April 7, 2020

Important Wetland Habitat Protected Along Alabama Gulf Coast

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. — Today, The Conservation Fund, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), and other partners announced the protection of roughly 2,270 acres in the Perdido River watershed. This conservation milestone advances the State’s goal to protect valuable coastal wetlands in perpetuity, conserving optimal habitat for unique native species along the Gulf Coast and expanding recreational opportunities at the Perdido Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

“This priority land acquisition is key to the protection and recovery of the species that were impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill nearly 10 years ago,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “I appreciate the work of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Conservation Fund and our partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as we work to preserve and protect the beauty and wildlife diversity of our state.”

Known as the Perdido WMA Blackwater River addition, the property contains extensive wetlands, uplands, and aquatic habitat for various waterfowl and marine life unique to the Gulf Coast region. It also provides several miles of river frontage on the Blackwater and Perdido Rivers and will help conserve the Perdido watershed, which supports water quality and flood prevention in both Alabama and Florida. The Conservation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit, purchased the property for conservation in February of 2020 and held it briefly before transferring it to the Forever Wild Land Trust, administered by ADCNR.

Under ADCNR’s management, the Blackwater River property will be available for public recreation such as hunting, fishing, hiking, kayaking and wildlife viewing. In addition to roughly five miles of river frontage, the property contains a 70-acre lake, known as Reeder Lake, and a large slough called Alligator Bayou. These dense aquatic areas and the associated upland habitats provide shelter and feeding grounds for wading birds, duck species, and an array of marine life. The property also contains significant dune features, which is highly unique in the upper reaches of local watersheds.

“Large blocks of coastal wetlands like this often face high threats of development. In fact, this property was previously slotted for a 900-lot private subdivision, which would have decimated habit and caused additional runoff for the watershed,” said Ray Herndon, Gulf Coast director at The Conservation Fund. “I’m thrilled to work with ADCNR, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust and other local groups to prevent that outcome and protect this land for conservation.”

Protection of the Blackwater River property was made possible with local land trust support and funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the Alabama Forever Wild program. The Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust oversees a state funding source that applies offshore oil and gas revenue to conservation projects across Alabama. NFWF’s support was provided through its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which supports projects that remedy harm or reduce the risk of future harm to natural resources affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“NFWF is pleased to partner with The Conservation Fund and the State of Alabama to acquire and permanently protect this important property for conservation,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Partnerships with ADCNR, The Conservation Fund and others remain vital to identifying and implementing conservation projects that will have lasting benefits to natural resources in the state of Alabama.”

The eastern edge of the property rests along the Perdido River which marks the Alabama-Florida state border. Due to its optimal environment for native species and direct connection to the greater Gulf of Mexico, the river is considered an Outstanding Florida Waterway and designated as worthy of special protection. “The early leadership by Weeks Bay Foundation, Coastal Land Trust, Alabama Forest Resources Center, National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy is a clear indicator of the importance of placing these lands into permanent conservation,” added Herndon at the Fund.

The Conservation Fund and partners continue to pursue additional lands along the Perdido and Blackwater Rivers to help advance ADCNR’s conservation goals along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Almost exactly ten years after the spill—which began on April 20, 2010—land protection along the coast and Perdido Watershed remains an important ecologic and economic priority for the State of Alabama.

“The acquisition of this beautiful property is a vital step in our desire to create a wildlife corridor along the Perdido River,” said ADCNR Conservation Commissioner, Chris Blankenship. “We hope to leverage various funding sources to link the Perdido WMA with the Lillian Swamp Forever Wild property to create a conservation area of over 30,000 acres with miles and miles of river frontage. It is an ambitious undertaking and this acquisition starts us off in fine fashion.”

Ongoing conservation along Alabama’s Gulf Coast has had immense effect on local businesses in the region, especially in the seafood and hospitality industries. According to the Alabama Tourism Department Economic Impact Report of 2018, over 73,000 people along Alabama’s southern shore are employed by tourism-related occupations, and the Gulf Coast region accounts for roughly 40% of the state’s tourism—more than any other region. With current health concerns and economic pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening long-term job resiliency and a healthy Gulf economy has never been more crucial, and will continue to be an important effort for the entire community.

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 nearly 22,000 acres in Alabama and more than 235,500 acres across the Central Gulf Region.

About Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.1 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

The Conservation Fund, Val Keefer, 703-908-5802, vkeefer@conservationfund.org
Alabama DCNR, Billy Pope, 334-242-3151, Billy.Pope@dcnr.alabama.gov