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Forever Wild Land Trust Secures 5,400 Acres Within Barbour WMA
January 12, 2010
The State of Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust has recently completed a land purchase of regional significance in east-central Alabama. The week of January 4, Forever Wild concluded a yearlong negotiation for the purchase of a 3,866-acre addition to one of the state’s largest and oldest state-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). Coupled with Forever Wild’s first purchase in 1994 of the Wehle Tract, the 5,400 acres acquired in these transactions have produced a tremendous boon for the region’s economy, especially in Barbour County.
The most recent Forever Wild land purchase includes approximately 3,377 acres within the Barbour County portions of the Barbour WMA, and 489 acres within the Bullock County portion of the WMA. The National Wild Turkey Federation provided funding for the appraisal of this tract of land during the purchasing process. The general area has been part of the state’s WMA system for the last three decades, but this purchase marks the largest and most significant addition to the public hunting area since its inception. This is especially important because the Barbour WMA is one of the most heavily utilized public hunting areas in south-central Alabama, and is renowned for its progressive advances in quality deer management and the restoration of longleaf pine forests and bobwhite quail.
Also benefiting from the land purchase is the Wehle Land Conservation Center, located within the Forever Wild program’s first purchase. The Center has been the focus of many new conservation programs including seasonal exhibitions, recreational fishing, trail rides, and numerous youth-oriented events. Attendance at these events has been steadily growing, which will likely lead to expansion of the programs in the near future.
“The Forever Wild project has been crucial in our efforts to advance the long term protection of recreational lands in east-central Alabama,” said Barnett Lawley, who serves a dual role as the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner and the Board of Trustees Chairman of the Forever Wild Land Trust. “Despite having fewer opportunities for large projects within these areas, this project and the last two years’ purchases across the black belt region, which secured over 11,000 acres in four counties, have struck a home run for our citizens.”
In addition to completing the successful purchase of the recreational lease, Forever Wild has protected over 212,792 acres of land for long-term habitat protection and recreational use. According to State Lands Director Patti Powell, these projects demonstrate the commitment of our state government through Forever Wild at a time when many government programs are being challenged with unique economic circumstances. “Alabama is benefiting from some unique land opportunities at a time when other options are extremely limited thanks in part to our state legislators’ forethought in creating Forever Wild 17 years ago,” Powell said. “No other state program can deliver these large recreational opportunities for our citizens, providing for the enhancement of our quality of life in Alabama.”
Forever Wild also has a significant economic benefit to the state of Alabama, said Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director Corky Pugh. “Forever Wild has been monumental in securing affordable, accessible hunting opportunities for the rank and file citizens of Alabama, now and into the future,” said Pugh. “The value of these opportunities for healthy, family-based recreation is of growing significance, and hunting is an economic engine in Alabama that generates $1.4 Billion of annual economic impact throughout the state.”
The Forever Wild Land Trust has secured over 212,792 acres for habitat protection and public recreation since the program began in 1992. These lands and their interests were purchased through 74 individual transactions in 24 counties, and are managed under the principles of multiple-use. To learn more about the Forever Wild Program, visit www.alabamaforeverwild.com.
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 Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com .