National Wildlife Refuge
A Project of Jacksonville State University's Environmental Policy & Information Center
Articles & Press Releases
Parts of New Wildlife Refuge
Could Open to Public Soon
By Sara Clemence, Anniston
Star Staff Writer
Hunters and hikers could be welcome
on about one-third of the new Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge
as soon as this spring.
The portion that a proposed
plan released last week says could open in mid-May consists of the eastern
and southern slopes of Choccolocco Mountain – essentially the eastern
and southern edges of the L-shaped refuge.
About 6,000 additional acres
of the refuge land at the former Fort McClellan will remain closed until
it is made safe for public use. The land was used for military training
and contains munitions and environmental contamination.
Access to the refuge will initially be from the east, along Bain’s Gap
Road. But most of the road, which runs through the refuge and once allowed
traffic to flow across the military base, will remain closed for now,
said Steve Miller, refuge manager. The Army is cleaning up unexploded
ordnance (UXO) near the road, and portions need to be closed at times.
The 9,000-acre refuge was established
in May 2003 to preserve some of the finest old-growth stands of mountain
longleaf left in the United States.
The use plan, which will guide
how the refuge is managed, remains open for public comment until Jan.
27. It is available on the Web and from the refuge manager.
Before the refuge opens, the
plan must be approved and road maintenance must be done, Miller said.
The refuge has $500,000 in
funding from the Army and will get maintenance help from Wheeler National
Wildlife Refuge in northern Alabama.
All of the land will be open
to foot traffic, but initially there will not be any developed trails.
Vehicles and bicycles must stay on the roads.
A main overlook, “which everybody
seems to want to go to,” will be open, Miller said.
Although some people have expressed
a desire for fishing and horseback riding, neither will be allowed at
the refuge. The property has only small or occasional streams, unsuitable
for fishing, Miller said.
Because much of the land is
steeply sloped, making erosion a concern, and because of the costs of
maintenance and infrastructure, horses are banned for now, Miller said.
That doesn’t sit well with
some local horse people, including Ranburne resident Mac Smith, who
pushed for access to the refuge.
“We feel like they pretty much
closed the door on us,” said Smith, 67, who owns 13 horses and is on
the board of the Alabama Horse Council.
He believes allowing riders
in the refuge would bring tourists to the area.
“There’s more trail riders
than people realize,” he said. “Over in the national forest, they have
riders from Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi ... When they come,
they buy gas, they come spend the night.”
There would be enough willing
volunteers to overcome the maintenance obstacles, Smith said.
Hunting will be limited to
certain areas and seasons, and will be managed in conjunction with the
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. At first,
only hunting for white tail deer, turkey and squirrels will be allowed.
Miller said it is not yet known
when the rest of the refuge could open to the public. The Army is responsible
for making sure the land is clear of UXO and is negotiating cleanup
details with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he said.
Although he had not yet seen
the plan, Anniston Mayor Chip Howell called it “exciting news.” The
refuge will be part of a broader eco-tourism plan county leaders are
working on, and it could be vital to the area’s growth as that movement
gains momentum, he said.
“I look forward to additional
activity in that part of Anniston,” he said.
He added that he hoped the
plan includes the opening of Bain’s Gap Road.
“I’ve had several requests
from people who live in the White Plains area and Choccolocco to get
to north Anniston from that direction.”
Mountain Longleaf National
Wildlife Refuge plans are available online at http://southeast.fws.gov/mountainlongleaf,by
calling 256-848-7085, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Living Library McClellan Welcomes New National
by Sara Clemence, Anniston Star
Tuesday, July 1, 2003
took hundreds of years to grow, and several years to protect, but now
the mountain longleaf forest at McClellan will be preserved for generations.
9,000-acre Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge was formally dedicated
Monday morning. A 200-strong crowd, including legislators, mayors, environmental
activists, Army officers, and at least one barred owl, was there to
celebrate the occasion.
refuge ensures that some of the last remaining stands of old-growth
mountain longleaf pine - including some 250-year-old trees - will be
able to thrive. It includes Choccolocco Mountain, the third-highest
ridge in the state.
wildlife refuge is a living library that offers valuable research opportunities
to scientists. It has the potential to draw thousands of hunters, hikers
and wildlife watchers who will contribute to the local economy.
it is a counterweight to Calhoun County’s environmental problems, several
officials said Monday.
we have our environmental concerns and our environmental issues, but
we’ll put them behind us and this will still be here," said Anniston
Mayor Chip Howell.
refuge, which has officially existed since June 1, is the 542nd in the
United States. It was created during the centennial year of the National
Wildlife Refuge system, established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
the Army, community, conservationists and elected officials have long
supported the refuge idea, the designation is the result of years of
negotiations and planning, and a recent legislative move by Sen. Jeff
land essentially comprises the eastern half of McClellan, a military
base that closed in 1999. The Army transferred 7,759 acres, and the
Joint Powers Authority, which is managing the fort’s redevelopment,
say that the longleaf pine, with its 12-inch-long needles and seven-inch-long
cones, once occupied millions of acres throughout the Southeast. Most
of those forests, which need fire to flourish, are gone.
decades, the Army protected and inadvertently aided the mountain longleaf
pines at McClellan by lobbing artillery into hillsides, causing frequent
fires. But it didn’t know what an ecological rarity it had until the
early 1990s, when the Department of Defense commissioned a national
conservation group to study McClellan.
organization discovered the longleaf trove and "put it on the map from
a conservation standpoint," Jeff Danter, director of the Nature Conservancy
years later, when the base was slated for closure, locals such as environmentalist
Pete Conroy pressed for the land to become a refuge under the Department
of the Interior.
the obstacles was the fact that the Interior Department was reluctant
to create a new preserve. Earlier this year, Sessions and his staffers
muscled the refuge through, adding an amendment to the 2003 Defense
Authorzation Bill that mandating its creation.
not the policy of the Interior Department to add new refuges, but to
improve old ones," Sessions said in an interview Monday. "So we passed
a law to get it to happen."
