I resolved that my first post about The Huntsville Times would be positive. John Peck wrote an editorial “Going wild after Forever Wild”:
Alabama’s Forever Wild land preservation program has been wildly successful in acquiring environmentally sensitive property and setting it aside as permanent public green space.
Since voters overwhelmingly approved the program in 1992, Forever Wild has acquired more than 200,000 acres of wild lands including the Walls of Jericho in Jackson County, mountaintop trails around Huntsville, eagle roosting areas around Guntersville and 35,000 acres of wetlands in the Mobile delta.
The properties are bought using a portion of interest earnings off the $3 billion Alabama Trust Fund fed by oil and gas leases…
The official expiration of Forever Wild isn’t until Oct. 1, 2012, but already outside interests are setting their sights on the trust in ways that could decrease its buying power even if Forever Wild wins another 20-year continuance.
Some lawmakers want to tap the Alabama Trust Fund for a $1 billion road building program. Contract holders with the cash-strapped prepaid college tuition plan also want to siphon money from the trust. Recent news reports revealed that the Alabama Farmers Federation is eyeing the trust for farm, soil and water conservation efforts.
Any drawdown on the principal would reduce interest earnings, of which 10 percent is now dedicated to Forever Wild.
Former Times editor John Ehinger was supportive of Forever Wild and I’ve linked to his columns before. I’m pleased to see that the new editorial board is just as supportive of this program. If only The Times would name the “lawmakers” (State Senator Lowell Barron – Democrat) who want to tap into the Trust Fund; don’t leave us hanging…
Thanks Kevin Wendt – I hope The Times makes lots of money and gets lots of new subscribers and wins plenty of major awards this year. We here at Flashpoint are always willing to nudge you onto the right path to prosperity. Just know that our critiques come from a place filled with love and respect…
While I’m being all warm and cuddly, I’d like to invite The Times to cover the Huntsville Governor Candidates Forum on March 2, 2010. All seven GOP gubernatorial candidates have committed to attend the forum, which promises to be the largest debate in the State. The Young Republicans and Right On Huntsville would certainly appreciate the press attention.
Back to a Forever Wild-related topic, this time from the Montgomery Advertiser, “Birding trail more popular than expected”:
When the North Alabama Birding Trail opened in September 2005, local tourism and state conservation officials predicted tourists would flock to Alabama to see bald eagles, waterfowl, warblers and other birds.
About four years later, those officials said the response to the trail, which includes 12 sites in and around the Shoals, has exceeded expectations.
“We have a tremendous amount of people coming by or contacting our office for information on the birding trail,” said Alison Stanfield, assistant director of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism. “Interest in the trail remains very high.”
…while there have been no studies to determine how many people visit the bird-watching sites, the trail is boosting tourism in the region…
Mark Sasser, coordinator of the non-game wildlife section for the conservation department, said the success of the North Alabama Birding Trail is spawning a proliferation of bird-watching trails throughout the state.
He said the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel will create a series of birding trails with hopes of including all 67 counties. He said wildlife watching is one of the fastest-growing forms of outdoor recreation in America.
The State really should try to quantify the success of the Birding Trails (in terms of human visitors). I know that the Forever Wild program suffers from the same lack of good information. People like the parks, but without this information, we’re just guessing at how successful the program might be in economic terms.
We know that in environmental terms, like plant and wildlife diversity and conservation, or in terms of clean water and protecting watersheds, Forever Wild is successful. But people pay the bills, and some people (Lowell Barron and some other Democrats) don’t love baby birds and fluffy bunnies and pretty flowers as much as the rest of us. They’d rather pave paradise…