Spotted: Spotted Salamander Migration

February 12th, 2016 by

Spotted Salamander MigrationLast week, Spotted Salamanders were spotted at the Homewood Forest Preserve making their way to their temporary homes in the ponds in which they were born from their subterranean woodland homes. Because of weather conditions, the Salamander Migration occurred over a series of dates, Monday being the most recent, and likely last, migration. Every year when the first above-freezing rain of late January or early February hits, the salamanders start dancing.

Spotted Salamander MigrationMoving from their permanent, the spotted salamanders will gather around temporary breeding pools where they will dance to find their mate and lay their eggs. Males begin the courtship dance, circling a female. When she joins, they will put their heads under one-another’s tails. Sometimes, the male will climb on the female’s back and rub her with his chin. He will then swim away leading the female to his sperm packet, hoping the female is receptive and will follow. The female will then pick up the sperm packet through her cloaca, where her eggs will be fertilized. In about a month, her 100-250 larvae will hatch, and the baby salamanders will live in an aquatic larvae stage until they metamorphose into an adult. After leaving the pond, these spotted salamanders will live the majority of their adult lives underground until they return to the breeding pond.

 

Meet our PR Assistant

January 27th, 2016 by

untitled_00002_160127Kaitlin Goins is returning after two years (and a lot of experience in between) to head up communications efforts for the Freshwater Land Trust. She interned with FWLT in the summer of 2014. Originally from Ardmore, Alabama, Kaitlin is a senior, dual-degree student at the University of Alabama and will graduate in May with a master’s degree in advertising and public relations and a bachelor’s degree in public relations. After interning with the Freshwater Land Trust, Kaitlin went on to pitch communications campaigns to NASCAR and Fox Sports. Last summer, Kaitlin was a summer fellow at Ketchum in New York City working in the corporate and food/wellness practices.

After being in the concrete jungle for three months, Kaitlin returned to Alabama with a renewed appreciation for green spaces. She grew up enjoying and photographing the outdoors and found herself constantly returning to Highline Park and Chelsea Pier to find green spaces away from the hustle and bustle of NYC.

In her spare time, Kaitlin enjoys cheering on the Alabama Crimson Tide, hiking various trails around Alabama, and traveling to new areas.

You might also know her better from her open letter to Alabama football kicker, Cade Foster that went viral in 2013. Click here for that story.

2016 Pheasant Hunt

January 20th, 2016 by

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We’re gearing up for our annual Pheasant Shoot at Westevelt Lodge on February 26th! Join us and other conservation-minded partners and friends for a fun day of bird hunting and fellowship.

markdadHunters will enjoy a continental style pheasant shoot and home-cooked Southern style lunch served at the beautiful, rustic, and historical Westervelt Lodge, one of the last large hunting plantations in the south, with 10,000 acres of land located along the Tombigbee River in west Alabama. Westervelt’s nationally recognized professional wildlife and forest management program has preserved the rich and popular tradition of providing an outstanding and natural hunting experience.

Wildrose Kennels, a Mississippi-based premier sporting dog training facility, will bring their professionally trained British retrievers to accompany the marksmen in the field. Our guests can also enjoy their birds afterward using a delicious pheasant recipe courtesy of world-renowned chef, Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club.

The Westervelt Company is one of the Freshwater Land Trust’s long-time Corporate Partners for Conservation, working with us in several capacities in addition to co-hosting the annual pheasant hunt. Proceeds from the pheasant hunt directly benefit the Freshwater Land Trust’s efforts to conserve land for recreational opportunities throughout our eight county region.

Register Today:

  • Each hunt is $425 per person, with $75 directly benefiting the Freshwater Land Trust.
  • There will be two hunts on Friday the 26th (both time slots include lunch):
  • Morning Hunt: 8am-1pm. If interested in the morning hunt, hunters are welcome to stay overnight at Westervelt Lodge on Thursday, February 25th as space allows. The fee to stay at the lodge for the morning hunt is an additional $130 and includes a steak dinner.
  • Afternoon Hunt: 11:30am-4:30pm
  • To register or for more information, contact Memorie English at 205-417-2774 or memorie.english@freshwaterlandtrust.org

 

 

REACH Birmingham

October 27th, 2015 by

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Poor nutrition, physical inactivity, poverty—these are all factors contributing to dangerous chronic diseases and the largest health disparities in underserved Birmingham communities.

