Freshwater Land Trust
The Freshwater Land Trust is a non-profit conservation agency that has helped to preserve more than 11,000 acres of undeveloped land in the Birmingham area and manages about 5,000 acres of public land secured through purchases with public and private funding, through direct donations, and through the establishment of conservation easements.
The land trust was established as a result of a 1996 consent decree in Kipp, et.al. v. Jefferson County which affirmed the Jefferson County Sewer System's repeated violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
The Land Trust's executive director is Rusha Smith. Other staff members include conservation director Elizabeth Sims, development director Tina Simonton, trail system director Carolyn Buck, stewardship director Jeffrey Drummond, and communications director Mary Beth Brown. The agency is overseen by a Board chaired by Mike Goodrich II, and an Advisory Council headed by Jerome Lanning. The Land Trusts offices are at 2308 1st Avenue North in downtown Birmingham.
After a federal judge found Jefferson County guilty of allowing untreated and partially-treated sewage to overflow into area streams, the Black Warrior-Cahaba Rivers Land Trust was established to manage the $30 million in fines which would otherwise have been paid directly to the Environmental Protection Agency. Wendy Jackson was hired as the first executive director for the new organization in 2001.
Under the Jefferson County Greenways Program, the county's fines were used to purchase 3,500 acres, primarily along Five Mile Creek, Village Creek, Valley Creek, Shades Creek, Turkey Creek and the Cahaba River. Once purchased, the land became County property under permanent protection. The Land Trust kept a maintenance fund for use in securing, inspecting, and maintaining the condition of the protected areas.
At the same time, the Land Trust has been working on other privately-funded projects, such as helping the Red Mountain Greenway and Recreational Area Commission acquire the property for the 1,108-acre Red Mountain Park along the western end of Red Mountain. The Trust also oversees land restoration projects, such as the eradication of invasive foreign plants and replanting of native species. It has made progress toward removing privet from along Shades Creek in Bessemer.
In 2003 the Freshwater Land Trust was named the Governor's Conservation Organization of the Year by Bob Riley. The Alabama Association of Fundraising Professionals named it their Outstanding Charitable Organization for 2005.
The court-ordered program expired in 2006 and the Jefferson County Commission voted 3-1 to dissolve their relationship with the Land Trust, which had recently switched to its new, shorter name. The county plans to turn over 4,500 acres to the Trust's custodianship, along with $4.2 million accrued in a maintenance fund which will be used as an endowment.
- Wright, Barnett (November 18, 2006) "4,500 acres in Jeffco conveyed to land trust." The Birmingham News}
- Wright, Barnett (November 8, 2006) "Jeffco commission votes to cut ties with Freshwater Land Trust." The Birmingham News
- Pillion, Dennis (October 4, 2016) "Freshwater Land Trust's new executive director aims to keep the magic in Birmingham." The Birmingham News
- "Freshwater Land Trust names new executive director." (July 29, 2019) Birmingham Business Journal
- Freshwater Land Trust website