Forever Wild protects the places we value most

Tannehill State Park has been expanded to include more hiking and camping opportunities thanks to the Forever Wild preservation program. (Photo by Jillian Theibert)

When asked what are some of the most important amenities to have in our communities, a majority of Americans list things such as quality schools, access to jobs, safe neighborhoods and protecting the environment. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2011 Community Preference Survey, the general public believes these are roles that local and state governments should play in order to make cities and towns more inviting and marketable.

While these types of surveys have some benefits, such as prompting people to reflect on their values and reminding them what they enjoy most about their community, citizens are often confused about how they can promote these ideals. Issues like improving schools, attracting and retaining businesses, and reducing crime rates take a lot of effort and, often more frustratingly for the general public, they take a lot of time.

Therefore, the idea of creating more recreational space and designating more public land in the state of Alabama for things like hiking, camping, canoeing, fishing and hunting seems like a lofty aspiration or distant goal. Luckily, it’s already happening, and has been for nearly 20 years. Even better news is that Alabama residents will have a chance in November to ensure it continues.

Since it’s creation 20 years ago, the Forever Wild Land Trust has ensured more than 227,000 acres of land in Alabama remain open to public use. In addition to purchasing lands that expand existing parks and wildlife areas, Forever Wild has also helped create 220 miles of new recreational trails within 21 new recreation areas and nature preserves. These investments preserve the important places in our state and make our communities healthier and more inviting.

The question is, will that investment continue? Will we continue to align our vision for a better Alabama with the funding necessary to achieve it? Despite all of the progress made by Forever Wild since Alabama voters overwhelmingly approved it in 1992, less than 4 percent of Alabama is public conservation land. That is less than one-third of the 12 percent average among other Southeastern states.

Conservation Alabama is working with partners, such as The Nature Conservancy, the Alabama Audubon Council, and Alabamians for Forever Wild, to conduct outreach throughout the state to educate voters on the benefits of Forever Wild.

Kathy Stiles Freeland with Conservation Alabama is scheduling speaking engagements about the Forever Wild program now. If you would like Kathy or a member of our speakers bureau to speak to your organization this fall, please e-mail Kathy here. We are trying to touch as many groups as possible to make sure voters know that Alabama’s Forever Wild program will expire unless we vote YES on Amendment One November 6.

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