Vivian Luong of Orange plants a longleaf pine seedling as part of the Centennial Forest project.

For a generation sometimes seen as preoccupied with instant gratification, it was refreshing to spend a day planting for the future, even if that future is a long way off.

“I hope my kids can come see my work in the future. I want to set a good example for them,” said Aleks Allen of Buna, and a member of Lamar University’s Honor’s Student Association (HSA) of the Reaud Honor’s College.

LU students gathered Saturday, Feb. 6 to join in the Big Thicket National Preserve’s ongoing longleaf pine reforestation project. HSA organized campus participation and rallied more than 40 students, staff members and friends to the location in the Big Sandy Creek Unit of the preserve.

The seedlings they planted will take 100-150 years to reach maturity and will live as long as 500 years.

The Big Thicket National Preserve is planting the longleaf pine seedlings in order to restore a 300-acre longleaf pine area surrounding a 100-year-old pine forest depleted by logging, pine beetle infestations, and hurricanes. Restoration of this “Centennial Forest” is paramount as it is home to several native plants and animals like red-cockaded woodpeckers and Texas trailing phlox. The park hopes to kindle the community’s support and continual assistance in the yearlong effort.

HSA members say it was the most successful service project they’ve ever had.

The student organization worked along with the Longleaf Pine Master Naturalists of Jasper to plant more than 10,000 seedlings, finishing ahead of schedule for the guided nature hike that concludes each meet.

“As college students, we are exposed to variety of opportunities to help out. The environment is too often taken for granted; I’m really glad I have this unique opportunity to give back,” said Senior Kay Alana Turner of Lumberton.

“It makes me feel energized to help the community. Its really a lot of fun,” said sophomore Tara Hoch of Beaumont. “We all need to take an interest in sustainability, especially in our own area. I think our hard work will pay off.”

Matthew Hoch, associate professor of biology at LU, pitched in, taking a special interest in the cause. Hoch has advocated sustainability at the university since 2010 and has long supported Alicen Flosi, director of LU’s Office of Sustainability.

“This is a long-term contribution with a lasting impact. Return here in a few decades and you’ll see how much it matters,” he said. “This preserve is giving back the native species, and it’s a ‘seed bag’ for the future.”

The Big Thicket National Preserve intends to plant 100,000 saplings in 2016, petitioning the community’s support to sponsor an event or volunteer time. Anyone is welcome to join the planting crew. The project is sponsored in part by the National Parks Conservation Association. Scheduled planting events are from January to March and November to December of 2016.

The Reaud Honors College engages Lamar’s high-ability students within the University and the larger community, offering enriched classes and opportunities. Honors students are encouraged and supported in the conduct of community service, internships, research and study abroad. The college is a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council and the Great Plains Honors Council.

The Honors Student Association promotes academic excellence within the LU community, coordinates student service and social activities within the Honors Program and fosters the intellectual growth and development of its membership.