The Freshwater Land Trust is working to combat these health disparities by joining forces with several local organizations as part of “Birmingham REACH for better health.”

 

What is REACH?

“Birmingham REACH for better health” is a local coalition of academic, county, and nonprofit organizations working to offer better food choices and fitness opportunities for our neighbors. This project is a partnership led by UAB Minority Heath & Health Disparities Research Center working with the Freshwater Land Trust, Jefferson County Department of Health, REV Birmingham’s Urban Food Project, United Way of Central Alabama, and the YMCA.

REACH partners are collaborating with each other to help our neighbors make healthier food choices, increase their physical activity, and improve their overall health by expanding on current organizational programs and implementing new programs for the target communities to utilize. For example, by working with REV Birmingham’s Urban Food Project, we promote the availability of farm fresh produce at local corner stores. We also help the communities move more, with free exercise classes at local YMCA branches, and encourage them to explore the city’s open spaces on the Red Rock Trails to improve their health and well-being.

How is this program possible?

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC) won a competitive grant of nearly $3 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund the REACH project. The award is part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities, and control health-care spending.

This is a 3-year project reaching more than 116,000 people in hopes of reducing the gap in chronic diseases between African Americans and Whites in Birmingham by improving nutrition and physical activity in underserved African American communities.

What is FWLT’s role?

Through the REACH program, the Freshwater Land Trust’s goal is to connect people toexercise the places they want to go and increase access to places to exercise through the Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System. With this funding, FWLT is exploring the health benefits of green space by joining with the REACH partners to develop a local Parks Prescription program. The effort is modeled after successful initiatives from around the country that involve health care providers connecting patients with convenient outdoor recreational spaces in their neighborhood. Research has shown that access to places for physical activity, combined with informational outreach, produces a nearly 50% increase in the frequency of physical activity. With over 100 parks within the City of Birmingham and new trails continually being built, the Parks Prescription program will create opportunities for medical professionals to introduce patients to healthy recreational spaces in their community.

To learn more about this transformative community project visit www.reachforbetterhealth.com.

Conserving the Cahaba

October 23rd, 2015 by

James & Olivia Howard donate Cahaba River property to Freshwater Land Trust

 

James and Olivia Howard

James and Olivia Howard

Preserving a Way of Life

At the Freshwater Land trust, we believe conservation work is more than preserving the natural environment—we believe it’s about preserving a way of life. Our priority is to honor the relationship between a family and its land, so that their way of life and the natural heritage they enjoy is preserved forever.

James and Olivia Howard believe in the deeper meaning of conservation, too. When they first approached the Freshwater Land Trust about preserving their land on the Cahaba River in 2003, they not only wanted to protect the river’s biodiversity, but also protect their legacy.

Now, more than a decade later, James and Olivia have permanently preserved their land and their legacy by donating 167 acres on the Cahaba River to the Freshwater Land Trust.

A Cahaba River Treasure

The Howard’s property is located in Bibb County and is a Priority One area of conservation based on the Freshwater Land Trust’s 10-year strategic conservation plan. This property is surrounded by the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area, 41,500 acres of land along the Cahaba in Bibb and Shelby Counties used for outdoor recreation. In addition, this site is downstream from the Living River Retreat, a nonprofit organization located on the Cahaba that is associated with the Prebytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, an organization of 80+ Presbyterian Churches located throughout central Alabama. With this central location, the Howard’s donation adds to a larger conservation area along the Cahaba River.

Now with this generous land gift, the Freshwater Land Trust owns and manages 580 acres, encompassing over 10 miles, on the Cahaba River. This particular site protects more than one mile of river frontage and serves as a significant forested buffer for the Cahaba.

Conservation Toolbox

Landowners and their families know what is best for their property, and the Freshwater Land Trust can serve as a partner in helping landowners understand the best conservation option suited for their land and their family. We offer several conservation options to private landowners, some with significant tax advantages, including conservation easements, donations by will, bargain sales, and fee simple donations, among others. The Freshwater Land Trust can provide guidance in the critical decision-making process of conserving family lands for future generations.

In the early 2000s, James and Olivia contemplated leaving this land to the Freshwater Land Trust in their will. However, after learning more about the other conservation options available to them, they decided to give an outright fee simple donation of their property.

