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North Alabama Birding Trail Public Meetings Scheduled

October 29, 2003

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Nongame Wildlife Program officially announced that they will be developing the North Alabama Birding Trail over the next year. The project began September 10 and completion is expected by spring 2005.

A series of public meetings is scheduled throughout north Alabama for the week of November 10 to provide information about the project to members of the region’s communities. Dates, times, and meeting locations are:

Monday, Nov. 10, 4 p.m., Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Bldg., 407 East Willow Street, Scottsboro, AL 35768. Local contact: J.P. Parsons, Jackson Co. Chamber of Commerce, 256-259-5500.

Wednesday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m., Colbert County Complex, 1101 E. U.S. Highway 72, Tuscumbia, AL 35674. Local contact: Susann Hamlin, Colbert County Tourism & Convention Bureau, 256-383-0783.

Thursday, Nov. 13, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. (two meetings) Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Road (Hwy. 67). Local contact: Pam Swanner, Decatur/Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 256-350-2028.

Friday, Nov. 14, 10 a.m., Moulton Recreation Center, 13550 Court Street, Moulton, AL 35650. Local contact: Vicki Morese, Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, 256-974-1658.

Friday, Nov. 14, 2 p.m., Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau Office, 200 Gunter Avenue, Guntersville, AL 35957. Local contact: Lisa Socha, Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 256-582-7015.

Funding for the $280,000 project is from a federal grant to the state to provide recreation and education about Alabama’s nongame wildlife species. Matching funds for the grant are from a number of municipalities and counties, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the North Alabama Tourism Association, and several area businesses. The chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus in north Alabama led the effort to obtain these matching funds.

Through a competitive bid process, the Division selected FERMATA, Inc., an Austin, Texas-based company, to lead trail development efforts. FERMATA is North America’s leading nature tourism consulting group, specializing in providing cost-effective strategies for generating revenue in local communities through sustainable nature tourism projects.

The Trail will include approximately 50 diverse birding sites traversing the Tennessee Valley in north Alabama. A list of proposed sites was compiled from recommendations from wildlife biologists, bird enthusiasts, and conservation organizations. Each nominated site will be visited and evaluated based upon a set of criteria developed by the Division, which includes not only birdwatching characteristics, but also ecological significance. Also site resiliency to withstand public use without environmental damage and opportunities for maintenance support from site owners will be two other factors considered by the Division in the selection process.

A wayfinding sign at the site location and directional signage along highways and roads will identify each site selected. A trail map and guide, as well as an informational brochure, will be published. These materials will provide site locations, bird photos, and specific site characteristics related to birdwatching and significant habitat types. Kiosks will be constructed in six to eight key sites to provide detailed information about the Trail and the nature of north Alabama. Many of the other sites will also have smaller interpretive panels, called wayside exhibits that will help enrich visitors’ travels.

The presence of a birding trail in North Alabama is expected to provide visitors and residents alike with a quality outdoor birding experience, from both a recreational and educational standpoint. Similar trails in other parts of the country have helped areas to take important strides in bird conservation. Birding trails are also shown to have made significant economic contributions to local communities; and this Trail is expected to provide an important boost to the Tennessee Valley area economy.

The Department of Conservation’s Web site, www.dcnr.state.al.us, contains a link to the project Web site that will carry updates on the trail’s progress. For more information, contact Mark Sasser, Nongame Wildlife Coordinator, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 64 North Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130, phone (334)-242-3469 or email msasser@dcnr.state.al.us.

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