• strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 842.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_node_status::operator_form() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::operator_form(&$form, &$form_state) in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/modules/node/views_handler_filter_node_status.inc on line 0.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 842.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 842.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 842.

Conservation of the Natural Landscape

Alabama surpasses all eastern states in plant and animal diversity. It ranks first in the nation in freshwater species diversity, including more than 750 species of freshwater fishes, mussels, aquatic snails, and crayfishes. Unfortunately, no state east of Colorado has more wildlife species at risk than Alabama. Only Hawaii, California, and Nevada have more imperiled species, and only Hawaii has lost more species to extinction.

Mankind's alteration of Alabama's natural landscape and waterways has contributed to the extintion or extirpation of more than 100 animal species. In the Black Belt region of Alabama, conservation is becoming a higher priority, to preserve the beauty and uniqueness of the natural landscape for future generations.

The site of Old Cahawba is one example of renewed conservation in the Black Belt's natural landscape. Cahawba became Alabama's first capital city in 1819, but by the Civil War, the very actions that created wealthy Cahawba, destoryed it, through the loss of topsoil due to cotton production and river sedimentation. However, Old Cahawba offers a tale of possibility and restoration. Old Cahawba's unique location at the intersection of the Blackland Prairie and Alabama's last largest free-flowing river, the Cahaba River, offers in one compact viewing location, an immense variety of terrestrial and riverine habitats.

Aquatic wildlife is being restored to the rivers that surround Old Cahawba on three sides; and on the fourth side, along the entry road to the historic park, prairie restoration is about to begin. The nature trail and canoe launch at Old Cahawba were designed to provide visitors a personal, up-close experience of several different wildlife habitats and mirco-environments.

On the western side of the Black Belt, the Black Belt Prairie Conservation and Research Institute (BBCRI) was established in 2007 as a unit of the Center for the Study of the Black Belt at the University of West Alabama to raise public awareness of the disappearing Black Belt Prairie. BBCRI is working with The Nature Conservancy of Alabama and other partners to determine to ecological and envronmental research needs of the region.

Additionally, the BBCRI is charged with the task of identifying habitats and species unique to the Black Belt and working with state agencies to determine the best ecological and environmental practices for the management and restoration of the unique habitats within the Black Belt. The Tuskegee National Forest, on the eastern side of the Balck Belt, initiated a Longleaf Pine Restoration Initiative in May 2005 to restore approximately 796 acres to longleaf pine over the next five years.

The purpose of this project is to imporve the health of the Tuskegee National Forest through restoring the longleaf pine ecosystem, which once spanned about 90 million acres, of which only three million acres now remain. The decline has contributed to over 30 plant and animal species within the longleaf pine ecosystem currently listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center (AABC) is the largest state non-game recovery program of its kind in the United States. Located in Perry County, AABC restores threatened or endangered species of mollusks and fish through propagation and restoration. The 44,000 acre Oakmulgee Wildlife Management Area, one of Alabama's oldest and most successful ferderal-state governmental partnerships, is the second Wildlife Management Area in the country to implement a deer staging area for restocking and restoriing whitetail deer populations throughout Alabama.

Black Belt residents are demonstrating a fresh interest in the health and well-being of the natural landscape of the Black Belt. Local citizens are working to restore and safeguard the environment, clean polluted waterways, preserve habitats, protect threatened and endangered species, promote sustainable practices and encourage wholseome recreational activities, like birding, hiking, camping, and canoeing on public lands.

Simultaneously, new business ventures such as catfish farming and experiential tourism take advantage of economic opportunities that come with environmental conservation. The Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area is working to improve public understanding of the need to conserve Alabama's natural resources, through a grant from The Conservation Fund. All told, this emerging public ethic of stewardship for the region's natural landscape parallels the development of renewed pride in the Black Belt's homegrown traditions, and resonates with principles and practices espoused by Booker T. Washington and his Tuskegee colleagues over 100 years ago.