The Nature Conservancy Has Secured Preservation Of 8,000 Acres In Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw Watershed

The Nature Conservancy has acquired 8000 acres in the Mobile-Tensaw region of southern Alabama/TNC

An 8,000-acre swath of southern Alabama clasped by the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers has been acquired by The Nature Conservancy, which pulled together $15 million to protect the “Land between the Rivers” that is viewed as one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the world.

“This tract represents the largest remaining block of land that we can protect in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. First and foremost, TNC is doing this work for our fellow Alabamians who rightly pride themselves on their relationship with the outdoors,” said Mitch Reid, TNC’s Alabama State Director in a statement. “Conservation lands in the Delta positions it as an anchor in a corridor of protected lands stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Appalachian Mountains and has long been a priority in TNC’s ongoing efforts to establish resilient and connected landscapes across the region.”

The Mobile-Tensaw region is incredibly ecologically diverse.

“It’s the center of fish diversity in North America. I always like to say you can take almost any stream in Alabama and there would be more fish species in a mile of that stream than in the entire state of California. In most states. In most streams, the fish diversity would be higher than the entire Pacific Coast from Mexico up to Canada,” Bill Finch, the founding director of the nonprofit Paint Rock Forest Research Center in Alabama, told the Traveler last year. “It’s the center of oak diversity in North America, north of Mexico. It’s the center of magnolia diversity in North America. It’s the center of hickory diversity, globally. It’s the center of sunflower diversity, globally. It’s the center of turtle diversity in the Western Hemisphere. It’s the center of crawfish diversity, for people who care about crawfish — and we do — of almost anyplace in the world. It’s astonishing. One-hundred species of crawfish, and still counting.”

In sheer numbers, the Mobile-Tensaw region, which counts at least nine significant rivers and drains a watershed of about 260,000 acres, is home to 126 fish species, 46 species of mammals, 69 reptilian species, 30 amphibian species, and at least 300 bird species, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama. Forests at various elevations reach into the sky with bald cypress, tupelo gum, longleaf pine, water hickory, laurel oak and live oak, bitternut hickory, white oak, and even spruce pine, just to list some of the species. 

TNC managed to obtain the 8,000 acres from the Mobile River Sawmill Division with $3 million of internal funding; $5.2 million from Holdfast Collective, a grant-making entity owning 98 percent of apparel brand Patagonia; and $10 million in a revolving loan fund from an undisclosed source.

“Alabama is important. The Holdfast Collective sees Alabama, and the Land Between the Rivers, as a landscape that is as critical to protect as our other priority areas around the globe,” said Holdfast Collective Executive Director Greg Curtis. “This project is the first step in a long-term strategy with our partners in Alabama to protect America’s Amazon.”

The National Park Service has exhibited an interest in the region, perhaps as an addition to the National Park System. Back in 2017 the agency published a State of Knowledge report that described the region’s unique geology and hydrology, its rich and varied vegetation, flora and fauna, and evidence of human settlements from thousands of years ago. Prior to that report, back in 1974,the Mobile-Tensaw River Bottomlands were designated a National Natural Landmark. A handful of National Historic Landmarks also dot the region.

The National Parks Conservation Association also has shown interest in adding the area to the park system. 

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