Next Tuesday, the voters in Alabama will decide whether to continue this program. In deciding how to vote on Amendment 1, please consider what has been accomplished. In the last 20 years, 220,000 acres of land have been purchased by our state under this program and managed by the Alabama Department of Conservation. Consider that 98.7 percent of Alabama residents live within an hour’s drive of protected land. This is public land for hunting, fishing, biking, hiking and a host of other activities, used by our citizens at no cost. The land is acquired not with tax dollars but by a small percent of the interest from the money on deposit acquired from the sale of offshore leases for natural gas and oil.
Examples of the land acquired include 4,000 acres on Coldwater Mountain in Anniston, where the best mountain-biking trails in the eastern United States are being built, thousands of acres in the Mobile River basin that filters water to Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, additions to numerous state parks and wildlife management areas, and eight new nature preserves. While protecting forests, rivers and streams, it is providing a continuing boost to the $2.2 billion in money spent on outdoor recreation annually in Alabama. What a great way to stimulate economic development in our state.
While Alabama still has less publicly protected land (4 percent) than any other state in the Southeast, the Forever Wild program works to address the declining supply of public-access lands available to our 5 million residents — all of this without the use of tax dollars. It is also managed by the Department of Conservation without state appropriations.
Many people and a diverse group of organizations came together 20 years ago to help pass this legislation. Our children, grandchildren and future generations now depend on us next Tuesday to continue to save recreational, scenic and significant natural areas in this beautiful state. Please vote yes for constitutional Amendment 1.
Former State Sen. Doug Ghee from Calhoun County along with state Rep. Jim Campbell from Anniston were the chief authors and sponsors in the Legislature of the original Forever Wild Constitutional Amendment in 1991. On Tuesday, voters will decide whether to extend this program for another 20 years by passing Amendment 1 on the ballot.