Army is providing $250,000 a year for the next two years to fund the
refuge. Eventually, the refuge’s annual budget is expected to be about
$900,000, and should go from two employees to about 10.
a wildlife refuge, some areas will be closed to the public, both to
protect wildlife from people and to protect people from unexploded munitions
that might linger. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will manage the
land, setting carefully timed fires to mimic the blazes once sparked
by lightning, and later by Army training.
a lot more to managing this than taking a match and putting it to the
ground," said Bill Garland, resident biologist for the Fish and Wildlife
the coming months, Fish and Wildlife officials will decide with the
Army how much environmental cleanup is necessary at the refuge. About
60 percent of the refuge is thought to be clean of old munitions.
Fish and Wildlife Service will also develop a management plan for the
land. Recreational opportunities may include fishing, hunting and wildlife
photography, officials said, and parts of the refuge should be open
to the public within a year.
refuge will serve as valuable resource for researchers, Garland said.
On other lands, such as National Forests in Alabama, people are trying
to restore the native longleaf pine forests that exist here.
ecosystem includes not just the pine trees, but the other plants and
animals that thrive within the forest, including rare orchids and bats.
refuge is about "big things" such as ridges and pines and conservation,
said Pete Conroy at the ceremony.
a celebration of little things, like song birds," he said. "Like the
indigo bunting we have heard sing."
cap the ceremony, Sessions donned protective gloves and took into his
hands a barred owl whose injuries had been nursed at the Alabama Wildlife
Rehabilitation Center. The bird gazed out at the crowd with huge, black
eyes. On the count of three, it was tossed gently into the air. It hesitated,
fluttered its wings, and flapped down a slope to take refuge in a tree.
people love the sound of wind in the pines, said Robert Bendick, director
of the Southeast division of The Nature Conservancy. On Monday, he said,
a keen ear could hear "the wind whispering in these old stands of longleaf,
saying, ‘In this difficult world, saving this land was a good and right
thing to do."
Senator Sessions Expresses
Confidence that Congress will ApproveNational
Wildlife Refuge at Fort McClellan
October 17th, 2002
Washington - Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
said today he believes that Congress will approve legislation before
adjourning for the year that would authorize the establishment of the
Mountain Longleaf Pine National Wildlife Refuge in Anniston.
Sessions included an amendment
in the 2003 Defense Authorization Bill to establish the refuge at the
former Fort McClellan military reservation. The bill is in final
negotiations among senior members of the Senate and House Armed Services
"I have great confidence that
my request to create the refuge will be included in the Department of
Defense conference report," Sessions said.
The legislation would transfer
7,600 acres from the former Fort McClellan to the Department of the
Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service to establish the refuge.
An additional 1,300 acres, which were previously transferred from the
Army to the Joint Powers Authority, may also be added to the total acreage
of the refuge.
"Creating this refuge has been
one of my highest priorities, and I am proud to see the four plus years
of discussions with the Interior Department, the Army, the Joint Powers
Authority, state environmentalists and local officials about to come
to fruition," Sessions said.
The refuge will protect one
of the oldest surviving stands of Alabama's state tree - the mountain
longleaf pine. The refuge will be maintained to preserve and enhance
natural resources, protect animal and plant populations and provide
educational and recreational opportunities for the public.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service will work in coordination with the Alabama Department of Conservation
and Natural Resources to provide recreational activities, including
hunting and wildlife observation.
The legislation would direct
the Fish and Wildlife Service to establish the refuge within 180 days
of passage of the Defense Authorization Bill. The legislation is expected
to pass before the end of the year.
Sessions Holds U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service To Its CommitmentTo
Create A National Wildlife Refuge At Fort McClellan
For Immediate Release
July 25, 2002
WASHINGTON – Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
said today that he has stopped a move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to abandon its commitment to establish a national wildlife refuge
at the old Fort McClellan in Anniston.
who has been working for years to establish the proposed Mountain Longleaf
Wildlife Refuge at Fort McClellan, said he recently learned that the
Wildlife Service had planned to reassign its representative at the Fort
and let lapse a memorandum of agreement in which the U.S. Army would
transfer the land to the Service.
phoned Interior Secretary Gale Norton’s chief of staff, Brian Waldman,
Tuesday to express concerns about the rumored abandonment of the refuge.
Fish and Wildlife Deputy Director Marshall Jones later called Sessions
to say that the Service would renew the memorandum of understanding
with the Army and leave its representative, Bill Garland, at the fort.
was disappointed to learn that the Fish and Wildlife Service would try
to back out on its commitment to establish a wildlife refuge at the
Fort McClellan,” Sessions said. “I don’t consider
this a new refuge. The Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intention
to create the Mountain
Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge two years ago.
This was a commitment to the Calhoun County community, and I intend
to hold them to their
this refuge is one of my highest priorities, and I look forward to working
with all of the parties – the citizens of Calhoun County, the
Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army and local
and state officials – to preserve this land for future generations.”
are contemplating a refuge that would cover about 10,000 acres of undeveloped
pine and mixed pine-hardwood forests on the closed military base in
Calhoun County. The Service would acquire the proposed lands through
an interagency transfer from the U.S. Army.