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Forever Wild Receives $2.4 Million in Federal Matching Funds for Land Acquisition
March 01, 2005
The Forever Wild Land Trust was recently awarded two U.S. Forest Legacy Grants totaling $2.4 million. The federal matching grants will help facilitate purchases of land in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and the Cumberland Mountains Preserve. Forest Legacy is a federal program that partners with states to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands and provide for enhanced public recreation.
In the last five years, Alabama has received $21.6 million from federal land acquisition programs, including approximately $8 million from the Forest Legacy Program. In each instance, these federal funds are required to be matched. This match has been achieved in Alabama through Forever Wild.
The Forever Wild Program is funded by a percentage of the interest earned from state royalties on offshore natural gas leases belonging to Alabama. With federal programs like Forest Legacy, grants are matched by Forever Wild state funds, which significantly increase the purchasing power. State Lands Assistant Director Greg Lein says that Alabama’s ability to match federal funds such as those through the Forest Legacy Program is what makes Forever Wild so valuable. “The state is able to purchase much more land because of these grants than it would on its own,” he said.
The Mobile-Tensaw Delta purchase, which is the Bayou Sara Tract in Mobile County, consists of 684 acres. It will adjoin another Forever Wild tract, the Jacinto Port Tract, to allow for a more comprehensive approach to the conservation and management of this unique ecosystem. This area in south Alabama is an important travel corridor and year-long habitat for the state’s largest remaining black bear population. This purchase will add to the 54,000 acres of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta already purchased through Forever Wild.
The Cumberland Mountains Preserve, located in Jackson and Madison counties, consists of 7,846 acres in three tracts adjacent to the 12,000-acre Walls of Jericho Tract in Jackson County. These areas are located within one of the most biologically rich habitats in the world and consist of hardwoods, significant watersheds and many species of flora and fauna unique to the area. The Forest Legacy grant will supply approximately $1.2 million toward the purchase of this land.
Alabama has requested $8.25 million through the Forest Legacy Program for 2006, targeting unique longleaf pine forests adjacent to Hatchet and Weogufka Creeks and the Coosa River. This 10,000-acre project would support the long-term hunting programs at the Coosa Wildlife Management Area.
A similar application is being made for $5 million through the federal Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program, targeting unique habitats along Baldwin County’s Perdido River. If successful, this project could create a new 10,000-acre Wildlife Management Area for public hunting that also protects habitat crucial to the state’s seafood and tourism industries in Coastal Alabama.
Public hunting areas have declined in recent years because of lost leases. These purchases will help secure property that will be always be managed as public hunting land. Both of these requested grants are only available to Alabama if matching funds can be provided through the Forever Wild Program.
Forever Wild land now totals 107,000 acres since the program acquired its first tract in 1994. The land is used for wildlife management areas for public hunting, nature preserves, additions to state parks and outdoor recreational areas. More than 100,000 acres of the total Forever Wild land is available for public hunting.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR and the Forever Wild Program visit www.outdooralabama.com.