820 Acres Of Southeastern Alabama Wetlands To Be Protected And Restored
January 5, 2011
Weeks Bay NERR. Photo by The Conservation Fund
Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to Incorporate Critical Maritime Forest Thanks to Partnership Between Conservation Groups and Public Agencies
Baldwin County, Ala. — The Conservation Fund and the Weeks Bay Foundation, together with the Baldwin County Commission, Alabama’s Forever Wild Program through the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have preserved 820 acres of coastal wetland habitat adjacent to Weeks Bay. The property, located within the acquisition boundary of the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), will be the largest addition to the Reserve since its designation in 1986.
Managed by ADCNR through the State Lands Division’s Coastal Section and in partnership with NOAA, the Weeks Bay NERR endeavors to restore degraded wetland systems to improve wildlife habitats and water quality within the estuary as well as provide public access for educational and recreational opportunities. This latest addition to the NERR is comprised of both wetlands and forests that serve as winter havens for various migratory birds, including the Prothonotary Warbler and other declining neotropical species. It will be acquired in two parts from The Conservation Fund – 135 acres purchased by the Baldwin County Commission and 685 acres to be acquired by Forever Wild.
“This accomplishment will not only provide long-term restoration opportunities to benefit these important coastal wetland habitats, but it will enable public recreation for the citizens of Baldwin County and the State of Alabama,” said Walter Ernest, IV, Executive Director of the Weeks Bay Foundation. “The public use provided will also support the local economy through activities such as birding, which accounts for over $600 million in spending within the state.”
“The protection of this acreage will provide numerous public benefits including educational opportunities for future generations, along with securing permanent habitat for a variety of wildlife species,” said Ray Herndon, Regional Director for The Conservation Fund. “Protecting this property has been a priority for the Weeks Bay NERR for many years, and we are proud to assist in making this a reality.”
Funding for this acquisition was provided through multiple agency partners. The Baldwin County Commission provided funds from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), administered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. In addition, NOAA provided a federal grant through the NERR Land Acquisition program, which was matched with funding from Forever Wild.
“We are very fortunate to have had Coastal Impact Assistance Program funds available to us for this project and are very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with all of these groups to accomplish this once in a lifetime chance to ensure the preservation of this property for the future of Baldwin County,” said Baldwin County Commission Chairman, Frank Burt, Jr.
Reserve Manger, L.G. Adams said, “The acquisition of 820 acres of coastal wetlands in south Baldwin County celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Reserve,” referring to the designation in February 1986 of the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. “Over the last 25 years great things have happened, but this acquisition is the largest in the history of the Reserve.”
About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.
About the Weeks Bay Foundation
The Weeks Bay Foundation was incorporated in 1990 as a non-profit organization to support the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in its efforts to protect the pristine coastal area of Baldwin County, Alabama. The Foundation, with over 650 members, supports the Reserve through donations of land and educational exhibits, public awareness and education programs, water quality monitoring efforts, and volunteer programs.
About Alabama’s Forever Wild Program
The Forever Wild Program, administered by the Alabama State Lands Division, 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 and additions to Wildlife Management Areas and state parks. Eighty-one tracts totaling 221,817 acres located throughout the state have been acquired. For more information about the Forever Wild Program, including maps, directions, and descriptions of Forever Wild tracts, visit www.alabamaforeverwild.com.
About the Baldwin County Commission
The Baldwin County Commission is made up of four elected members whose mission is to provide leadership, resources and citizen services to people who live, visit and work in Baldwin County, Alabama, so they can enjoy a safe and prosperous life, experience southern hospitality and share Baldwin County’s unique heritage and natural resources. To learn more about the Baldwin County Commission visit www.baldwincountyal.gov.
Located about 40 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, Weeks Bay NERR encompasses more than 6,500 acres—of which nearly 5,000 are water. It is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, a system that protects more than 1.3 million acres across… Read More