BEN - Bama Environmental News

Monday, April 19, 2010

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Latest Birmingham News Commentary - Earth Day Edition

From the Sunday Birmingham News - April 18, 2010

Written by: Pat Byington

On the grounds of one of the world's largest cathedrals, St. John the Divine Episcopal Cathedral in New York City, is a simple piece of art: seven human-shaped arches, each representing a generation, lined up in a row.

Next to this graceful sculpture is a gray footstone topped by a plaque with this inscription: "In all our deliberations we must be mindful of the impact of our decisions on the SEVEN GENERATIONS to follow ours." -- from the Great Law of the Six Nations of the Iroquois

earth.jpgMost folks count a generation as 20 years, so the total would be 140 years, or two lifetimes.

What a mission statement. When we confront difficult environmental issues, the Great Law of the Six Nations of the Iroquois offers us the best path. And if there were ever a state that should adopt such a law, it would be Alabama, because we have the most to lose.

In 2002, The Nature Conservancy released a report called "States of the Union: Ranking America's Biodiversity." In that report, Alabama was ranked fifth nationally for the most species. Digging deeper into the numbers, Alabama came up first nationally in the number of different kinds of freshwater fish, mussels, snails and turtles. Also, to the dismay of many Louisiana citizens, Alabama ranked first in the number of different kinds of crayfish.

According to the longtime environmental writer and Nature Conservancy staffer Bill Finch, Alabama has played a critical role in maintaining the biological richness of the entire Eastern forest, from New England to the Gulf of Mexico.

For example, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, often described as the most diverse national park, has just more than 100 different tree species and 12 different kinds of oak trees over a 500,000-acre area. In southwestern Alabama's Red Hills near Monroeville, Finch said he has identified more than 130 varieties of trees and 20 kinds of oak trees in an area one-tenth the size of the Smokies.

Finch said it's not hard to find similar diversity in dozens of native forests throughout the state, from the Paint Rock Valley in northeast Alabama near Huntsville, to the forests along the Cahaba River, to the coastal forests along the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

These Alabama forests have likely played a critical role in nourishing North American forest diversity through hundreds of thousands of years, and they'll likely be called on to share their wealth in the future. Alabama is home to one of nature's largest libraries. We must think in terms of protecting our special places and the environment for "generations."

This year marks my 20th year, a generation, working for groups such as the Alabama Environmental Council, the Wilderness Society, the Alabama Environmental Management Commission and the Forever Wild Board of Trustees. There was one special moment in my memory the Great Law of the Six Nations of the Iroquois -- Seven Generations -- was followed. That was when a very diverse group of people convened in 1992 to write the Forever Wild constitutional amendment.

For nearly 20 years since its passage, Forever Wild has protected more than 200,000 acres across the state and is one of the most successful conservation laws in Alabama's history. More important, even today, that diverse group of people on opposite sides of the political spectrum continues to work together to make Forever Wild succeed for generations to come. On reflection, we were all working together for future generations. Forever.

Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, which is 40 years old Thursday, may have summed it up best when he said on the original Earth Day on April 22, 1970, two generations ago:

"Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Solar Power in Alabama? Yes!

My sister in-law's house in Seattle

Latest op-ed in the Birmingham News - Solar Power

Friday, March 05, 2010

Mary Burk's Inducted Into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame

"One gave life to many and one found life in the wilderness," the Rev. Henry Parsley, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, said during his invocation at Judson College - talking about the two inductees Midwife Margaret Charles Smith and Mary Burks.

Check out the article about Mary Burk's induction into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame in today's Montgomery Advertiser

Here are articles I wrote about Mary shortly after her passing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eastern Forest Partnership FY 11 Priorities

Eastern Forest Partnership FY 11 Priorities - Check it out here - EFP_layout_2.5.pdf

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Legacy on the Land Events in Birmingham

Two great events were held in Birmingham on Tuesday, February 23rd with Frank and Audrey Peterman, authors of the book Legacy on the Land. The couple met with a group organized by Regional Planning Commission director Charles Ball for lunch. In the evening, they held a book-signing at the Little Professor Bookstore in Homewood.

Frank and Audrey spoke about the Keeping it Wild conservation organization in Atlanta, and their many adventured exploring our nation's wild places.

