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This vitally important tract of land is adjacent to the Skyline Wildlife Management Area, a 50,000 + acre protected area which provides intact Appalachian hardwood forest surrounding the Paint Rock River watershed. It is also a part of the Southern Cumberlands landscape, which extends from Huntsville to Chattanooga and has been identified as a top priority for conservation efforts in both Alabama and Tennessee.
The Southern Cumberlands are situated within the Southern Appalachians, an area identified by scientists as one of two “biological hotspots” east of the Mississippi. This area contains large areas of forest and extensive underground cave systems supporting rich animal and plant diversity. Both are threatened with high rates of habitat loss due to development, fragmentation, conversion and, increasingly, change in climate. Protection of this site will allow the forest to regenerate naturally into a healthy native forest. Maturing of the native forest protects watersheds of the Paint Rock River and tributaries, which are a freshwater conservation priority.
This purchase of land from an out of state landowner has been transferred to the state of Alabama through the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust. Forever Wild acquired approximately 6,400 acres and ADCNR -Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries acquired approximately 4,970 acres. The Nature Conservancy is providing a $1,000,000 donation to Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries to match a federal grant from the Pittman-Robertson Funds for this property. The $1M comes from two grants awarded to the Conservancy by the Open Space Institute and Fred and Alice Stanback of North Carolina.
The Conservancy’s ability to acquire this land can be credited to these dedicated public and private partners. “We are thrilled to add to the permanent protection of such a vital landscape as the Southern Cumberlands,” stated Chris Oberholster, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “This would not have been possible without the Open Space Institute and the Stanbacks who have also supported projects in Alabama along the Pinhoti Trail, in the Talladega Mountains, at Little River Canyon, and elsewhere.
The Open Space Institute (OSI) in New York has been active over the past decade helping to conserve land in the Southeast. After conducting the study Protecting Southern Appalachian Wildlife in an Era of Climate Change, OSI identified lands in a 3 million-acre region in northeast Alabama, northwest Georgia, and southeast Tennessee that are now being targeted for conservation. From there the organization recently launched the Southern Cumberland Land Protection Fund, which awarded the Conservancy a $500,000 grant in order to match the $500,000 grant from the Stanbacks.
“This 11,364-acre parcel has been identified in an analysis by the Open Space Institute as among the most important in the entire Southern Appalachians for its wildlife habitat and breeding areas,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “The conservation of these large, contiguous swaths of forest also protects a spectacular network of underground caves and helps maintain water quality for residents of the region. The property is also adjacent to more than 50,000 already-protected acres in Alabama and Tennessee.”
Alan Cressler, National Speleological Society member and long-time explorer of Alabama caves, says the acquisition of the Jacobs Mountain property will assure the protection of over 50 caves. “Several of these caves are highly significant in length and depth. One cave has been mapped to over six miles long and is one of the most pristine underground wilderness areas in Alabama. The acquisition helps protect this very important underground drainage system that becomes a major tributary of the endangered Paint Rock River.”
The ability to leverage a piece of property worth over $9M with $1M is what makes the Conservancy successful and a responsible steward of the resources it receives.
Photo Credit: Kelly Matthews
Source: The Nature Conservancy of Alabama