Forever Wild Succeeds in Preserving Alabama’s Outdoor Treasures

The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is one of the creations of Alabama's Forever Wild Land Trust.
The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is one of the creations of Alabama's Forever Wild Land Trust. André Natta
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No matter where you live in the United States, you will be hard pressed to find hunters, anglers, equestrians, hikers, paddlers, and mountain bikers agreeing on anything. But in Alabama they do. They all agree, as do many national organizations and trail groups, that the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust program is arguably the most successful state run program ever in the history of Alabama.

Since its inception in 1992 Forever Wild has become an overwhelmingly successful protector of our environment while providing access to some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes anywhere in the southeast for recreational purposes.

Not an Overnight Success

A baby gator along the bayous of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
A baby gator along the bayous of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Joe Cuhaj

The story of Forever Wild actually begins in the 1970s when a group of environmental activists and a fledgling Alabama Conservancy began looking at ways for the state to acquire environmentally sensitive lands and protected them from development. It wasn’t until 1984 that a group of scientists and educators formed the Alabama Natural Diversity Inventory (ANDI) program and created a database of Alabama’s natural diversity. Several studies have been conducted over the years and the results were astounding. They placed the state fifth in eco-diversity among all 50 states.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s when biologist Dr. Doug Phillips, host of the Alabama Public Television series Discovering Alabama, along with several of his colleagues, took up the mantle set forth by ANDI and began looking at creating a true land acquisition program. The fruit of their labor was realized in 1992 when the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust Bill was brought before voters.

The bill would establish an agency to purchase and protect environmentally sensitive or historically significant land. It would be funded by pulling a small percentage of the interest the state earns each year from taxes collected through offshore natural gas and oil leases. The public was in favor of the bill, and it passed with an overwhelming 83 percent of the vote. Forever Wild was born.  

A True Success Story

The greens of spring reflect in this tiered stream at the Shoal Creek Preserve.
The greens of spring reflect in this tiered stream at the Shoal Creek Preserve. Joe Cuhaj

The management of Forever Wild has been phenomenal. The directors have been able to successfully leverage the funds they receive from oil leases to receive substantial federal grants that in turn helps increase their land acquisition.

The true success of Forever Wild, however, is not only because they know how to manage the checkbook. It comes from what they do with the acquisition after it’s purchased. The program does not simply buy land and tuck it away. As much as possible Forever Wild opens these beautiful landscapes, historic sites, watersheds, and truly amazing eco-systems to the public for outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The bottom line is that Forever Wild has done the impossible—it brought all of these groups together in harmony and protected some of Alabama’s most precious lands.

A bridge crosses Coon Creek at the Forever Wild Coon Creek Preserve.
A bridge crosses Coon Creek at the Forever Wild Coon Creek Preserve. Joe Cuhaj

Since its inception Forever Wild has acquired 111 land and water tracts totaling more than 214,000 acres. Some of the most notable areas include the second largest river delta in the country, the wild Mobile-Tensaw Delta , the beautiful Turkey Creek Nature Preserve , and the most popular hiking and horseback riding destination in the state, the Walls of Jericho , an amazing bowl canyon with a tiered waterfall that disappears into the rock walls and gushes out at the bottom.

Even though the program has been successful, Alabama still lags far behind the amount of acreage that has been saved in other states. But Forever Wild continues to press on to protect more of “Alabama the Beautiful.”

Find out about all of the recreational activities Forever Wild lands provide by using their online interactive map.

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