November River Voice

Natural Resource Conservation and Public Land Preservation in Alabama dates back to the early 1900’s to preserve and protect our headwaters, rivers and watersheds. From the Weeks Act in 1911, that established Alabama’s National Forest System to President Roosevelt’s success in creating the Civilian Conservation Corps and Alabama State Parks and with the creation of Forever Wild and Alabama’s first National Park, Little River Canyon National Preserve in 1992, over 1.5 million acres of land have been preserved for public use. DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve account for 18,790 acres of public lands. Utilized for camping, hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, whitewater kayaking, hunting, fishing, bird watching, rock climbing, public lands help generate millions of dollars in tourism revenue each year for DeKalb County. These positive impacts save citizen’s hard earned money through tax cuts and preserve land perpetually, so future generations can inherit a healthy environment.

Even though Alabama has over a million acres in public lands, it makes up only 4% of the total 33 million acres in Alabama and is the least amount of protected lands than any other Southeastern State. With Alabama being #2 In biodiversity, it is vital that we seek ways to ensure wild areas stay intact.  Private landowners have options to conserve their property to help protect special lands.  One way is a conservation easement. In this agreement, property owners conserve their land while retaining ownership. Property may be any size tract and landowners get the opportunity to leave a legacy such as a special home place or family farmland, or to protect a critical habitat with rare and endangered species. Conservation Easements also give landowners great federal tax incentives and if you ever sell, the conservation easement stays with the property. Another option is donating land for a tax deduction and sometimes funding is available to purchase property for conservation purposes. Small land trust conservation organizations sometimes get the opportunity to pass along funding from National non-profit organizations such as The Nature Conservancy or The Access Fund.

Alabama needs more wild places in conservation, especially around Little River. Over 10,000 private acres surround Little River and are in need of protection in order to support clean water systems and healthy wildlife corridors. Little River Waterkeeper encourages landowners to consider the following 1. Place your land in a conservation easement or consider a land donation. 2. Support legislation that protects, enhances and increases public lands in Alabama. 3. Be a part of the conversation, no matter what side you are on. Stay informed.

I believe everyone wants to support a healthy, sustainable economy, an environment that we all love, appreciate and call Alabama the Beautiful home for a reason. Let’s do our part to keep it that way, through positive efforts that create a ripple effect throughout our community and onto our neighbors downstream.

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Angie Shugart