The Friends of Perry Lakes Park recommend the following Forestry Management Plan to the Fisheries Section of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in March of 2005. This is still the best management plan for the forest, Perry Lakes Park, and for the people of the Black Belt region of Alabama.

Forestry Management Plan

for the Marion Hatchery Woods Including Perry Lakes Park

A Proposal by the Friends of Perry Lakes Park

Recommendation: The entire property should be designated a Nature Preserve with a mature canopy forest as the goal. There will be no hunting (there has not been public hunting on the property for more than 75 years); no commercial logging of timber; no cutting of trees for wildlife management (exotic shrubs and trees can be removed).

The Park and woods will serve the public for nature-based recreation; outdoor education; outdoor laboratory for discovering, teaching and learning about undisturbed nature; for research; and for preservation of an endangered resource... a floodplain hardwood forest.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) including the Fisheries Section have made the following statements concerning the proposed Management Plan for the Woods and Park. These statements and comments by the Friends of Perry Lakes Park (Park Friends)are as follows:

DCNR: It (logging the big trees) is not about the money.
    Park Friends: Senator Hank Sanders and the Alabama Nature Conservancy both have offered to help find funds to replace the lost revenue from not logging the woods.
     
DCNR: Birding will be improved if we open the canopy. The neotropical migrants are locked out of the closed canopy caused by the mature trees.
    Park Friends:The Park and Woods have a long history of bird records and all of the neotropical birds expected to be in this type of hardwood floodplain forest are listed. Leaders of the birding societies are amazed, shocked, and concerned that the mature trees may be logged in an effort to "improve birding." The Park and Woods bird list contains 206 species of birds making this ecosystem a birding "Hot Spot."

Two hurricanes and three tornados hit the Park and Woods in the past two years. Numerous trees were felled which added to the openness of the system. Several miles of wide fire lanes and a gravel road running through the middle of the Woods and Park give enough "openness" to the system.
     
DCNR:We are dedicated to wildlife management and selectively cutting the big trees will improved conditions for wildlife. (Fisheries is considering logging all the mature trees in a 200 acre portion of the woods. This includes huge oaks, hickories, and yellow poplars).
    Park Friends:The big oaks, American Beach, Yellow Poplar, and hickories provide abundant food and forage for wildlife. We see lots of deer, turkeys, squirrels, otters, and numerous other species of wildlife in the Park and Woods. Besides being beautiful, big trees eventually provide nesting cavities and dens for birds such as woodpeckers, nuthatches, and prothonotary warblers. A mature canopy provides a greater biodiversity of bird species than a cut-over forest.

We have asked what species of wildlife are in such dire straits that it necessitates the logging of the big trees. We have not received an answer to this question. More deer were killed in Alabama last year than in any other state of the Nation. Surely the trees are not going to be cut so that we can have a few more deer in Perry County!
     
DCNR:The Loblolly Pines need to be removed to allow for the establishment of more hardwoods.
    Park Friends: Loblolly Pines are native and natural in this floodplain forest. These pines were not planted but were are a product of nature. The succession of hardwood trees in these woods is shading the forest and preventing the reseeding of pines. There are almost no young pines in this forest and nature is adjusting the relationships of native tree species as the years pass.

Some of the Loblolly Pines are over 100 years old and they are magnificent. These pines could easily live another 100 years.

Additional Recommendations for enhancing the Park/Hatchery/Aquatic Research Laboratory area for nature based recreation and for Ecotourism

Along with the proposed Black Belt Wildlife and Heritage Kiosk that will be constructed in the Park, an educational kiosk could be built beside the Aquatic Research Laboratory pond that is next to the entrance road to the Park. This kiosk could display information and photographs explaining the work of the Aquatic Laboratory.

An eagle nest observation platform could be built beside the Park entrance road. This platform would present a convenient and safe place for people to observe the eagles and their nesting behavior.

Hatchery and Aquatic Research Laboratory ponds that are not in productivity could be filled with water and managed for watchable wildlife, particularly for migrating waterfowl. These ponds mainly remain empty during the year.

Vehicle pull-offs could be constructed along Highway 175 to allow for safe birding of the Hatchery ponds.

Partnership with Perry County ...A High Priority Conservation Opportunity For State Fisheries and Wildlife

The recently adopted Alabama Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy contains a Conservation Action Proposal for Floodplain hardwood forests. The Teaming with Wildlife Coalition calls for the Department of Conservation to partner with communities to preserve hardwood floodplain forests. High Priority Conservation Actions includes Key Partnership opportunities to manage floodplain forests to "favor mature and old-growth stands."

The Friends of Perry Lakes Park are willing partners in this High Priority Strategy to save a wonderful hardwood floodplain forest... the Marion Hatchery Woods and Perry Lakes Park. We hope that the Alabama Department of Conservation will follow through on their own plan and form this Key Partnership which will save the old trees of this wonderful and special forest.