|Alert...Warning! 29 June, 2008
Forest could be cut to finance
Proposal for Perry land involves cash, wildlife,
Thursday, November 17, 2005
KATHERINE BOUMANews staff writer
600 acres the state inherited from the federal government has become a quagmire
for state officials who are trying to figure out how to manage it for cash and
wildlife and the public.
The land, about one-quarter mile from
the Cahaba River in Perry County, is well-loved by the public, said Nick
Nichols, assistant chief of fisheries for the Department of Conservation and
Nichols' job is to manage the land according to a
1999 federal agreement stating it should be used for the benefit the fisheries
That could mean cutting down some of the timber to help
finance an ambitious program already under way on the land; next fall the state
will open a hatchery for endangered snails and mussels at the old hatchery on
"That is a resource that was conveyed to the state," Nichols
said. "It was conveyed to us to support our fisheries programs."
state is considering harvesting some of the loblolly pine, which is not native
to the area. But Nichols said he already has received negative reactions from
Perry County residents who say the forest is healthy as it is.
the public land in Alabama was cleared for timber in the 19th or early 20th
century, which led to widespread erosion by the time of the Depression. At that
time, the state or federal governments typically planted the land in trees that
were expected to be cash crops or grow quickly, not those most suited to the
soils or habitat.
That was the case in much of the Marion Fish Hatchery
land, Nichols said. "It was kind of let go and kind of grew up on its own,"
Now, about 164 acres of it is 70-year-old loblolly pine
that could be harvested for cash.
The state lands forester has
recommended clear-cutting that land and planting it in a cash crop. Nichols
said the conservation department is hoping for a plan that would be less
harmful to wildlife.
One alternative is cutting down the loblolly pine
and leaving hardwoods so a mature hardwood forest could emerge, as would be
natural in the area, he said.
One area will not be disturbed, Nichols
said. It borders a preserve on the Cahaba River owned by the Nature Conservancy
and is a healthy forest of cypress and tupelo gum with oxbow lakes, he said.
The Nature Conservancy's executive director said his group has only
recently become aware of plans for the land near its preserve and hasn't
surveyed the forest.
Nichols said that in Perry County there is already
some opposition to cutting down the trees, particularly the proposal to
clearcut. Local groups use Barton's Beach, the Nature Conservancy preserve, for
camping, bird-watching and canoeing. It is said to be the largest beach on the
One Perry County Web site calls for permanent protections for
the forest in the area, calling it the only state-owned old-growth forest in
Nichols acknowledges that most timber harvest plans
would make the forest uglier in the short-term. But he said wildlife and timber
management could more quickly return the forest to its natural state.
"We know this is a very sensitive location," he said. "We didn't even
want to start down the path of it being strictly a timber management program.
We set out to try to develop a plan that was both timber management and
He said he expects to be able by spring to
present a plan to involved groups, including the Nature Conservancy and the
Perry Lake Recreation Area Committee. He said the Conservation Department is
seeking endorsement of a plan from the stakeholder groups before moving
Please help protect
the Perry Lakes Park ecosystem (both the Hatchery woods and the Park woods)
from logging for any reason! Write to:
Governor Bob Riley, State Capitol, 600 Dexter Avenue,
Montgomery, AL 36130 (334-242-7100)
Lawley, Ala Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, 64 N. Union St.,
Montgomery, AL 36130 (334-242-3486)
|Contact: Thomas Wilson, 334-683-6389 (H)