Suddenly it's gotten around the cocktail circuit in New York, uh, and the executive suites and so forth. The Time Inc. is destroying a part of East Texas that's of national biological significance. And I think as this has grown and the publicity has mounted that Eastex has really... Rather Time Inc., has really felt the necessity of changing.
<v Speaker>Mr. Laybourne, as time passed and it became more widely known that Time Inc. was the parent company of Eastex, has this presented in any sort of a public relations problem for the company? <v Larry Laybourne, Time Inc.>Oh, I think so. I think so, I think, eh, uh, the ?inaudible? media wants to be responsive to, uh, to, uh, what- what is a real strong good consensus about the preservation and ecological benefits. So there has been somewhat of a public relations problem for, I think, sort of happening. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>And I think we have reached a point now where, where everyone is going to, to, to have to settle down now and take a good long look, eh, at our, at our area, at our natural resources here and see how these things can be perpetuated and how they can be used for multiple uses. <v Pat Malone, Kirby Lumber Co>Now, how they can be used for recreation, how we can grow them for marketable timber, for manufacturing, eh, how more and more people can have access to them and use them. Uh... I think we will become very convinced in the next five to ten years that very, very little land in this country can be used for a single purpose, that it will have to be a multiple purpose.
<v Narrator>Right now, as in the past, several bills to create a Big Thicket biological preserve have been introduced in Congress. Each of Texas's senators has a bill. There are four in the House, and the administration, through the Department of the Interior, has submitted one. The environmentalists' favorite Congressman Bob Eckhart's bill, which calls for seven scattered units featuring each of the thicket's plan associations plus four connecting water courses, total one hundred thousand acres. The lumber companies have come around to endorsing Congressman Wilson's 75,000-acre bill, which is nearly identical to Eckhart's, except it deletes two of the water courses. The Department of the Interior's bill was originally identical to Wilson's. But the president's Office of Management and Budget imposed a monetary ceiling on the project, and Interior had to drop the remaining two carders, Little Pine Island Bayou and the Neches River. <v Dr. Thomas Eisner>As a biologist, I can only say that to the save individual enclaves without saving the waterway between them is not really a way of approaching preservation properly. If, for example, you were to lumber along these waterways, you run into the problem of just contamination of the streams from silt that would inevitably flow into the water. If you develop them, you would have the problem of sewage, pollution and other forms of pollution that are the inevitable concomitants of development. If you don't provide a belt of untouched greenery on each side of these corridors, you may find that, eh, pesticides, eh, such as herbicides and insecticides, will be windblown into these streams or will simply seep through the soil if, in fact, the application of these chemicals is close to the streams, and in so doing, it will inevitably contaminate whatever enclaves you've got preserved downstream from these areas. And, uh, this is the beginning of the end of such an enclave.
<v Narrator>Only one of the Big Thicket bills has ever passed. That was Yarborough's bill, passed just before he left the Senate in 1970, but it never came up in the House. Once again, this fall, Congress is working on the Big Thicket proposals. But as Pete Gunter once said, politics is a slow business, power sowing and bulldozing is not. And Thicket it is still being ravaged. Despite the lumber company's moratorium announced in 1967 and another one declared this summer, cutting still goes on in units proposed for the park. This is a lumber truck being loaded with cut timber recently in a proposed ?inaudible? Unit. Also, the oil industry is still around. <v Dr. Pete Gunter>Now, this is the same oil field, and it's been, it's still producing oil and has for the last 50, 60 years. And, uh, what you have here is some oil storage tanks that they've just, eh, cleaned out. And instead of taking these tanks over 100 yards so the oil could flow down into this catch basin where nothing grows anyhow, they've let this flow out into the creeks, and the creeks flow out into the byayous, and the bayous, part of, going to be part, we hope, of a national park.
<v Narrator>Now there's a new threat coming from real estate development for vacation or recreation home sites. This one is typical. The developers have cut roads through the forest, put up some street signs and tried to create lakes for higher priced waterfront lots. Those who fear for the park hope it doesn't follow the pattern of exploitation suffered by the Alabama Coushatta Indians. In 1928, the state of Texas gave the Indians three thousand acres of new land. But before the land was turned over to the Indians, all the timber was cut.
- Big Thicket Holler
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- The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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- "A classic struggle of corporate greed vs. conservation has been continuing in Texas's Big Thicket for the past forty years. It's an unlikely spot for a confrontation, tucked away in the southeastern corner of a state noted for catering to industry and not caring about its environment. Scientists call the Big Thicket the biological crossroads of North America; [its] plant associations range from desert to jungle, [its] animal life from alligators to bears. The struggle's been over a national park proposal to save some of the Thicket, which has shrunk from 3 million acres to a little over 300,000. But in the four counties affected by a park, 90 percent of all the land is owned by lumber companies, who have been fighting the proposal bitterly. The companies control more than the land; they control the politics and the economies completely, and they have used this power relentlessly. The Thicket's largest landowner is none other than Time, Inc., which has usually been associated with the ecology movement. But in the Thicket, where Time's most profitable subsidiary controls a million acres of forestland, Time's behavior has been very different[.] The film follows what has [happened] to the Thicket since man first came, how the oil industry, and then the lumber industry, and now the development syndrome, have and are stripping away the unique characteristics found there."--1973 Peabody Awards entry form.
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- Moving Image
Producing Organization: KERA
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the
University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-025df12087b (Filename)
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- Chicago: “Big Thicket Holler,” 1973, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-sq8qb9wd1f.
- MLA: “Big Thicket Holler.” 1973. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-sq8qb9wd1f>.
- APA: Big Thicket Holler. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-sq8qb9wd1f