BIRMINGHAM, AL — The Nature Conservancy bought 1,786 acres of high-quality habitat in the steep, rolling hills of the Red Hills Conservation Area in southwest Alabama today. The site is a keystone in the big-picture effort by The Nature Conservancy, the state of Alabama and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to build a landscape-scale conservation area in the Red Hills and ensure the recovery and protection of an endangered species.
“We are so happy today to secure this property – the heart of a whole landscape is protected,” said Steve Northcutt, director of protection for The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “Without it, any other conservation purchases in the area would inevitably be fragmented, and our efforts to restore natural processes and protect the long-term viability of the landscape would be severely compromised.”
The area is characterized by steep bluffs and ravines covered with a matrix of dry to broadleaf forest, including unusual magnolia, high oak and hickory diversity. The site is a major global stronghold for the Red Hills salamander: Not only the species, but the entire genus, is endemic to a few counties in south Alabama. Several other species found only in Alabama are found here.
“If sufficient habitat can be protected for the Red Hills salamander across its limited range to ensure its long-term future, it may be possible to take it off the endangered species list,” said Alabama State Director Chris Oberholster. “Since it is an Alabama endemic species, its fate lies in our hands alone.”
The land will eventually be transferred for recreational use to the state with the help of the Forever Wild Land Trust, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Visit nature.org/Alabama.
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