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Stover Family donates land for the Big Thicket National Preserve

Special to The Leader

The Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust is a conservation organization working to preserve the wildlife habitat, wetlands, and critical floodplains of the Big Thicket area in Southeast Texas. Since 1999, the Trust works with landowners to transfer ownership of parcels and then, donates the land to the Big Thicket National Preserve for conservation. Collaboration with local communities encourages the donations, purchases, and conservation easements that make it possible to save the Big Thicket forever, one piece at a time.

On Dec. 21, 2016, the Stover family of Silsbee, TX finalized the transfer of a 68.4-acre parcel of land on Big Sandy Creek in Hardin County to the Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust, a local land trust. The transfer included a charitable donation to the Trust by donating half the purchase price. The late Judge Earl ‘Smokey’ Stover and his wife Juanita acquired the property in the 1960s with the thought of donating it once the Preserve was established. It’s forested land that supports hardwoods, pines, and cypress-lined creeks that flow into Big Sandy/Village Creek filling a gap in the Big Thicket National Preserve boundary. Mrs. Stover and her son, Judge Earl Stover III, worked with Trust Director Ellen Buchanan to transfer the property, which will be donated to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Preserve’s Big Sandy Creek Corridor Unit.

Mrs. Juanita Stover (left) and Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust Director Ellen Buchanan at closing of land deal in Hardin County.

Mrs. Juanita Stover (left) and Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust Director Ellen Buchanan at closing of land deal in Hardin County.

“I only visited it shortly after he bought it, but I imagine it’s still beautiful in there,” Mrs. Stover said of the forested wetland. It remains much as it did in earlier days said Trust Director Buchanan, noting that the cathedral-high canopy of the cypress trees adds to the parcel’s unique beauty. Conservation of these lands helps to “maintain wildlife habitat and corridors, protect sensitive floodplains and wetlands, and helps to maintain water quality and reduce flooding,” Buchanan said.

The Big Natural Heritage Trust thanks, Mrs. Stover for her generous donation as well as the T.L.L. Temple Foundation and Trust supporters for making this acquisition possible. For more information about the Trust’s non-profit charitable work to protect and preserve the lands, water, plants, wildlife and natural communities of the Big Thicket visit www.bigthickettrust.org.