Officials celebrate conservation of 470 more acres at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
Private-public partners laud broadening of recreational access, habitat protection and economic opportunities
Public officials, including Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, joined federal, state, local and private partners at a recent special event to celebrate the conservation of 470 acres (pictured) of critical land, water and wildlife along the Alabama Gulf Coast.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Conservation Fund and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources dedicated the newly conserved property at the Little Point Clear Unit of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
The addition will expand public recreational capabilities for fishing, wildlife viewing, photography, boating, paddling, and other opportunities enjoyed by more than 120,000 visitors a year.
“Alabama’s Gulf Coast remains a staple in our state’s abundance of natural resources. I am pleased to see the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge grow through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund,” said Gov. Ivey. “The Deepwater Horizon spill took a toll on our Coast, but in natural Alabama fashion, we are continually taking steps to overcome and make improvements.”
The Conservation Fund purchased the property and transferred it in two phases to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) at the request of the Service and the State of Alabama. This project was made possible thanks to funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, established by a federal court order addressing criminal cases related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“By acquiring this land, we are helping preserve land that is as valuable to wildlife as it is to anglers, hikers, boaters, bird-watchers and others who get outside,” said Leopoldo Miranda, Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Located on the Fort Morgan Peninsula, the newly conserved property features a variety of coastal habitats – shoreline, pine flatwoods, saltwater marsh, freshwater lagoons and wetlands, dune systems, maritime forests, and tidal creeks.
The living shorelines and interior terrain provides ideal habitats for several native species, including young adult Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, snowy plover, piping plover, Wilson’s plover, and the endangered Alabama beach mouse. T
he conserved property celebrated today also has the potential to benefit manatees migrating through the northern gulf, and ultimately increases protected coastal habitat at the Refuge for wildlife and public recreation by approximately 25 percent.
“While we cannot undo the damage done by the Deepwater Horizon spill, we can prioritize collaborative efforts that ensure a healthier Gulf Coast for both communities and wildlife,” said Larry Selzer, President and CEO of The Conservation Fund. “These actions provide for a thriving gulf, while delivering expanded opportunities for public recreation and diversified tourism related offerings, as well as support for local private businesses like oyster farming. We are delighted that NFWF recognizes the importance of increased protection for coastal resources, as well as the unique benefits it brings the community.”
“The protection of the Little Point Clear Unit of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge will bring more opportunities for Alabamians and folks across the country to enjoy our state’s unique natural treasures,” said U.S. Senator Doug Jones. “Protecting the Gulf Coast is essential, not only for the benefit of future generations, but for our coastal businesses and tourism industry. As an avid outdoorsman and fisherman, I will continue to support expanded recreational access, because all Alabamians should have the opportunity to enjoy the abundant natural resources our state has to offer.”
“I’ve worked hard to ensure Deepwater Horizon settlement funds are directed to benefit the communities of Southwest Alabama, and this land acquisition is a wonderful example of the opportunities provided by public-private partnerships to enhance our economy and ensure our beautiful wilderness areas remains pristine for future generations,” said Congressman Byrne.
NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund—created to implement a federal criminal settlement against several oil companies—supports efforts like the Little Point Clear Unit project that benefit natural resources in and around the Gulf of Mexico by remedying damage and eliminating or reducing the risk of harm caused by last decade’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is home to some of the most pristine and productive coastal habitats in Alabama,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “Protecting these rich habitats along the Alabama coast is one of the most effective ways we can help wildlife recover from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We appreciate the strong partnerships with The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that have made this project possible.”
More Conservation Fund info: conservationfund.org.