Frank & Audrey Peterman on FOX 6 Good Day Alabama

Frank & Audrey Peterman and Fox 6's Rick Journey

The Wilderness Society's Frank Peterman and his wife Audrey Peterman appeared today on FOX 6 - Good Day Alabama promoting their new book Legacy on the Land.

Check out a clip of their interview here. Fox 6 Good Day Alabama & the Peterman's

Frank and Audrey were also profiled in the Birmingham Weekly last week.
Check out that article here

Thursday, February 11, 2010

BEN - February 11, 2010 #330

Bama Environmental News - BEN

February 11, 2010


Forever Wild 1992-2009 - Check out this colorful and information packed 40 page document about the Forever Wild Program

Birmingham News Op-ed "Recalling Alabama's Natural History" by BEN Publisher Pat Byington

Birmingham Weekly Op-ed "Light Rail in Birmingham" by BEN Publisher Pat Byington

Mississippi-Alabama Habitats Tools


The 2009 Green Report - The Green Resource Center for Alabama released their Annual Green Report highlighting this year's important developments toward making Alabama a greener place to live.

Mary Burks Named to the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame - An incredible honor. Two years ago, Mary Burks, the "mother of the Sipsey Wilderness" and founder of the Alabama Conservancy passed away. On March 4th, at Judson College, she will be inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame. Here is the story about this special and well deserved honor.

Environmental Groups Ask EPA to Remove State Water Program - Fourteen Alabama environmental groups have called upon the EPA to revoke the Alabama Department of Environmental Management's water program. Here is the story from the Mobile Press-Register:

Here is the 77 page petition to EPA:

Southern Environmental Law Center Names Black Warrior River "Endangered Place" in 2010 - The Southern Environmental Center has released their annual report on the South's "Endangered Places." This year Alabama's Black Warrior River made the group's 2010 "Endangered" list. Here is a link to the SELC list:

Forever Wild Adds Two New Tracts in Barbour County and Tallapoosa River - According to recent Department of Conservation press releases, Forever Wild has completed the purchase of more than 6800 acres in Barbour County and along the Tallapoosa River. Here is a description of the two newest additions to the Forever Wild Program:

Mobile Bay Loses Over 1300 Acres of Seagrasses - According to aerial surveys conducted by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, Alabama lost 1371 acres of seagrasses between 2002 and 2009. That leaves the state with 5,248 acres of underwater vegetation, about 66 percent of it in the Mobile -Tensaw Delta. Check out the entire Mobile Press-Register story here:


Friends of Shades Creek - Learn more about the re-authorization of the Forever Wild Program at the Friends of Shades Creek - February 11th, 7:00 at the Homewood Library

Alabama River Alliance's Watershed Leadership Conference Deadline February 12th - Don't miss the February 12th deadline to register for this year's Watershed Leadership Conference. Author Janisse Ray will be speaking at the event, along with several numerous events during the week. Go to for details.

Wild About Chocolate - The Alabama Wildlife Center will be holding their annual "Wild About Chocolate" fundraiser on February 13th at the Harbert Center in downtown Birmingham. Check out the details at :

Smart Coast & the Bay Bears Host Sustainability Session - On February 23rd (Noon to 2:00) Smart Coast and the Mobile Bay Bears Baseball team will be hosting the "3Es of Sustainability Green Initiatives Session. Visit for registration details.

Frank and Audrey Peterman Booksigning - Frank & Audrey Peterman will be having a Booksigning at the Little Professor Bookstore in Homewood on February 23rd, 6:30. They will be discussing and signing their book "Legacy on the Land." For details about the book visit

Environmental Education Association of Alabama Conference - Please register for EEAA's annual conference to be held March 4-5 in Guntersville, Alabama. For registration info, visit:

Alabama Hiking Annual Conference - The Alabama Hiking Trails Society will be holding their 8th Annual conference on March 19-21 at Camp McDowell. For details, visit

Monday, February 08, 2010

BEN Publisher Pat Byington to Speak about Forever Wild

Shoal Creek Preserve Forever Wild Tract in St. Florian, Alabama


Thursday, February 11, 2010

7:00 P.M.

Homewood Library, Room 101 (downstairs)

Topic: Forever Wild and Alabama's environmental future

Presentation by Pat Byington, Publisher of the Bama Environmental News and Senior Associate at The WIlderness Society

This presentation is important for understanding preservation of lands in Alabama for the future!

This affects, hikers, canoeing enthusiasts, hunters and fishermen and also groups like ours that are interested in preserving special lands with unique features.