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4 September 2007
Sessions Triggers Longleaf Initiative with JSU

Sen. Sessions, left, meets with Pete Conroy, right, Director of JSU's Environmental Policy & Information Center,  and over 30 conservation leaders at the Talladega Co. Courthouse to discuss environmental protection and economic development.

JSU News Reports

September 4, 2007


Talladega, AL – The basic idea is to protect our wild places and pocketbooks at the same time. Organized at the request of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) by JSU’s Environmental Policy and Information Center (EPIC), over thirty conservation leaders recently came together at the Talladega County Courthouse to discuss environmental protection and economic development. They represented four national conservation groups, three federal agencies, business leaders, local citizens, Alabama’s House of Representatives and the State tourism department. They highlighted eco-tourism and conservation triggering something they now call the “Longleaf Initiative.”


“The goal has been to create sustainable revenue through conservation and a regional ‘Longleaf’ brand, that’ll increase tourism and economic development” said Pete Conroy, director of EPIC who arranged the meeting.


“The meeting was a great success.  Efforts to highlight Alabama’s vast natural resources in a visible way that attracts the public’s attention could lead to increased tourism and appreciation for the outdoors in our state,” Sessions said.


JSU received construction funding in 2005 through assistance from Congressman Mike Rogers to create a regional awareness for natural resources in Northeast Alabama.  JSU has proposed that one facility be located near Heflin on Interstate 20 and the other to be located at the edge of the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge at the former Fort McClellan.


“We like the idea of a spilt center,” said Pat Byington representing the Wilderness Society, “it should really maximize the impact of our message.”


The meeting was established as a follow-up to several successful conservation measures led by Senator Sessions. Such efforts have included the establishment of both the Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge and the Dugger Mountain Wilderness. Other conservation efforts have included the creation of the Little River Canyon National Preserve, the Cheaha Wilderness, the Chief Ladiga rail-trail and the extension of the Pinhoti Trail.


One of the specific concepts to come from the meeting was to explore the establishment of a designation that would group these attractions together. “The designation being considered by Senator Sessions is a Natural Heritage Area” said Conroy, “and it would allow for our region to grow its identity and apply for funds otherwise not available.”


“That would be a great idea,” said State Representative Steve Hurst who represents the Talladega area in the State Legislature “the idea of protecting and promoting Alabama is a definite win-win situation.”


For more information about the Longleaf Initiative contact JSU’s EPIC at 256-782-8010.

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