Forever Wild Land Trust Fulfills Commitment to Help Protect Alabama’s Hunting Heritage
More than 3,600 acres will soon be added to public hunting areas in Colbert County thanks to the Forever Wild Land Trust Program. This is just the latest purchase in a series of land acquisitions in north Alabama that helps protect the state’s hunting heritage.
In 2001, an innovative transaction between Forever Wild and the Mississippi-based Southern Timber Ventures Corporation secured 31,414 acres in Colbert and Lauderdale counties. The purchase targeted 13 tracts totaling 26,300 acres in Colbert County adjacent to state land within the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management Area, and 5,114 acres comprising eight tracts in Lauderdale County adjacent to the Lauderdale WMA. The acquisitions in Colbert and Lauderdale counties were extremely strategic because both WMAs had been experiencing serious declines in hunting land as private landowners terminated the leases to the state during the late 1990s to pursue more profitable options.
In 2000, the Forever Wild Program began investigating large parcels of corporate timber land being offered for sale in northwest Alabama. The approach taken by Forever Wild was modeled after the recent success in the Mobile‑Tensaw Delta, where 47,000 acres had been acquired in 1999 from the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.
The transaction in Colbert and Lauderdale counties was unique because 65 percent of the land being acquired was purchased with a timber reservation, leaving thousands of acres of planted pine plantations in production and under contract with a local mill under the seller’s wood supply agreement. This approach saved Alabama millions of dollars in timber value in the transaction, while also supporting the local timber industry through the existing timber contracts.
However, Forever Wild’s efforts didn’t stop there. Since the initial purchase of 31,414 acres in 2001, the Forever Wild administrative staff has worked to identify willing sellers within the matrix of public land in the two northwest Alabama WMAs. In the next week, the first of several closings will add 1,520 acres to the Freedom Hills WMA in Colbert County. Two more transactions in early April will add another 2,151 acres south of Highway 72. Collectively, the transactions make great gains in blocking up the state-owned lands at Freedom Hills and establishing a significant block of public hunting land. In keeping with the previous strategies, the new lands were also acquired subject to previously negotiated timber reservations, once again stretching Forever Wild funds to produce low-cost acquisitions.
To learn more about Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust and its successful land acquisition program, click here.