A Baldwin County project is among two placed on the “Funded Priorities List” by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and is in line to receive $28 million to acquire thousands of acres in Southeast Baldwin County.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship is helping coordinate the new project. The $28 million would fund buying the property and managing it for 10 years.
“This is a project to acquire between 10,000 and 12,000 acres along the Perdido River Watershed,” Blankenship said. “It’s part of a broader vision that we have to create a wildlife and recreational use corridor that goes from the Perdido [River] Wildlife Management Area above Interstate 10 all the way down through the Lillian Swamp, Forever Wild property that’s right there in Perdido Bay almost down to Lillian.”
This new parcel would supplement about 17,000 acres of publicly owned land in Alabama along with about 12,000 acres across the Perdido River in Florida. Blankenship hopes these areas can be connected through waterways and trails.
“In the Perdido River Wildlife Management Area now we have the Bartram Canoe Trail and a hiking trail that follows all the way through that management area,” Blankenship said. “Our goal would be to continue those two trails all the way down through eastern Baldwin County. It is part of a really ambitious project that we’ve been working on for the last couple of years. It would give a big chunk kind of in the middle of that whole area that we’re looking to acquire to start piecing it all together.”
“It’s out for public comment now and then, after that, the federal Restore Council will be replying to comments,” Blankenship said. “We hope that plan will be approved in mid-February at a work session of the steering committee.”
The 11,000-acre parcel is the one the state would really like to see come into restoration, Blankenship said, and talks are already ongoing with the owner.
“There’s one really large parcel that we’ve kind of identified as a priority target,” he said. “We call that the Magnolia South property. There are many other parcels along the river and in that same area that we could also acquire if the target property doesn’t work out. We will strive to acquire that parcel which is on the river, has a lot of river frontage on the Perdido River and has a lot of uplands as well.”
Once acquired, the state will work with other federal agencies to help guide the restoration efforts.
“The reason that this project is being done now is the land acquisition and then we’ll be working with the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture], EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and Department of the Interior on some restoration work on those in that watershed including riparian stream buffers,” Blankenship said. “A longleaf pine habitat management, and converting some of that over to longleaf pine will help with the gopher tortoises and indigo snakes and some of those threatened and endangered species.”
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