The Nature Conservancy recently transferred 650 acres along Little River Canyon in Alabama to the National Park Service for addition to the existing 14,000-acre Little River Canyon National Preserve.
The Conservancy initially purchased the property – along with an additional 1,536 acres – in 2009 from Hancock Timber Resource Group as 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 remaining acreage is marked for transfer later this year to the State of Alabama as part of the Little River Wildlife Management Area.
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.
“The transfer of this property to the National Park Service is an important milestone in a decades-long pursuit to protect one of our nation’s most distinctive natural treasures,” said Chris Oberholster, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “The successful conservation of Little River Canyon would not be possible without the generous support of our public and private partners.”
The Nature Conservancy’s purchase and the subsequent transfer of land to the National Park Service would not have been possible without funding from various private and public sources, including $1.5 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and generous support from The Conservation Fund.
“Protecting the east rim of the magnificent Little River Canyon is not only a high priority for Alabama but for the Southeast and the Nation. High priorities require working together,” said Mike Leonard, vice chairman of the Conservation Fund. “The Conservation Fund is pleased to partner with The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, the Alabama Forever Wild Program, U.S. Senators Sessions and Shelby and generous private donors like Fred and Alice Stanback of North Carolina to work on protecting the Little River Canyon National Preserve.”
Land and Water Conservation Fund Aid to Conservation
Land acquisition projects, such as the Little River Canyon property, have greatly aided conservation efforts in America and enhanced our nation’s natural resources, recreational opportunities and scenic vistas. But recent federal budget constraints to conservation funding sources, particularly the Land and Water Conservation Fund – which contributed $1.5 million to the Little River Canyon acquisition, threaten future conservation efforts.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would have cut funding for LWCF by 97 percent. The final FY2011 appropriations bill reduced the program by 33 percent from last year’s level. The Obama Administration has proposed full funding for LWCF at $900 million a year, the program’s authorized funding level.
“Federal conservation sources like the Land and Water Conservation Fund are essential if we are to protect America’s critical natural resources like Little River Canyon,” said Oberholster. “The federal budget should include funding for LWCF, so projects like this remain possible in the future.”
LWCF does not use taxpayer dollars – it is already paid for through a percentage of revenues from offshore oil and gas development to balance the use of those natural resources by protecting important land and water elsewhere. Offshore oil and gas fees typically average more than $6 billion annually, but in the past, most of the funds promised for LWCF have been diverted elsewhere, with Congress rarely fulfilling the full funding level over the program’s 45-year history.
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 inpoundment 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 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.