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Alabama's Forever Wild Program
This is a reprint of an email I received on 11-25-09.
Below this is an article from The Anniston Star on 1-6-10
Followed by an article from The Huntsville Times on 1-7-10
Followed by a message from wildsouth.org on 1-15-10
Alabama Forever Wild parcel map
email from Hans Paul.
The Forever Wild Program was established in 1992, by constitutional
amendment, to provide for the purchase of public recreational lands. Since
its inception, the program has purchased lands for general recreation,
nature preserves, additions to Wildlife Management Areas and state parks.
Forever Wild expires in 2012. The state legislature needs to
protect and reauthorize this amendment without any changes. Grassroots
communication is vital to insuring that our representatives act to
protect and reauthorize Forever Wild.
Please make the protection and renewal of Forever Wild part of your daily conversations.
Right now only 25% of the people in Alabama know what Forever Wild is. Only you can help
increase the percentage of people who know what Forever Wild is.
Important points to remember:
• Forever Wild has been the most successful and popular legislation passed by the
Alabama legislature in more than 25 years.
• No scandal or hint of impropriety has been associated with this program.
• We owe it to our children and grandchildren to save Alabama’s natural areas,
water, and wildlife, so that future generations can enjoy them the same way we do.
• In the last 17 years, Forever Wild has protected almost 205,000 acres of
pristine and important land in terms of protecting our ecological diversity, wildlife
habitats, coastal areas, forests, and wetlands across the state, in addition to ensuring
that we have clean drinking water, all without a single dollar of taxpayer money.
• Forever Wild provides additional opportunities to attract tourists and visitors
to our state – from the beauty of our beaches to the many natural areas stretched out
across Alabama . Preserving these areas will help to continue to boost Alabama’s
• While much work has been done in terms of providing resources to preserve these
lands, Alabama ranks the lowest among its southeastern neighbors in terms of protected
• The program is funded by the Alabama Trust Fund, which in turn gets its money
from the state’s oil and gas leases. Forever Wild receives 10 percent of the interest
earned by the trust fund.
• Various factions are eyeing the Alabama Trust Fund and Forever Wild’s funding.
The $3 billion trust fund has already been used to fill holes in the state’s education
budget, and some are looking to the fund to finance road building.
the anniston star.
Op-Ed Section January 6, 2010
Hands Off Forever Wild
This idea has many flaws
By definition, Forever Wild is one of Alabama's most successful programs.
It takes 10 percent of the interest earned from royalties on natural gas wells in state
waters and uses it to buy wilderness areas that are preserved for public use. Not only is
Forever wild a flourishing and popular program, it is also squeaky clean - 209,000 acres
bought so far, a lot of money changing hands, and not a hint of scandal.
Recently the Alabama Farmers Federation proposed an interesting idea that's receiving
ALFA spokesman Jeff Helms suggested that since Forever Wild "may have grown to the
point where it has served its mission," a good way to preserve "green spaces for future
generations" would be to pay farmers to keep farming rather than to sell their land for
So, has Forever Wild served its mission as Helms suggests?
When comparing Alabama's efforts to what other states have done, the state is far
behind. Consider Alabama's neighbors. Mississippi has permanently protected nearly 6
percent of its land. Tennessee, 7.25 percent. Georgia, 6.9 percent. Florida, more than 21
And Alabama? Only more than 4 percent.
We have a long way to go before Forever Wild's mission will be served.
But such numbers don't tell the complete story.
When Forever Wild buys land, it opens the property to the public. If this money is used to
pay farmers not to develop their land, will they open their property to the public as well?
Will the public be allowed to fish in farm lakes? Or shoot dove over cornfields when the
harvest comes in? Or hike and bike along farm roads?
And there is the money lost - not just the money that will come from Forever Wild and go
to farmers, but the matching funds Forever Wild gets from the Nature Conservancy and
the US Fish and Wildlife Service to help buy property. Alabama has received
approximately $40 million in matching funds since 2001. Under the ALFA plan, there
potentially would be no more of that.
The idea of keeping farmers on the job has merit, but farmers already get a significant
tax advantage under the states current-use tax system to encourage them to do just
that. This would be one more break for a segment of the economy that already enjoys
privileges others do not get.
Granted, this is an interesting idea - though there are fundamental flaws in the plan.
Although ALFA is one of the most powerful lobbies in Montgomery, let's hope that
politicians interested in the success of Forever Wild's mission tell ALFA that if it is
looking for a way to help farmers, this is not it.
Hands off Forever Wild.
the huntsville times.
Going wild after Forever Wild
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Forever Wild. Just the name conjures up images of timeless natural settings: a delta
brimming with birds and aquatic plants, a mountainside laden with towering hardwoods and
clear rushing springs.
