EAST TEXAS, TX (KLTV) - 7,000 acres of land in East Texas have officially been dedicated to saving the planet.
Wildlife refuge volunteer Michael Banks lives for conserving the plants and animals indigenous to East Texas.
“There would be 10 to 20 deer that would come out in the evenings and eat out here," Banks says. “The Texas Parks and Wildlife have told me in the last two years, the Neches River is the healthiest river that they survey."
Forested wetlands like this, along the Neches are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world.
“We have deer, raccoons, hawks, and owls, you might even be able to see an alligator on the south side of the lake,” refuge manager Leo Gustafson says.
While hiking the 26 miles of trails, a refuge visitor may hear a coyote call, watch a great blue heron fly across the pathway, or surprise a wood duck on the banks of the lake.
The purpose of the refuge is to protect the dwindling bottomland hardwoods, along with several other endangered species in the area.
“Three miles to the south and east of us is an endangered species of red cockaded woodpeckers, and then we have some mussels who live in the river that are going to be on the endangered species list, this year, (or) maybe next year,” Gustafson says.
Population control is also important to conservation; hunting is not yet allowed on the property, but a public hunting program is anticipated in the near future.
The grand opening of the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge will be held on April 13. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.