Preserving Columbia Bottomlands

Less than a quarter of the once vast forest of the Columbia Bottomlands still exists. The decade long effort to preserve what remains got a boost recently with money to save almost 1,200 acres in Brazoria County. Houston Public Radio’s Rod Rice reports.


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The money, about $300,000, came from Reliant Energy.

They’re helping to reforest the bottomlands in order to accumulate carbon and offset some of their footprint.

Mike Lang is a wildlife biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

There is no actual requirement to do anything like this and so it’s really a donation and a really generous donation to help us conserve some of the bottomlands.

The Columbia Bottomland was at one time a forest that was 40-miles wide and 60-miles deep. It encompassed the lands and waterways around and between the Colorado, San Bernard and Brazos Rivers. Today what’s left is found in Brazoria, Matagorda, Wharton and Fort Bend County’s.

The National Wildlife Refuges along the coast; Brazoria, San Bernard and Big Boggy, have been around for decades, but the work to preserve the bottomlands has only been at full tilt since 1997. Private and public partnerships have helped in the effort and carbon sequestration is part of the mix, but it is new and still not official or fully defined, but Mike Lang says it is more than just planting trees; for it to work land must be conserved.

It has to be permanently conserved so that the vegetation and the forest that is reestablished on that will be there, really in perpetuity; otherwise you are not really accomplishing anything.

Some existing forests simply need to be preserved; other land has to be reforested.

Fairly small tracts in the bottomland are surrounded by a seed source; they’re surrounded by forests all around them. If you just stop mowing them and grazing them they naturally will reforest if they’re not too big. The larger tracts are the ones we will have to do supplemental planting on, and Reliant has committed to do some of that as well as the money that they’ve donated for the land acquisition part.

While the National Wildlife Refuges along the coast have public access areas, much of the preserved Columbia Bottomlands do not.

Some areas are open; some areas are open just for special events, some for research. We have some very important research going on some of the tracts, so they are not open all of the time.

One section that is open everyday is the Hudson Woods Unit, just off Route 521 about five miles west of Angleton. Its forest and wetlands have trails and a picnic area. And, this week-end there is a lot of free activities at the 14th Annual Migration Celebration at the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge & Freeport River Place. You’ll find a links for that and more on the bottomlands along with pictures at

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