Outdoors program will be an asset

Published 12:50 am Sunday, August 16, 2009

The launch of Alabama Black Belt Adventures on Wednesday was more important than anybody realizes, one prominent sportsman said at the news conference.

Ray Scott, best known as the founder of Bassmasters, told the 100-plus dignitaries and sportsmen at the event the idea for Black Belt economic development “was so obviously evident.”

The marketing program touts the area’s greatest asset: the rich soil and the outdoors resources it creates. The name, Black Belt, refers to the fertile soil that stretches from Montgomery to Thomasville.

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What the area naturally produces is some of the nation’s best hunting and fishing opportunities. As Buckmasters founder Jackie Bushman said, “Where else can you hunt something for seven months out of the year?”

Traditional economic development methods have not worked in the Black Belt because of the infrastructure and the lack of work force, Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Barnett Lawley said at the news conference.

“What we did realize: there was no shortage of natural resources and outdoor opportunities within the Black Belt,” he said.

The Black Belt has been defined by its history, its culture and its people. Tourism has been an important part of its economy.

Whether the Alabama Black Belt Adventures provides support to the current tourism industry, or takes the lead in bringing sportsmen from across the country to southern Alabama is not important.

The real value in the outdoors-related initiative is communicating this important asset of the Black Belt region to a large number of sportsmen.

We applaud the work of the state and local officials who have joined to develop the Alabama Black Belt Adventures. And we believe the area jobs that will be created and sustained through the program will be an asset to the region.