A drone captured this aerial image of Gap Creek in Alabama.
Gap Creek A drone captured this aerial image of Gap Creek in Alabama. © Mac Stone

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The Nature Conservancy Announces Preserve Expansion

Acquisition will protect one of Alabama’s most biologically important regions

The Nature Conservancy today announced the acquisition of approximately 580 acres at our Sharp Bingham Mountain Preserve that will expand the preserve to approximately 4,000 acres, making it the Conservancy’s largest preserve in the state. 

“We are thrilled to expand our commitment to protecting and preserving Alabama’s lands and waters,” said Roger Mangham, the director of The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “We are grateful to our partners, including the Open Space Institute, the Foundation for the Carolinas, the Lyndhurst Foundation, the Riverview Foundation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, for their work to help to protect this valuable land.” 

Located on the border of Jackson and Madison Counties in north east Alabama, the preserve is located in the Southern Cumberlands project area, which encompasses the Jackson mountains landscape and the headwaters of the Paint Rock River watershed. 

“This area is one of the most biologically important regions of Alabama for both aquatic and terrestrial plant and animal communities and rare species in the Southeast,” said Jason Throneberry, The Nature Conservancy’s director of freshwater programs. 

The area provides several crucial conservation strategies: 

  • Large scale land and water conservation: The property’s total acreage of 4,080 acres represents both existing critical habitat and the opportunity to expand current conservation ownership of more than 60,000 acres of protected lands in the nearby Skyline Wildlife Management Area
  • Natural Climate Solutions: The project will sequester carbon through forest protection and growth.
  • Climate Research: The area will provide a critical space to examine how forests respond to climate change, and the potential role that geography, climate, and soil conditions can play in promoting and preserving biodiversity.

“The Paint Rock River watershed is a global hotspot for biodiversity—from its pristine waters, to its unspoiled forests,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president at OSI. “The Sharp Bingham Mountain project is part of OSI’s larger efforts to protect important habitat, even as the climate changes. We applaud The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to this landscape and the completion of this project.” 

“I will never forget my first visit to the Sharp Bingham Preserve with Horace Clemmons to witness the stunning display of bluebells and other wildflowers in Calloway Sink,” said Bruz Clark, who represents the Lyndhurst and Riverview Foundations. “This landscape is beautiful beyond words, and we are grateful to the Clemmons family, TNC, and the other partners who have made it possible to preserve this entire watershed in perpetuity.” 

This property will provide expanded and valuable protection to the headwaters of the Paint Rock River, which is one of the few remaining high quality, free flowing rivers in the entire Tennessee River Basin. The Paint Rock and its major tributaries total some 90 miles of free-flowing river habitat in a watershed that encompasses about 318 square miles. 

The Jackson Mountains Landscape contains large blocks of forests that include many rare plants and important habitat for migratory and breeding birds. The system supports an extremely diverse army of aquatic life, including some 98 species of fish and about 58 different mussel species. Five globally imperiled mussels and twelve globally rare mussels are found in the Paint Rock River and its tributaries.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.