New champion tree has ties to forestry of the past

A loblolly pine on the T.L.L. Temple Foundation Boggy Slough Conservation Area west of Lufkin was recently confirmed by Texas A&M Forest Service to be the largest of its kind in the state.
Located within 200 feet of Cochino Bayou, a prominent waterway, the champion loblolly stands as a symbol of the oldest forest growth in Texas. Due to the presence of an old abandoned tram right-of-way, it is believed that this area was last logged for both hardwood and pine more than 100 years ago. This tree was likely one of the first to regenerate following logging in the late 1800s.
“Although all trees have value as they provide many environmental, economic and social benefits to Texans, big trees have big value,” said Texas A&M Forest Service Partnership Coordinator Gretchen Riley. “This big loblolly pine stands in a place that could arguably be called the birthplace of Texas forestry and connects past industry with present conservation values. I’m thrilled to crown it the state champion.”
When a potential champion tree is located, a precise measuring process is utilized to determine a tree index number. The number is found by combining the trunk circumference in inches with the total height of the tree in feet, plus one-quarter of the average crown spread in feet. The former champion, located in Rusk County, was most recently measured in May 2013 and has an index of 309 points.
The new champion, standing at 138 feet, was nominated by Robert Sanders, Director of Forest and Wildlife Management at the T.L.L. Temple Foundation’s Boggy Slough Conservation Area. With a circumference of 178 inches and a crown spread of 65 feet, the new champion has a tree index of 332 points.
Originally purchased in the early 1900’s as part of the Southern Pine Lumber Company, Boggy Slough is an approximately 20,000 acre tract located in east Texas along the Neches River. The Southern Pine Lumber Company would become the Temple-Inland Corporation and was purchased by International Paper in 2012. Ultimately, the tract would be purchased by the T.L.L Temple Foundation in 2013.
After the tract was purchased by the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, management priorities shifted from a focus on commercial timber production to a more balanced approach that promotes ecosystem health while maintaining the land as a working forest. In 2016, a conservation easement was placed on the property in cooperation with the Conservation Fund, allowing the property and its conservation value to be protected in perpetuity.
“The Boggy Slough Conservation Area aspires to be a model for conservation and land management that connect nature to our communities,” said Wynn Rosser, President and CEO of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation.
Originally, loblolly pine, known officially as Pinus taeda, was commonly found along banks of streams in virgin forests of Texas. Today, this large, fast-growing tree species is now the dominant pine across the state, and is considered to be the most commercially valuable of the southern pines. The wood has a wide range of uses including lumber, pulp, boxes, crossties, posts and fuel.
Upon proclamation as a champion, this tree was added to the latest edition of the Texas Big Tree Registry, a listing of the largest specimen of every native or naturalized tree species found in the state.
The purpose of the Big Tree Registry is twofold — to stimulate a greater public appreciation of trees and to recognize owners and nominators of the state’s largest trees. The registry is published quarterly on the Texas A&M Forest Service Big Tree Registry page.
Currently, Texas A&M Forest Service recognizes 320 native or naturalized tree species that qualify for the list. Of these, 85 are current national champions or co-champions listed in the 2016 National Register of Big Trees published by the conservation group American Forests. The largest loblolly in the nation, with an index score of 343, was crowned in 2016 and is located in Northampton, Virginia.

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