The Nature Conservancy has acquired 2,186 acres of vital forestland atop Lookout Mountain and adjacent to the Little River Canyon National Preserve in Cherokee County, Alabama.
The $3.6 million purchase from Hancock Timber Resource Group is part of an on-going regional effort to protect sensitive freshwater and forest habitat in the Coosa River basin of northeast Alabama, northwest Georgia and southern Tennessee.
The Nature Conservancy expects to transfer the western third of the tract to the National Park Service for inclusion in the 14,000-acre Little River Canyon National Preserve and plans to transfer the remaining land to the State of Alabama as part of the Little River Wildlife Management Area.
For more than 20 years, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has leased the land as part of the state’s Wildlife Management Area program.
By purchasing the property, The Nature Conservancy and its partners are ensuring the unique natural diversity of the area remains intact and is even enhanced while providing Alabamians a scenic vista and access to the property for hiking, bird watching and hunting.
“This project is a significant milestone in our decades-long pursuit to protect one of the South’s most distinctive natural areas – Little River Canyon,” said Chris Oberholster, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “We are grateful to the many public and private partners who helped make this acquisition possible, including the Lyndhurst Foundation, the Benwood Foundation and particularly Fred and Alice Stanback of North Carolina who provided critical and generous support for the project.”
The Hancock Timber Resource Group and The Nature Conservancy have a 20-year history of working together to protect ecologically significant lands. With this agreement, the two partners will have worked together to protect nearly 60,000 acres of sensitive lands across the United States.
“We are very pleased to work once again with The Nature Conservancy to help protect Little River Canyon,” said Mike Wolf, director of North American Forest Operations, Hancock Timber Resource Group. “We greatly admire the Conservancy’s work and are happy to further strengthen a wonderful and important partnership.”
Through its Sensitive Lands Program and in cooperation with other environmental interests and government agencies, Hancock Timber Resource Group has helped safeguard more than 400,000 acres across the country.
Protecting Little River Canyon
As development pressure along the east rim of Little River Canyon increases, the threat of adverse impacts to protected public lands is significant. The size and location of the land recently acquired by The Nature Conservancy provides an additional buffer to Little River Canyon National Preserve, thereby reducing encroaching development pressure.
The Conservation Fund, which helped secure funding for the purchase, is an on-going partner in this region, working with the Conservancy on a series of cooperative projects in the Little River Canyon area.
“I have had my eye on the protection of this property since at least 1980 when I was practicing law in Birmingham and became interested in protecting the magnificent beauty of Alabama's Little River Canyon,” said Mike Leonard, vice chairman of The Conservation Fund. “It is truly one of the most significant tracts for conservation in the Southeast. The Conservation Fund is pleased to be able to work with The Nature Conservancy on the protection of this resource. “
About Little River Canyon
With sandstone cliffs, scenic waterfalls and crystal-clear waters, Little River Canyon in the Southern Appalachians is one of Alabama’s most treasured natural areas. Little River flows for about 30 miles through the sandstone canyons of Lookout Mountain before emptying into Weiss Lake, a major impoundment of the Coosa River. Lookout Mountain and Little River Canyon feature diverse forests, rock cliffs, caves, boulder fields, high-energy streams and rivers supporting imperiled species like the blue shiner, the green pitcher plant and the Pigeon Mountain salamander.
The Conservation Fund forges partnerships to conserve America’s legacy of land and water resources. Through land acquisition, community and economic development and training and education, the Fund and its partners demonstrate balanced conservation solutions that emphasize the integration of economic and environmental goals.
The Hancock Timber Resource Group, a division of Hancock Natural Resources Group Inc., an operating company of MFC Global Investment Management, manages more than 5 million acres of timberland worth approximately $8.5 billion across the United States as well as Brazil, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Additional information about HTRG may be found at www.hancocktimber.com.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.