The Forever Wild Land Trust has voted to spend $15 million to pursue purchase of several additional tracts of land for activities such as hunting, hiking, camping and birding.
The Coosa Hancock Tract is encompasses 10,000 acres of mountain longleaf habitat in Coosa County. The land is already leased for hunting as part of the Coosa Wildlife Management Area. The proposed purchase means the land will be secured for hunting for years to come without worry that the lease could be lost. Although the land is suited for longleaf pine, other species have been planted over the years. The State Lands Division plans to restore more longleaf to the property as other trees are harvested.
According to State Lands Assistant Division Director Greg Lein, this purchase is significant in several ways. “The Forever Wild Board has been seeking a chance to make more land purchases in central Alabama and this one presented the perfect opportunity,” he said. Lein added that the property straddles two watersheds—Weogufka and Hatchett—and the habitat includes rare communities of flora and fauna. Several active and inactive colonies of the Endangered red-cockaded woodpecker are present on the tract.
Two 20-acre tracts will be pursued in the Coldwater Mountain area near Anniston and Oxford. These smaller holdings also contain the mountain longleaf habitat and the area is the only known habitat for the rare pygmy sculpin fish. This area supplies the drinking water for the City of Anniston.
An offer on 513 acres of land in the Mobile Delta is also being pursued by Forever Wild. The Alabama River Cut-off Tract contains bottomland hardwood habitat in Baldwin County. The land will be an addition to the Upper Delta Wildlife Management Area. Part of the funding for this tract comes from a North American Wetlands Conservation Act $1 million grant.
The Post Oak Flat Tract in Jackson County adjoins the popular Walls of Jericho. This tract is comprised of 3,760 acres near the Skyline Wildlife Management Area. A $1.2 million Forest Legacy grant will be applied to the purchase cost of this property.
The Forever Wild Program was established in 1992 by constitutional amendment to provide for the purchase of public recreational lands. Since its inception, the program has purchased more than 100,000 acres to be used for nature preserves, additions to state parks, outdoor recreational areas and wildlife management areas for public hunting. Ninety-three percent of the total Forever Wild acreage is available for public hunting.