Vote yes for Forever Wild on Nov. 6

Published 9:24pm Tuesday, October 16, 2012

By Riley Boykin Smith 

Regardless of football or politics, Alabamians are proud supporters of this great state. Alabama is unique in many ways, but perhaps none more so than our outdoor heritage.

We are fortunate to have a variety of geographical terrain and recreational opportunities: the Appalachian foothills in the northeast, the plains and wiregrass in the central, and the nation’s second largest river delta.

Forever Wild has provided tremendous public lands for all Alabamians to access across the state, while also promoting our outdoor heritage, and that is why I support renewing the program to ensure Alabama continues this legacy.

Established in 1992 by a Constitutional Amendment that garnered 83 percent of the vote, the Forever Wild Land Trust works to provide access to lands and waters for recreation while protecting Alabama’s most beautiful and ecologically sensitive areas – all without our tax dollars. More than 227,000 acres of land have been protected and serve as recreation areas, nature preserves, state parks, and Wildlife Management Areas.

Funded by interest from offshore gas royalties – not taxes – the program uses a portion of one depleting natural resource and reinvests it in lands as a public natural resourc.

Forever Wild is an apolitical and noncontroversial program that Alabamians have ever approved. As evidenced by the broad and bipartisan coalition of almost 200 supporters representing businesses, outdoor enthusiasts and conservation organizations, chamber of commerce’s, and many others, Forever Wild is supported by many throughout Alabama.

During my time as the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and chair of the Forever Wild Land Trust board from 1999 to 2003, we secured over 50,000 contiguous acres in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The acquisition was so significant that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, attended the dedication and notably remarked how fortunate Alabama was to have the program. Barnett Lawley succeeded me as commissioner and we are both extremely passionate about the Forever Wild program.

Forever Wild continues to provide public recreational opportunities ranging from hunting, fishing, birding, camping, biking, canoeing, horseback riding, nature study, and much more. Over time, the outdoor recreation industry in Alabama has ballooned to an annual economic impact of $2.2 billion, which Forever Wild significantly helps support by expanding these opportunities.

The specifics are staggering: The 2012 Master National Retriever Field Trail is being held in Hale County later this month. The event is considered the premiere annual retriever hunt test in North America and is expected to bring an $8 million economic impact over 10 days. The Coldwater Mountain bike trail is expected to generate between a $1.5 and $3.5 million annual economic impact for the Anniston-area. Other tracts like the “Walls of Jericho” in Jackson County and the various tracts on the coast attract thousands of visitors.

Forever Wild increases public access for recreational opportunities across Alabama, drives outdoor recreation tourism, and protects environmentally sensitive areas all with no tax dollars. Orange or crimson, republican or democrat, outdoorsman or environmentalist, Forever Wild is an incredible program for all Alabamians. It’s an easy choice: we need to we need to vote yes on Amendment 1 on Nov. 6 to continue Forever Wild and Alabama’s proud outdoor heritage.

 

Riley Boykin Smith is a former board member of Forever Wild and a former commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

 

 

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