Making a better Black Belt

Published 12:25 am Thursday, October 8, 2009

“Alabama’s best idea” has made an important step at the Old Cahawba State Park.

On Tuesday, the Alabama Forever Wild Program announced the purchases of three tracts of land in Dallas, Lowndes and Hale counties for the conservation and preservation of their natural resources.

Alabama Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley, who serves as Forever Wild’s chairman of the board, said the group follows a belief in preserving what’s here so it can be around later.

“We didn’t inherit the earth from our forefathers,” Lawley said. “We borrow it from our children.”

Legislation passed in 1991 set up the Forever Wild Program so the state could buy land for outdoor recreation. Funds — which will last until 2013 — comes from interest on royalties from offshore natural gas leases.

So far, Forever Wild has bought 70 tracts of land around Alabama amounting to 144,234 acres. Tuesday’s announcement included 3,007 acres that touch Old Cahawba State Park, 1,343 acres at the Lowndes County Management Area and 4,328 acres at the Old Cattle Ranch in Hale County.

The purchase of the land, as with all Forever Wild projects, serves two main purposes.

First, the land is a multi-use area, available for recreation opportunities. And while we hunters and fishermen don’t always want to admit it, wildlife watching is the No. 1 outdoor recreation in the nation.

The biological diversity in the land at Old Cahawba is one reason Alabama is one of the top five states in the nation with that quality.

Second, the intrinsic value of the land is preserved. Wildlife essentially is fragile. Conserving and preserving it assures our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the natural components of the land.

The addition of the land to cater to outdoorsmen follows directly with the purpose of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures, which hopes to use the area’s abundant natural resources to spur economic growth.

Black Belt Adventures is a marketing initiative that targets outdoors enthusiasts who want to experience the region’s rich resources.

State Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, was instrumental in the formation of the Black Belt Adventures.

“We want to take the Black Belt’s abundant resources and use them to create jobs and opportunities for all our people,” Knight said. “We want to take the God-given and natural resources of the Black Belt and use them to promote them to help all people of the Black Belt.”

The two groups can bring a brighter future to the Black Belt.

Buster Wolfe is the sports editor for the Times-Journal. He can be reached at buster.wolfe@selmatimesjournal.com or 410-1736.