October 17, 2019

Land Conservation Remains Priority as Little River Canyon National Preserve Marks 27th Anniversary

DEKALB AND CHEROKEE COUNTIES, Ala. — Today, The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announce tremendous land protection successes within the Little River Canyon National Preserve to mark the 27th anniversary of the Preserve’s creation. The two non-profit organizations have helped the National Park Service (NPS) work towards a goal—established in 2009 by the U.S. Congress—to protect the integrity of the Little River and east rim of the surrounding canyon. The 15,288-acre Preserve is a national treasure in northeast Alabama, protecting the second deepest gorge east of the Mississippi, and attracting nearly 442,000 visitors a year.

In 2009, Alabama’s U.S. Congressional delegation championed an expansion of the Preserve’s boundary—by 1,656 acres—to protect the east rim of the Canyon, which is seen from several major public overlooks on the 11-mile scenic drive that runs along the west rim. Federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been critical in acquiring these privately owned lands, called inholdings, so that they can be protected from incompatible development that would negatively impact the land’s environmental value and diminish the one-of-a kind vistas of the Preserve. To date, The Conservation Fund and TNC have acquired approximately 810 acres from numerous willing landowners along the Canyon’s east rim, successfully transferring about 750 acres to NPS using LWCF to take ownership of the properties and add them to the Preserve.

“As we mark the Little River Canyon National Preserve’s 27th anniversary, we celebrate our partnership with the National Park Service to protect this special place. But we recognize that there is still work to be done to protect its unique and diverse ecosystems for both wildlife and visitors,” said Andrew Schock, Alabama and Georgia state director at The Conservation Fund. “By conserving additional land within the Preserve’s boundaries, we are also supporting greater opportunities for tourism and local economic growth in the surrounding communities. We are grateful to the NPS, TNC and the Alabama U.S. Congressional delegation, who have worked alongside us and supported these efforts from the beginning.”

“Successful conservation in Alabama is always the result of many partners coming together with a common goal. The Nature Conservancy is privileged to work with The Conservation Fund, The National Park Service and elected officials to help protect Alabama’s incredible lands and waters for the benefit of people and nature. We are honored to have played a part in conserving one of Alabama’s most iconic places,” said Roger Mangham, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “The successful conservation of Little River Canyon was the result of tremendous public and private partnership and is providing generations of Alabamians a treasured place to enjoy.”

The LWCF—which uses offshore drilling revenue rather than taxpayers’ dollars—is a critical funding source for conservation of the Little River Canyon National Preserve. Alabama’s U.S. Congressional delegation have been strong champions of appropriating LWCF funding to protect the Preserve and fulfill a promise made to the American public.

“I am proud that funding has been secured to acquire additional land for the Little River Canyon National Preserve,” said U.S. Senator Richard Shelby. “As we celebrate the 27th anniversary of the Preserve, we recognize and appreciate how important it is to protect this historic national treasure in northeast Alabama. I look forward to the economic growth and heightened tourism that will stem from preserving Little River Canyon.”

“The Little River Canyon National Preserve is a natural treasure of immense historical, ecological, and economic importance to the state of Alabama,” said U.S. Senator Doug Jones. “As an outdoorsman and fisherman, I have seen firsthand the value of expanding recreational access, so that visitors of all ages can reap the benefits of Alabama’s ecological diversity and abundant natural resources. The land protection successes achieved so far within the Preserve will help ensure that Alabamians, and visitors from outside the state, can continue to enjoy all that this area has to offer.”

“This is great news for the future of the Canyon and for the thousands of people who visit each year. Little River Canyon is not only in my opinion, one of the most beautiful areas of Alabama, but in the entire United States. It is without question, a very special place and I’m glad to see more of it will be protected for future generations,” said U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt.

The Little River Canyon National Preserve is a key economic driver for DeKalb and Cherokee counties, where visitors from across the country come to take in the Canyon’s beauty and enjoy recreational opportunities like hiking, photography, and exploring the Preserve’s unmatched scenery of vistas, sandstone cliffs and waterfalls. Little River flows for about 30 miles through sandstone canyons, diverse forests, caves, boulder fields, and high-energy streams and rivers. These ecosystems support wildlife species like the blue shiner and Pigeon Mountain salamander, as well as imperiled plant species like the green pitcher plant.

“We are extremely pleased with this progress and receiving new land to preserve for the American people, and are eternally grateful to The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy for their generous contributions and efforts to complete Little River Canyon National Preserve for the public’s enjoyment and future generations,” said Steve Black, Superintendent Little River Canyon National Preserve & Russell Cave National Monument.

“The true success of Little River Canyon is it’s being a model for both conservation and ecotourism,” said Pete Conroy, Director at Jacksonville State University. “Since the mid 80’s JSU has been proud to serve as a partner to the organizations and people involved in helping the National Park Service to achieve its important goals. Teamwork has leveraged broad success.”

For more information on Little River Canyon National Preserve, please check the park website at www.nps.gov/liri or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lirinps for the latest information.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than eight million acres of land, including over 20,000 acres in the state of Alabama.

About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have helped protect 130 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at http://www.nature.org/.

Val Keefer |  The Conservation Fund |  703-908-5802 |  vkeefer@conservationfund.org
Andrew Blejwas | The Nature Conservancy | 251-432-6761 | ablejwas@tnc.org
Matt Switzer | National Park Service | 256-845-9605 | matthew_switzer@nps.gov