So forgive Alabamians for being shocked when reminded that state government occasionally makes wise decisions. One of them happened 20 years ago when most Montgomery lawmakers supported passage of the Forever Wild amendment to the state Constitution.
As a story in Sunday’s Star pointed out, that amendment, ratified by voters, has led to the purchase of 227,000 acres of land for public use, including 21 new recreational areas and additions to 10 state parks. In Calhoun County, one only has to gaze up at Coldwater Mountain, where the still-incomplete bike trails are proof of the potential of Forever Wild projects.
There is no doubt that the creation of Forever Wild is one of the landmark events of Alabama government in the last 20 years.
That said, Alabamians can’t allow the promise of Forever Wild to fizzle out due to a lack of funding. The constitutional amendment that would fund the program (through the state’s gas-drilling revenues) through 2032 on the November ballot needs to pass.
In this instance, Alabama is a fortunate state. Its geography is one of its best attributes: beaches to the south, Appalachian foothills to the north, valleys and farmlands and forests in between. It is a state rich in God-created diversity. Those who appreciate forestland and greenspace, who see the value in using land for something other than industry, can see Alabama for what it is: a state whose land has much to offer.
Protecting it and developing worthwhile uses for it are critical.
Forever Wild’s goal isn’t to rob farmers of their fields. It’s not designed to hamper the state’s timber interests. Its role is to allow certain lands — such as Coldwater Mountain — to be saved, protected and put to public use. And the best part: It doesn’t siphon money from the state’s constantly beleaguered General Fund.
It is the classic case of a win-win for Alabamians, for those who love the outdoors, and for those who want to see the state increase its residents’ quality of life.
It feels odd, this thank-you to the lawmakers who got this ball rolling 20 years ago. For once, Montgomery did its job. Come Election Day, it’s Alabama voters’ turn.