In a fee simple donation, all rights and interests of the property are gifted to the Freshwater Land Trust. Prior to the donation, FWLT worked closely with the Howards to determine a sustainable plan for the property. Moving forward, the Howards will still be able to visit and enjoy their land as they have been, but the Freshwater Land Trust will own and manage the property, guaranteeing that it is preserved in perpetuity through a continual stewardship program. In addition, the land trust adds a protective covenant on the property to ensure it stays in conservation forever.

Leaving a Legacy

When asked why they wanted to conserve their property, the Howards said that this land represents their legacy because of their love of the Cahaba and its important biodiversity for all. Conserving this land in its natural state brings many benefits to the Howards, but perhaps the most gratifying is knowing that future generations will cherish the land they protected. The Freshwater Land Trust is proud to have played a role in preserving this special place for the Cahaba, its wildlife, and most importantly for James and Olivia’s legacy.

Rotary Honored

August 21st, 2015 by

Rotary Club of Birmingham Honored as Water Conservationist of the Year by AWF

The celebration of the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards continues!

While the Freshwater Land Trust brought home the AWF Conservation Organization of the Year Award, the Rotary Club of Birmingham was also honored as Water Conservationist of the Year Award for their outstanding efforts with the Rotary Trail and the numerous water quality benefits associated with this transformational project.

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the Rotary Club of Birmingham partnered with the Freshwater Land Trust to build Rotary Trail – a 4 block linear park in the old historical railroad cut between north and south Birmingham in the middle of the city, connecting Railroad Park to Sloss Furnaces and expanding the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System. The Rotary Club wanted a project that would benefit our community’s health, improve the natural environment, encourage development and provide educational opportunities to area children. The Rotary Trail addresses each of these goals and will be a lasting gift to the City of Birmingham forever.

Birmingham Rotary members raised over $3.5 million for the project and have now partnered with the City of Birmingham for its construction and future maintenance. This public/private partnership will not only support outdoor family recreation, but also improve our community’s water quality through an appropriate storm water drainage system.

The historic “cut” is an abandoned rail line that is 16 ft below street level plagued by crumbing concrete and graffiti. Although mostly hidden from view, this site was a forgotten part of Birmingham, relatively unknown to most observers. The century old “cut” only served as a water waste land, draining nonpoint source pollution from the streets of Birmingham directly into Valley Creek.

The trail’s new design raises the grade of the cut to approximately 6 feet. The new trail, along with the green vegetation located along its corridor, will now allow for the filtration of sediment, oil, pollution and other storm water runoff before it flows into Valley Creek and eventually into one of our primary drinking water sources, the Black Warrior River. The new Rotary Trail is helping to make one of the largest positive impacts on our community’s water quality in recent history.

WJ-CherylTo celebrate our partners bringing home these two awards, FWLT Executive Director Wendy Jackson and Cheryl Morgan were asked to speak to the Rotary Club the following week. Governor Bentley was in attendance as well as Attorney General Luther Strange, while Wendy and Cheryl discussed the Rotary Trail project and their recent honors at the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards.

We’re proud to share this success story with the Rotary Club of Birmingham and all our partners and supporters who are helping bring the Rotary Trail to Birmingham!

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Conservation Awards

August 17th, 2015 by

AWFThe Freshwater Land Trust  was recently selected as the Conservation Organization of the Year for the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards!

For more than 40 years, this award has recognized organizations that make lasting contributions to conservation in Alabama. The Conservation Organization of the Year Award is a part of the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards, selected by the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) and one of the highest honors in the conservation community.

The Freshwater Land Trust and its Board of Directors were honored at the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet for their work with Red Mountain Park, the Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System, and Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, including the removal of Old Shadow Lake Dam on Turkey Creek, a project that opened up an additional half mile of habitat for the endangered vermilion darter – a fish native to the Birmingham area that before this project only had about seven miles of habitat in the entire world.

“This award helps us continue to carry out our mission of preserving the special places that matter in Alabama, and we are extremely honored to be recognized as meeting AWF’s standards of excellence,” Executive Director Wendy Jackson said.  “This mark of distinction allows us to position ourselves among the community as dedicated stewards of Alabama’s exceptional and irreplaceable natural heritage, leaving a permanent legacy for future generations to admire.”

