Alabama in the Balance
Unprecedented change is occurring across Alabama. If not properly managed, this change will affect much of what we love about our state in very dramatic ways. Alabama is on of the most biologically diverse regions left in the world today and unregulated growth has the potential to destroy much of this. Our state slogan “Alabama the Beautiful” is at risk.
We are a beautiful and very biologically diverse state precisely because of our widespread unbroken forests and our multitude of fresh water streams, rivers and lakes. At last count, Alabama had 23 million acres of forest land, covering 67% of our state, almost equally divided in acreage among pine, hardwood, and pine-hardwood mix. These forests provide habitat for a multitude of animals and over 200 bird species. Our 75,000 miles of rivers and streams contain an abundance of aquatic life, some found nowhere else in the world. In fact, 75% of all wildlife species in our state are associated with riparian areas. These are usually forested areas along the banks of rivers and streams. Alabama has 3800 species of plants and animals making it the 4th most biodiverse state in the nation, even though we are 29th in size. Together these forests and streams create a lush and varied landscape mosaic statewide that truly deserves the title “Alabama the Beautiful”.
Recently, normal population growth and migration, both legal and illegal, are beginning to seriously impact our state’s natural beauty due to the rampant, unregulated development that it has spawned. As populations spread out from our large urban areas, Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville and Montgomery, and other areas to a lesser extent, forests are being fragmented and streams are being polluted. This is having and will continue to have devastating consequences to the forest and aquatic ecologies and thus our tremendous biodiversity. And our landscape is rapidly being converted from forested to “developed”.
I am not a preservationist except in certain cases to protect rare or exotic, usually small, irreplaceable natural areas or endangered species, and I know that we have to develop to satisfy the needs of our people. We need homes, schools, shopping areas and all that, and this inevitably negatively impacts forest and streams. But we can do this with an eye to the future, trying to protect our natural legacy for future generations to enjoy, or we can ride roughshod over all of it in the name of progress and lose what really makes us special here. We can remain “Alabama the Beautiful” or we can become “Alabama, Land of Lost Opportunities”.
What can we do, must we do, if we want to maintain what we have? We need to support wise land use planning at the county and city level including landscaping ordinances, aesthetic zoning including greenways and retaining natural areas in addition to new parks, steambank protection along both rural and urban streams, erosion prevention especially during development, storm runoff retention and more. Probably the most important thing is protecting all riparian, or streamside, areas from vegetation loss, erosion and overdevelopment.
To accomplish this will take two kinds of individual action: volunteerism and political grassroots activism. Volunteerism can include anything from becoming an Alabama Water Watch Volunteer, adopting a stream, working with PALS (People Against Litter) and hundreds of other activities both secular and religious. Grassroots activism can start with voting regularly for candidates who support this agenda, to actually becoming personally involved in green politics. If enough of us get involved we can remain Alabama the Beautiful, otherwise we will become Alabama, Land of Lost Opportunities.
If you want to get involved contact us at the store and we will try to coordinate and develop whatever programs or activities we can to try to make a difference. Leave a comment here or call Bob at 256-775-2944.