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What "Forever Wild" Has Done for Alabama Hunters

 

 

Wildlife and the Outdoors

 

What “Forever Wild” Has Done For Alabama Hunters

 

Kenneth G. Johnson, Supervising Wildlife Biologist

 

            Where to hunt has become a common issue facing today’s hunters. Three decades ago, it was taken for granted that open/permit land would always be available. Times have changed. As landowners have recognized the potential economic gain available through leasing their land, the open/permit land, as we knew it, has ceased to exist. Until recently, state-owned lands available for public hunting have been very limited. Many acres included in the management area system have historically been leased by the state, but economics have made the future availability of these lands questionable. This realization, and a desire to do something before more lands were lost, led to a program appropriately called “Forever Wild.”

            Legislation was introduced and passed during the 1991 legislative session that made it possible for the state of Alabama to purchase land from willing sellers to be used for outdoor recreation. The program was called Forever Wild because that is the condition in which the purchased lands were intended to remain. Funding for this program would come from a percentage of the interest earned on royalties from offshore natural gas leases belonging to Alabama. This funding would last for 20 years beginning in 1992 until 2013.

            The “Forever Wild” legislation was long overdue. Since enactment, significant tracts of land have been purchased and are now being used for hunting, camping, hiking, birding, protecting unique areas, and as living classrooms for teachers and students. To date, 85,179 acres have been purchased through numerous acquisitions. These lands are managed under the multiple-use concept providing recreational opportunities for the public while preserving the natural components and wild conditions of the property.

            Several tracts of land purchased through “Forever Wild” have been added to wildlife management areas (WMAs). WMAs are operated by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division to provide public hunting opportunities. The 624 acre Riggins Tract located in Lowndes County was added to the Lowndes County WMA. In Mobile and Baldwin Counties, 40,915 acres were purchased and included within the Upper Delta and W.L. Holland WMAs. In Colbert and Lauderdale counties, 21 tracts totaling 31,414 acres have been purchased and included within the Lauderdale and Freedom Hills WMAs. These purchases have provided 72, 953 acres of additional land being managed for public hunting opportunities.

            In addition to the WMAs, six nature preserves and recreation areas provide an additional 7,249 acres of hunting opportunities. These lands are managed by the State Lands Division. Hunting is allowed on an open permit basis. Hunters must have valid hunting licenses and follow all regulations and season and bag limits for the county in which the land is located.

            The “Forever Wild” program has clearly been positive for Alabama. It has increased hunting opportunities while at the same time helping preserve our state’s natural heritage. Continued support for “Forever Wild” will leave a legacy of which we can be proud to share with future generations.

            For more information, contact Kenneth G. Johnson, Supervising Wildlife Biologist at 1100 South 3-Notch Street, Andalusia, AL, 36420.


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