By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
A storied history, rich culture and fertile soil are not the only features of the Alabama Black Belt to be celebrated. The Black Belt is also an important economic driver in our state’s outdoor recreation industry.
In fact, outdoor recreation in the Black Belt accounts for one-third of those economic benefits for the entire state.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey visited one of the Black Belt’s famous hunting lodges to highlight what the area means to the state. Governor Ivey joined Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship, Cade Warner of Westervelt Company and Don Wood, owner of Wilkes Creek Plantation in West Greene, Alabama.
Governor Ivey and Commissioner Blankenship also visited a wood products operation in Pickens County earlier that morning before the luncheon at Wilkes Creek Plantation. There, Governor Ivey spoke on the importance of the timber industry and inland waterways in the Black Belt, as well as the economic impact of hunting and fishing.
“Another huge economic driver in this area that we simply can’t do without is hunting and fishing,” Governor Ivey said. “Here in Alabama, hunting and fishing has a $3 billion, that’s with a B, economic impact and supports more than 25,000 jobs. In the Black Belt alone, it produces more than $1.4 billion in economic impact and pumps in a whopping $28 million to the state’s education budget. Y’all, that’s big.
“We talked about turkeys a while ago, and I’m not talking about the figurative turkeys you might find in Washington, D.C. I mean our feathered friends here in Alabama. Just last Sunday, we were talking about our spring season here in Alabama. Some hunters were successful, and some wily turkeys outsmarted others. But one thing is for sure, and that is hunters brought in a lot of revenue to communities like here in Greene County. Alabama is a great place to hunt and fish, no doubt about it. And Commissioner Blankenship and his team at Conservation and Natural Resources play a major part in that. As your governor, I will continue to support the great outdoors God has blessed us with. I look for more success in outdoor recreation. So may God continue to bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.”
Commissioner Blankenship said Governor Ivey has been a great supporter ADCNR, and she insisted on restarting the Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt, which had not been held since 2015. Commissioner Blankenship thanked host Wood for participating in the Governor’s Hunt, which brought corporate CEOs, corporate presidents, outdoor and entertainment celebrities, media representatives and sponsors to the state to hunt turkeys and enjoy Alabama’s great Southern hospitality.
“The Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt is a great event, not only to promote hunting and fishing in Alabama, which is a multi-billion-dollar industry in our state, but it’s also a great industry recruitment tool for Alabama,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “We are blessed with great places in our state like this in Greene County. We have the mountains in northeast Alabama. We’ve got the Gulf of Mexico. We just have an unbelievably beautiful state.
“Getting people to come to Alabama to give them some good ol’ Southern hospitality and allow them to spend a couple of days getting to hunt and visit with the people in our state, has been very successful at bringing some of these companies to Alabama or having them expand their operations here. I don’t have to tell anybody in Greene County about the economic impact of hunting to the Black Belt or our state. We passed hunting camps and properties on our way here. Those landowners opened up their homes, lodges and properties for the Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt here in Greene County. I thank you very much for your hospitality.”