Alabama's Forever Wild land preservation program has been wildly successful in acquiring
environmentally sensitive property and setting it aside as permanent public green space.
Since voters overwhelmingly approved the program in 1992, Forever Wild has acquired
more than 200,000 acres of wild lands including the Walls of Jericho in Jackson County,
mountaintop trails around Huntsville, eagle roosting areas around Guntersville and 35,000
acres of wetlands in the Mobile delta.
The properties are bought using a portion of interest earnings off the $3 billion Alabama
Trust Fund fed by oil and gas leases.
Unlike the deed restrictions that forever bar development on acquired lands, Forever
Wild, itself, was not set up to continue forever. The Alabama Legislature must renew the
program or the interest revenue will revert to the Alabama Trust Fund for other
The official expiration of Forever Wild isn't until Oct. 1, 2012, but already outside
interests are setting their sights on the trust in ways that could decrease its buying
power even if Forever Wild wins another 20-year continuance.
Some lawmakers want to tap the Alabama Trust Fund for a $1 billion road building
program. Contract holders with the cash-strapped prepaid college tuition plan also want to
siphon money from the trust. Recent news reports revealed that the Alabama Farmers
Federation is eyeing the trust for farm, soil and water conservation efforts.
Any drawdown on the principal would reduce interest earnings, of which 10 percent is now
dedicated to Forever Wild.
Alfa spokesman Jeff Helms said Alfa strongly supports Forever Wild and is not out to
"dismantle" the program. He said members of his organization have held discussions lately
that farm preservation efforts - especially in urban areas including Madison County where
farms are increasingly threatened by subdivisions - could accomplish similar goals of
protecting land from development. Details on Alfa's plans remain sketchy because no
legislation has been drafted.
Helms said the idea is to include private lands in Forever Wild acquisitions along with
A difference, however, is that farmers would retain title to their property and public
access would likely be prohibited. "If you were to survey people who move out into the
country and ask them would they rather have a farm next to them or a subdivision,
chances are most would prefer the farm," Helms said.
Helms said there's a public benefit to preserving green space beyond aesthetic and
recreation values. Preserving a working farm, for instance, keeps the land productive,
which also carries an economic benefit, he said.
That may be well and good, but the idea of public money going to farmers who would keep
control of their land won't likely fly with taxpayers, especially if public access is denied.
Alfa roadbuilding lobbyists and other groups will discover just how popular Forever Wild
is if they start trying to get a piece of the trust. The Alabama Trust Fund should be
absolutely the last resort if raiding it would jeopardize this vital public land program.
By John Peck, for the editorial board. E-mail: email@example.com
URGENT: Please Contact Sen. Bedford and Rep. Lindsey's
Offices Immediately to reauthorize "Forever Wild"
Senator Roger Bedford: (334) 242-7862
Representative Richard Lindsey: (334) 242-7713
Click or Copy/Paste this link in your browser to take action:
The position of the Protect Forever Wild Coalition:
Forever Wild should be reauthorized in its current form because of the success it has
accomplished in preserving public lands in Alabama for future generations and the
overwhelming public support it has continued to receive since it was approved by 83% of
Alabamians in 1992.
Two letters - one signed by Rep. Richard Lindsey to all house members and the same
letter signed by Sen. Roger Bedford to all senate members - ask for the consideration of
a "Conserve Alabama" amendment, while also asking that no member commit to the
reauthorization of Forever Wild.
The letters regarding the "Conserve Alabama" Amendment do not provide any funding
details. We have been informed previously that the entities referenced in these letters
have recommended diversion of Forever Wild Funds for other uses - as much as $10
Million to be split evenly between the programs of interest to ALFA and the Soil and
Water Conservation Districts with Forever Wild allocated $5 Million.
It is our hope that this is not case, and that the entities involved will join us in
"Protecting and Reauthorizing Forever Wild Funding" - but at this time we do not have the
necessary information to draw that conclusion.
A reduction in Forever Wild funding in any way would ultimately gut one of the most
successful programs ever passed by the legislature.
It is urgent that both Sen. Bedford and Rep. Lindsey receive a significant number of calls
immediately from our coalition urging them to not introduce any legislation that would
reduce funding to Forever Wild.
Also, please forward this message to as many others and encourage them to make calls
this morning as well. If they have an interest in expanding Alabama's conservation efforts
for additional worthy projects, gutting Forever Wild isn't the answer.
Please place calls immediately to both offices. If you don't get to speak with the
member, leave the message that you're calling to support the reauthorization of Forever
Wild in its current form.