CHEROKEE COUNTY, Texas — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has acquired nearly 250 acres of bottomland hardwood and pine forest with 4 miles of Neches River frontage at Neches River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in East Texas.
Once covering nearly thirty million acres across the Southeastern United States, today only a small percentage of original bottomland hardwood forests remain. Growing on the flood plains of rivers and streams, these ecologically important forests provide habitat for fish and wildlife and protect water quality.
“Conserving bottomland hardwood forests along Texas’ rivers is a high priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Amy Lueders, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director. “These forested wetlands provide essential habitat for a variety of resident wildlife along with millions of migratory birds that migrate through the North American Central Flyway each spring and fall.”
The 249.18-acre acquisition, which is made up of three separate tracts, contains a mixed pine forest along the higher elevations and bottomland hardwood forest along the Neches River wetlands. Tree species on the property include loblolly pines, water oak, southern red oak, and sweetgum with an understory of American holly and eastern hophorn beam.
The property is a major stopover and resting area for migratory, wintering and breeding populations of waterfowl including lesser scaup, mallard, mottled duck and wood duck. The property also provides habitat for birds of conservation concern including lesser yellowlegs, pectoral sandpiper, semipalmated sandpiper, King rail and Harris's sparrow.
Other bird species benefited by the property’s healthy wetlands and forests include Louisiana waterthrush, Acadian flycatcher, prothonotary warbler, yellow-throated warbler, Kentucky warbler, red-
cockaded woodpecker, brown-headed nuthatch, prairie warbler, red-headed woodpecker, and wild turkey.
In addition to providing habitat for wildlife, bottomland hardwood forests also serve an important role in the watershed by improving water quality, controlling soil erosion and reducing the risk and severity of flooding to downstream communities.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the property using Land and Water Conservation Fund - Inholdings and Emergency Hardship funds. The LWCF fund invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help strengthen communities, preserve history and protect the national endowment of lands and waters.
This acquisition supports a main pillar of the Biden-Harris administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, contributing to the goal of conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. The effort aims to support locally led and voluntary conservation and restoration efforts across public, private, and Tribal lands and waters in order to create jobs and strengthen the economy’s foundation; tackle the climate and nature crises; and address inequitable access to the outdoors.
Neches River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2006 to protect wintering, nesting and migratory habitat for migratory birds of the Central Flyway and to ensure protection of the bottomland hardwoods for their diverse biological value.
While managed for the benefit of wildlife, the 7,484-acre refuge is also a place for people to enjoy nature and the outdoors through wildlife watching, photography, hunting, fishing, and environmental education programs.
To learn more, visit https://www.fws.gov/refuge/neches-river.