Places We Protect

Fenvkvcēkv Creek Preserve at Flagg Mountain

Alabama

The sun shines on a forested mountain.
Fenvkvcēkv Creek Preserve The Fenvkvcēkv Creek Preserve expands an existing network of protected lands around Flagg Mountain. © Hunter Nichols

Protecting a key link in a wildlife corridor stretching from the Gulf of Mexico into the Appalachian Mountains.

Overview

Description

Located in the heart of central Alabama, Flagg Mountain is the southernmost peak and the start of the nearly 2,000-mile-long Appalachian Mountain Range. Building on a decade of conservation work in this region, The Nature Conservancy purchased two tracts of land adjacent to Flagg Mountain to establish a 1,000-acre nature preserve.

The Fenvkvcēkv (pronounced finuh-guh-jee-guh) Creek Preserve at Flagg Mountain connects to existing protected lands and creates a key link in a migration corridor stretching from the Gulf of Mexico into the Appalachian Mountains. The name honors the Muscogee People, the original caretakers of the land, and is the original Muscogee name for the nearby, ecologically rich Finikochicka Creek, which borders the land.

Access

CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

Location

Coosa County, Alabama

Map with marker: Flagg Mountain represents the southernmost peak and the start of the nearly 2,000-mile-long Appalachian Mountain Range

Highlights

Montane longleaf, or mountain longleaf pine forests, located in this area are considered the most endangered in North America.

Size

1,000 acres

Explore our work in Alabama

A grassy forest floor surrounds a stand of tall trees.
Longleaf Pine Forest Flagg Mountain in Alabama harbors some of the most endangered longleaf pines in North America. © Michelle Little

Longleaf Pine: A Tree Like No Other

Two hundred years ago, longleaf pines (Pinus palustris)with needle-like leaves that can be up to 1.5 feet long—once stretched across 92 million acres in the Southeast from Texas to Virginia and extended into the mountains of Alabama and northwest Georgia. These open forests teemed with life—home to more than 600 plants and animals.

The longleaf pines also fueled a rapidly growing South. Over the years, and especially after the Civil War, timber harvesting, fire suppression, development and agriculture steadily decimated the forests. Today only 3% of the vital longleaf ecosystem remains.

The loss of these iconic forests has dire implications for people and nature. Scientists consider longleaf pine forests to be one of the continent’s most diverse ecosystems outside of the tropics. Today more than 150 species of plants flourish in the longleaf understory, and the forests support more breeding birds than any other type of forest in the Southeast.

As the longleaf pines disappear, so do the animals that rely on them. The fates of endangered or threatened species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snake and gopher tortoise hang in the balance as the forests decline.

For local communities, the healthy longleaf forests that remain today not only offer breathtaking recreation opportunities, they also deliver clean water as the trees absorb rainfall and filter water flowing into groundwater and aquifers. And, in the face of climate change, stands of hardy longleafs—which live for hundreds of years—represent important carbon sequestration opportunities. Ultimately, the fate this unique, historic ecosystem depends on our generation’s willingness to save it.


 

Quote: Mitch Reid

You can’t start a landscape of protection in the Appalachian Mountains if you don’t start in Alabama.

The Nature Conservancy's State Director in Alabama

Preserving the Heart of the Mountain

Imagine standing and growing in one place for four centuries. Some of the montane longleaf pines on Flagg Mountain have done just that. Among the longleaf forests still standing on Earth, the montane longleaf, or mountain longleaf pine forests, are considered the most endangered. Located on the rocky slopes and ridges of Flagg Mountain, they are making a comeback with help from TNC and other partners.  

At 1,152 feet, Flagg Mountain is the southernmost Appalachian peak over 1,000 feet, and is known as the first mountain in the Appalachian Mountain range. Long on the radar for recreators, this area serves as the southern terminus for the 335-mile Pinhoti Trail, which traverses the Talladega Mountains in Alabama and connects to the Appalachian Trail through the Benton Mackaye Trail in Georgia.

Flagg Mountain lies within Weogufka State Forest, established in the 1930s, which is managed by the Alabama Forestry Commission. For more than a decade, TNC has worked with the Commission, Forever Wild, The Conservation Fund and other partners to protect and nurture Flagg Mountain's precious forest habitat, including 240 acres of old-growth montane longleaf pines. Acquiring and protecting two important tracts, adjacent to the mountain, to establish the 1,000-acre Fenvkvcēkv Creek Preserve advances those efforts. 

Creating this nature preserve represents a strategic conservation win, adding to a growing network of protected habitat—more than 4,000 acres—in and around Flagg Mountain. Specifically, the Fenvkvcēkv Creek Preserve at Flagg Mountain anchors a corridor of resilient lands that connects the Gulf of Mexico and the Appalachian system through the Talladega National Forest and the Dugdown Corridor in Georgia.

The Appalachians are a migration pathway and breeding habitat for migratory birds and many wide-ranging iconic mammals such as black bear, bobcat, fisher and moose. As the climate changes, scientists expect more bird and wildlife species will also have to adapt, moving northward into the Appalachians. With biodiversity at risk, there’s an urgent need to establish these types of connected wildlife corridors around the world.

A person wearing protective clothes and a helmet monitors a burning landscape.
Prescribed Burn A member of a fire crew in Alabama ignites a longleaf pine stand with a drip torch. © Claire Everett/TNC

The Return of Fire

In addition to targeted land acquisition, TNC and conservation partners on Flagg Mountain are focused on another key to saving the longleaf forests: prescribed fire. Scientists now understand that this an ecosystem that needs to burn on a regular basis.

For centuries, low-intensity fires, usually sparked by lightning, were a vital part of the longleaf forest growth cycle. These fires would clear out the understory and allow sunlight to penetrate to help the longleaf saplings to grow and thrive. But as the South was developed, and the United States adopted an approach of fire suppression in forests nationwide, the health of fire-dependent systems like the longleaf suffered—as did many native plants and animals that evolved in this fire adapted ecosystem.

In 2019, TNC began working in partnership with Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust to bring fire back to Flagg Mountain. Carefully managed, prescribed burns in select areas reduced the decayed layer of organic materials on the forest floor and removed the understory hardwoods, improving the growth of young longleaf pines while also reducing the risk of larger, catastrophic, high intensity burns that could wipe out the old growth trees. 

The Fenvkvcēkv Creek Preserve at Flagg Mountain allows TNC to continue working with public and private partners to implement prescribed burns and manage the forest in a way that benefits the longleaf pines. The ultimate goal? Protect the ancient trees, nurture new growth and ensure these habitats become more resilient to climate change, and in turn, provide a greater sink to sequester more carbon. 

For TNC, conservation success at Flagg Mountain depends on the active involvement of people and partners whose lives and livelihoods are linked to the natural systems we seek to conserve. 

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