In addition, the Rotary Club of Birmingham was selected as Water Conservationist of the Year Award for their work on the Rotary Trail. The Freshwater Land Trust nominated Rotary Club, highlighting the numerous water quality benefits associated with this transformational downtown addition to the Red Rock Trail.

The purpose of the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards program is to promote leadership by example and in turn increase conservation of the natural resources of the State of Alabama – its wildlife, forests, soils, water, and air. The program is designed to bring about a greater knowledge and awareness of conservation practices and projects, and to give proper recognition to those persons and organizations that make outstanding contributions to the natural resource welfare of the community and the state.

Alabama Power Company, a long-time partner and supporter of the Freshwater Land Trust, provided the nomination for the award. Bruce Akin, CEO of B.A.S.S., and Randy Jones of Vulcan Materials Company provided letters of support. It is these special partnerships with corporate supporters like Alabama Power, B.A.S.S., and Vulcan Materials Company that allow the Freshwater Land Trust to conserve and protect Alabama’s natural and environmental resources, ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent in Alabama.

This is the second time the Freshwater Land Trust has been honored as Conservation Organization of the Year award, previously wining in 2003 as the Black Warrior-Cahaba River Land Trust.

About Alabama Wildlife Federation:

The Alabama Wildlife Federation, established by sportsmen in 1935, is the state’s oldest and largest citizens’ conservation organization.  The mission of the Alabama Wildlife Federation, a 501(c) 3 non-profit group supported by membership dues and donations, is to promote conservation and wise use of Alabama’s wildlife and related natural resources as a basis for economic and social prosperity.  To learn more about AWF, including membership details, programs and projects, contact Alabama Wildlife Federation at 1-800-822-WILD or visit www.alabamawildlife.org.

Welcome Stan Palla

July 20th, 2015 by

Dennis Pillion Tour_00015_150720Exciting news for the Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System….we are pleased to announce that Stan Palla has joined our team as the Red Rock Trail Director!

Stan Palla, an avid cyclist, paddler and hiker, has had a successful career in the public, private and non-profit sectors. His love for urban spaces, the outdoors and quality of life have guided his career and principal belief to leave everything better than he found it.

His work has caused the planting of over two million trees in the City of Houston,and he also immensely improved Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve’s programming and grounds as the organization’s executive director. His love for cycling led him to be the Director for the Alabama Bicycle Coalition, in which he effectively passed the 3-foot passing law in Alabama to protect cyclists on the road. On top of that, his creation and management of the urban forest in Birmingham became a national award winning program. 

Stan’s passion for Birmingham and improving public spaces was too grand for him to Stanpass up the Red Rock Ridge and Valley position and sees this as an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for Birmingham, Jefferson County and the well being of it citizens. As the Red Rock Trail Director, Stan will work with our many partners to build the 750-mile trail system throughout Jefferson County, connecting our community to the places they want to go.

Welcome, Stan, to the Freshwater family!

Restoring Valley Creek

July 7th, 2015 by
Photo by Zac Napier

Photo by Zac Napier

We are honored to receive funding from the Shannon Mine Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) agreement between the Black Warrior Riverkeepers and Shannon, LLC, a subsidiary of Drummond Co., to support restoration projects within the Valley Creek watershed, restoring flood plains and removing invasive species. Thank you to all the parties who made this funding possible and for helping the Freshwater Land Trust advance its mission of preserving the places that matter.

For more information on this settlement click here.

 

Party on the Porch

June 29th, 2015 by

POP posterJoin us and our partners at Alabama Outdoors for the third Party on the Porch event of the summer to benefit Freshwater Land Trust!

Enjoy live music from Jason Bailey and Old Fashioned Rhythm Method, delicious food from Cantina On Wheels, and refreshing local draft beer from Cahaba Brewing, available in a $10 collectible cup (and served from the awesome YETI jockey box). Bring your friends and family for corn hole and face painting for kids (while supplies last).

Also, don’t miss your chance to win some awesome giveaways! We’ll be raffling two pairs of tickets to Land Aid 2015, our signature event at Avondale Brewery coming up on July 31st!

We are so excited to kick off the summer with this event and share some exciting news about our upcoming projects and events. So bring your lawn chairs and blankets and come Party on the Porch with us!

Join our Facebook event and invite friends here.

Read more about Land Aid 2015 presented by Vulcan Value Partners here.