The Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust (commonly shortened to Forever Wild) is a public lands preservation program created in 1992 by Amendment 543 to the Alabama Constitution of 1901. The amendment was ratified by statewide vote with an 84% margin in favor of establishing the land trust. The program is operated by the Alabama State Lands Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Forever Wild is funded by a portion of the proceeds from oil and natural gas leases off the Alabama Gulf Coast and has acquired more than 221,800 acres of often fragile habitats for public use, at an average cost of $720 per acre. It is overseen by a 15-member Board of Trustees, which established its procedures for evaluating properties and negotiating acquisitions. The Board developed policies seeking to acquire land for nature preserves and recreational areas (managed by the State Lands Division), state parks (managed by the State Parks Division), and wildlife management areas (managed by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division).
Alabama's ratio of publicly-owned to privately-held land is by far the lowest in the Southeast. While many parcels were purchased with an eye to protecting wildlife habitat and important ecosystems, the properties acquired by Forever Wild are generally made available for hunting and recreational uses. The funds provided from the State have typically been enhanced by federal grants for conservation. Forever Wild has also partnered with other state, county, local and non-governmental agencies to assist in identifying and acquiring properties and developing recreational, educational and conservation programs in specific tracts. The program, as first enacted, is set to expire in 2012 unless reauthorized.
Birmingham Area acquisitions
- Ruffner Mountain Addition Tract, added 227 acres to Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve for outdoor education and recreation. Acquired June 13, 2000 for $568,000
- Turkey Creek Tract on Turkey Creek created a 462-acre Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, managed by the Black Warrior Cahaba Rivers Land Trust and the City of Pinson. Acquired December 15, 2004 for $2,000,000
- Turkey Creek-Thomas Tract added 48 acres to the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, with Birmingham-Southern College and local citizens groups joining as partners. Acquired September 28, 2005 for $800,000
- Cahaba Tract and Columbiana Tract, added 9,746 acres to the Coosa Wildlife Management Area, an established public hunting area of hilly forest in the Weogufka Creek and Hatchet Creek watersheds. The WMA also supports environmental education and scientific research. Acquired October 25, 2007 for $14,250,000
- Mulberry Fork WMA Tract secured a 94-year hunting lease for the 33,280-acre Mulberry Fork Wildlife Management Area. Leased October 15, 2009 for $3,040,460
- Cahaba River WMA Tract secured a 94-year hunting lease on 70% of the 27,894-acre Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area. Leased October 15, 2009 for $2,469,095
- Tannehill Land & Ridges Tract, added 553 acres to the Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, including part of the Shades Creek watershed. Acquired September 13, 2010 for $2,240,100
- Thrasher Tract, added 1,128 acres, including 3.3 miles along Hatchet Creek in Coosa County. The tract has large areas of former loblolly pine production that owner Jody Thrasher has worked to restore to "the original montane longleaf pine savannah ecosystem." Conservation easement acquired by purchase in 2023.
- Spencer, Thomas (February 27, 2011) "Forever Wild may lose funding from Alabama Legislature." The Birmingham News
- Pillion, Dennis (February 26, 2023) "Habitat for Cahaba lilies, endangered snail gains permanent protection." AL.com
- Alabama’s Forever Wild Program at www.alabamaforeverwild.com