Cave at Jacobs Mountain photo: Brian Killingbeck/flickr
Every so often, a land protection project—either because of its scale or innovation—transforms how we think about conservation.
The protection of Jacobs Mountain, an 11,364-acre tract in Jackson County, Alabama, may fit that bill.
With conservation funding limited and the scale of protection efforts sharply diminished, The Nature Conservancy’s Alabama chapter cut against the grain in conserving Jacobs Mountain, which has conservationists in the region now thinking big.
See press and editorial response.
The property, which contains large, unfragmented blocks of forestland, numerous rare and endangered species and more than 60 caves, will connect to over 50,000 acres of conserved land. It is important not just for flora and fauna, but for hunters, anglers, hikers and spelunkers who will have access to the tract, which also lies in the pristine Paint Rock River watershed and helps protect drinking water for humans and fish alike.
Jacobs Mountain is also part of a larger story of conservation finance. It was completed with $5.3 million from Alabama’s Forever Wild program, which voters reauthorized last November for another 20 years—the largest successful ballot initiative for conservation in the country last year.
And it was the first grant from the Southern Cumberland Land Protection Fund, a $6.75 million fund established by the Lyndhurst and Benwood foundations and the Merck Family Fund. The Fund seeks to protect large forested tracts that can help wildlife adapt in an era of climate change (OSI's Jacobs Mountain press release).
Not long after Jacobs Mountain was conserved, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to create a new 40,505-acre national refuge in the Paint Rock along Tennessee's southern border. It would protect nature while helping to facilitate hunting and fishing, and creating jobs for ecotourism. (map)
We salute The Nature Conservancy and the state of Alabama for rising to the challenge on Jacobs Mountain and look forward to the continuing good work of many in its wake.