July 16, 2008

Meeting to Focus on Scenic River Designation

By Beth Foley, Palestine Herald-Press, Texas

Jul. 16--An East Texas environmental group concerned about the future of the Neches River is trying to drum up public support of efforts to designate the Neches as a National Wild and Scenic River.

The East Texas Environmental Concerns Organization (ETECO) will host Donnie Puckett, a retired game warden and avid fisherman, as guest speaker at 6 p.m. Monday at First Presbyterian Church, located at 306 E. Tyler St. in Athens.

Puckett, who is spearheading a campaign for the Texas Conservation Alliance to have a portion of the river designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, will be giving an update on the status of those efforts as well as the "Life on the Neches" photo competition and the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge.

Puckett retired after 25 years with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), capping his career as District Supervisor for TPWD game wardens with the rank of captain. Prior to working for TPWD he served as a special agent for the U.S. Forest Service and now handles security and safety for an East Texas company. He holds a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and Public Administration.

In addition, he served two terms on the Central ISD school board, is a past Rotarian and was for many years active with Junior Achievement. An avid fisherman, Puckett spends much of his time on area rivers and lakes or enjoying the forests on his own land, where he's the proud host of two pairs of nesting bald eagles.

He and his wife Wanda live in Lufkin and have two daughters and three grandchildren.

The Neches flows over 400 miles, from Smith County to the Gulf of Mexico near Beaumont, and along the way it forms the eastern boundary of Anderson County.

According to ETECO, the Neches River sustains half a million people, meeting the needs of municipalities and industries and supplying water for the forests of the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge, the Davy Crockett National Forest with its Big Slough Wilderness and Neches Overlook, the Angelina National Forest with its Upland Island Wilderness, the popular Martin Dies Jr. State Park, the famed Big Thicket National Preserve, and thousands of acres of private land.

Monday's meeting will be held in the First Presbyterian meeting room, facing the main parking lot on E. Corsicana Street.

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Beth Foley may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]


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