The state’s Forever Wild program has recently acquired hundreds of acres of biologically important forest in Jackson County, Ala. The 535-acre Sims, Swaim and Johnson addition to the Walls of Jericho Forever Wild tract was purchased in May 2010 from the Alabama Chapter of The Nature Conservancy with support from a $640,000 Forest Legacy grant from the USDA Forest Service. The land is located along the Estill Fork tributary to the Paint Rock River and isadjacent to the James D. Martin-Skyline Wildlife Management Area. The Sims, Swaim and Johnson addition will be used for public recreation and conservation efforts, and will increase public access to the popular Walls of Jericho trail system located near the communities of Skyline and Hytop. State lands managers have documented more than 15,000 hiking and horse trail users annually on the growing trail system. New land acquisitions such as this ensure the public’s access to the property and enhance the quality of life that state lands afford Alabamians. Considered one of the most biologically diverse and important regions in the United States, the Walls of Jericho Tract supports several species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and plants recognized under the Alabama Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy as species of highest conservation concern. As part of the Paint Rock River watershed, this area contains several springs and more than 3,000 feet of perennial stream habitat along Estill Fork Creek. The habitats within and along the Estill Fork waterway support some of the last remaining populations of several species of fish and mussels protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The plan to purchase the land was developed in 2008 through a partnership formed by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Forever Wild Program, the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC), the Alabama Forest Resources Center (AFRC), the Alabama Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and the State of Tennessee’s Wildlife Resources Agency. Working cooperatively with the AFC to administer the Forest Legacy Program, the AFRC helped direct the project grant towards this purchase. For more information about the Forest Legacy Program, visit either the AFRC website, www.alfrc.org or the AFC website, www.forestry.alabama.gov. Forever Wild has secured more than 210,000 acres for public use and conservation efforts since its inception in 1992. The program also provides affordable and accessible hunting opportunities for all Alabamians, and helps to generate $1.4 billion of annual economic impact throughout the state. To learn more about the Forever Wild Program, visit www.alabamaforeverwild.com.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. For more information please see www.outdooralabama.com.